Written and preached by David P. Nolte

EPHESIANS 2:8-10, TITUS 3:5-8

One of the amazing stories of sheer courage in the face of tremendous odds is that of Nancy Merki. Stricken with polio at ten years of age, she was compelled to wear heavy braces and later crutches. Even walking had become an extremely difficult task for her. But this little girl had spunk. She had heart. She had purpose! And she was determined do to what she had to do to walk. She not only wanted to walk, but she wanted to swim!  Her parents supported her in her endeavors and took her to Jack Cody, a swimming coach at an athletic club in Portland.  Of course it meant a lot of hard, diligent work!  But Jack Cody was determined to help Nancy do that work; Nancy was determined to do that work.  Instead of being overcome by her difficult task, she labored diligently to be an overcomer. She and Jack determined to work hard to achieve her goal. So our Heavenly Father has determined that we would work hard to achieve a goal. Before the foundation of the world, before ever there was man, God formed a plan and established His purpose. His plan includes that we would walk in good works. But, why should we walk in good works? There are at least three good reasons. First:

    1. In His sovereign foresight, God purposed that He would have a people who would operate within the moral sphere of good works: that is, efforts that glorify Him and benefit mankind.  He prepared works for us to do in advance!
    2. God determined good works for His people and He determined His people for good works. There's something authoritative about that.
      1. God ordained good works: ordained means established by law or authority or decree.
      2. God desires good works and His wish is our command.
    3. Works are not an option for the Christian. When you buy a car you can opt for air conditioning, cruise control, automatic transmission or whatever; but you don't opt for good works when you sign on with Jesus.
      1. Though called to different tasks, we are all called to a task. God purposed that.
      2. Though set apart for different ministries, we do all have a ministry to fulfill. God ordained that.
      3. Though gifted differently, we are gifted and must use those gifts in service. God requires that.
    4. God hung out His "Help Wanted!" sign before He created the world and every Christian has applied, not just for the benefits: love, joy, peace, hope, comfort, forgiveness, new, eternal life, but also for work.
Even with a lot of hard work, it took a year to teach Nancy to swim the length of the pool. But she was determined. She knew she had been created to do more than give up. She had been created to achieve. She had been created to be a doer! She had been created to be a champion! And, we, too, have been created to do more than just occupy space, breathe the atmosphere, use the resources, and merely exist. We have constructive work to do, a contribution to make. We have been fashioned and planned for that purpose. But, why should we walk in good works? There are at least three good reasons. First: God determined that we do so. Second:
    1. Maybe it will help to think like this:
      1. When an inventor creates some gadget, it is for some specific purpose. A can opener, for instance, is for opening cans. If it fails to do so, it fails in its purpose. I threw out a Black and Decker can opener that refused to open cans.
      2. God created a grape vine to bear grapes. If it fails to do so, it fails in its Creator's purpose.
      3. Airplanes are designed to fly; when they fail to do so, tragic and catastrophic results are forthcoming.
      4. Coyotes and cougars are predators; God created them to be.
      5. I often wonder why there are fleas, flies and midgies - perhaps to try the patience of those they pester.
      6. You could name this tool, that implement, and the other gizmo - all created for a purpose, for a special work.
    2. So it is with us: when we are saved by grace through faith it is saved from sin, saved for works. When He created us, God did not say, "Now, what is this thing I have made? What will I do with it? What's it good for? A paperweight? A speed bump? A doorstop?"
      1. God knew beforehand. He didn't make us and then plan; He planned and then made us.
      2. He foreordained a lifestyle for His people that included good works.
    3. Since we have been recreated in Christ, we are fashioned for the purpose of being productive in good works.
      1. A workless Christian is a contradiction.
      2. An indolent believer is abnormal.
      3. A non-productive disciple is a discrepancy.
    4. God created you for good works. That means that you can do it! You are able. You are gifted. You are responsible.
      1. For some that good work will be an act of benevolence and service to someone in need.
      2. For others it will be a missionary / evangelistic work in leading someone to Christ. Marlene has put together a mission team of Shaundrea Flury, her cousin P.J. Steers, Tela Kendall, 2 boys from the Albany Church, Clinton and Kyle Collins. They are going to Prineville Christian Church this August to do a VBS to help that struggling congregation begin to grow.
      3. For some good works will mean serving in the local congregation with the youth, or with the audio-visual ministry, or driving the church van, or helping in the kitchen or in maintenance of building and grounds, and on and on.
      4. But you have been created for good works, so you can do whatever God calls you to do.
Jack Cody realized that she was not only interested in swimming as a means of restoring her health and the use of her limbs, she wanted to be a champion. Four years after being stricken by the dread disease, she came in third at a meet in Santa Barbara, California. At the age of nineteen she changed her style of swimming and emerged from the meet as national champion! You see, she just kept trying. She just kept working! She told President Roosevelt, when he asked her how she had become the world's youngest champ despite being afflicted with infantile paralysis: "Well I guess I just kept trying, Mr. President." She just kept trying and you see, there was profit, there was benefit, there was advantage in all her hard work. But, why should we walk in good works? There are at least three good reasons. First: God determined it, second: He created us to do so. Third:
    1. It pays off to do good works! The Bible says it is profitable, and so does experience!
    2. In what ways, and for whom, is it profitable to do good works?
      1. It is profitable for us:
        1. We are healthier, happier, and at peace with God, man and ourselves when we have done good.  There's something fulfilling, uplifting, and satisfying about having tossed a log onto the other fellow's fire!
        2. "Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God." 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (NASB). It is profitable for us because God enriches us.
      2. It is profitable for others:
        1. Those who receive the benefit of our help are better off for it.
        2. "For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God." 2 Corinthians 9:12 (NASB).
      3. It is even profitable for God:
        1. He receives thanks and praise when others benefit by His people.
        2. "Because of the proof given by this ministry they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all," 2 Corinthians 9:13 (NASB).
    3. Furthermore, the Bible says:
      1. "In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty." Proverbs 14:23 (NASB)
      2. "I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one's lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor -- it is the gift of God." Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 (NASB).
    4. Since that holds true for earthly labor, it holds true for that which we do for God.
There is a place of active service, for work, for all of us in the church. For all of us there is a place.  But know this: if you decide to engage in works for God, Satan is sure to oppose you.  If you decide to give more money, somehow Satan will bring more expenses.  If you decide to give more time to God, Satan is sure to crowd your schedule with activities.  But have you prayerfully sought your place? Have you done all in your power to fulfill it? Like Nancy, have you worked to attain your goal?  Where are you in this process?  Still paralized?  Still hobbled by braces, hindered by crutches, and limping?  Or are you "in the swim" for God?  Are you striving to be His champion?   Have you engaged in good works? We all need to purpose that whatever we can do, where ever we can serve, however we can work we will do it to our utmost for Christ and His church. Paul said, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17 (NASB). Perhaps today you are already aware of what work God calls you to do. Surrender to that call. Perhaps you are just ready, able and willing, but still in the dark. Just surrender to Him and He'll make it clear to you. Walk in Good works; that requires full surrender of all we have, are, and can do for Jesus. Do that right now, as we sing our invitation.

Story adapted from "Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations" Paul Lee Tan, page 949

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