August 7, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Isaiah 10:15 (NIV)
Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it, or the saw boast against the one who uses it? As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up, or a club brandish the one who is not wood!
When we do something important, we are tempted to take all the credit. Yet Scripture reminds us that the good we do comes because of God’s work in and through us. We are partners, junior partners, with God in the work God is doing in the world. Thus we boast, not in ourselves, but in God.
In the time of Isaiah, God used the king of Assyria to accomplish his purposes, executing divine judgment upon Israel. But the king didn’t recognize that he was being used by the Lord. Instead, he boasted of his power and accomplishments, as if he had done them all by himself: “By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom because I have understanding” (Isaiah 10:13). Because of the king’s arrogance, God judged him, asking if the ax, saw, rod, and club are greater than those who use them. The answers, of course, are “No. No. No. No.” The king of Assyria was not greater than the God of Israel. He was simply a tool in the Lord’s hands.
I’ll confess that sometimes I can be like the king of Assyria. I can let my pride in my accomplishments overwhelm my gratitude to God for working in me. I can think and act as if I am doing great things, rather than realizing that whatever I might accomplish is only by God’s grace and power. I need to remember, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
Similarly, Ephesians 3:20 offers praise to God as the one “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” God is the “doer” here, who is able to do amazing things, more than we could even imagine. Yet God is doing these things through God’s own power “that is at work within us.” Thus, in we are in a sense partners with God, junior partners, to be sure. But we are not mere puppets. Rather, God works in us and with us to do “more than all we ask or imagine.” Isn’t that something?!?!
Thus, when we do good things, or even great things, we would do well to recognize that it is God at work through us. Thus we boast, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. As it says in Jeremiah 9:23-24:
This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.
Do you ever think about yourself as the king of Assyria thought about himself? When?
What helps you to remember God’s work in and through you?
What helps to keep you humble when you are successful?
Take time to thank the Lord for all the ways he is at work in you.
Gracious God: no, the ax, saw, rod, and club are not greater than those who use them. Nor am I greater than you, the one who created me, saved me, gifted me, and continually empowers me for your work. Forgive me, dear Lord, for those times when I take undue pride in my accomplishments, neglecting to give you the credit and gratitude you deserve.
Help me, Lord, to live each day in consistent reliance upon you. May I be available to you at all times, so that you might use me for your purposes. And when this happens, may I give you the glory, delighting in the privilege and joy of being your tool. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Understanding Life in Christ (Galatians 1:6–4:31)
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.