The Meaning of “Personal Work”

“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4).

As Christians, we should be concerned about working for the Lord because of His infinite grace in our lives. All work for the Lord should be “personal work.” Sometimes we may use that phrase just for the work of evangelizing the lost or seeking to restore the fallen. But when you think about it, all work for the Lord should be “personal work.” Yet often, it is not. Many do not take it personally.

Jesus knew that the Lord*s work is “personal work.” Jesus and His Father had a personal work to do. “But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (Jn. 5:17). Christ came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28). Christ’s work was summed up by Peter in Acts 10:38, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” Jesus realized that He must work. Question: If Jesus, the Son of God, had to work while here on earth, what about us??? Surely we must conclude that we must work also! Our text stresses to us the importance of our personal work.

The idea that salvation is of grace and not of works has led many to think that there is no necessity for work. Ephesians 2:8 states, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” That passage is not suggesting that the Christian does not have work to do. That has reference to meritorious works, works of merit wherein people falsely think they can earn their own salvation. No one can work their way to Heaven. God’s grace, His favor toward us is unmerited. There is nothing we have done or ever will do that can earn our salvation. “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Lk. 17:10). The Lord does not encourage us to try to work our way to Heaven. However, He does demand that we do the works commanded of us. We must obey the commands of the Lord and do his will to be saved.

James 2:17-18 says, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” A question that we should ask concerning our faith is this: Is it active or inactive? Do we have faith-in-action or faith inaction? Do we have a faith that demonstrates itself by action or do we possess a faith that is characterized by inaction? Paul exhorted the Galatians to have a faith which worketh by love (Gal. 5:6). He reminded the Ephesians of the need for an active faith when he said, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Those listed in Faith’s Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11 are remembered because their faith was active. By faith Abel offered; Noah prepared an Ark; Abraham obeyed and sojourned; Abraham offered up Isaac; and the list goes on and on. The faith that saves is the faith that obeys. It is the faith that works. If we would be pleasing to God, we must have a faith that is active. We must perform.

Once while Fritz Kreisler, a great violinist, had several hours to spend between trains, he went into a music store. He laid his violin case, which had his name on it, on the counter. The storekeeper, seeing the name, thought that the musician’s violin had been stolen, and called the police. Upon their arrival, they went about to arrest Kreisler, thinking that he was a thief. All the time, Kreisler insisted that he was not the thief, but that he was the real Fritz Kreisler. Finally, he asked the storekeeper if he had one of Kreisler’s recordings. He did, and the record was played. Upon completion of the record, Kreisler opened the case, removed the instrument and played the same piece. The storekeeper and the policemen immediately knew that he was the real Kreisler. His performance proved his profession. We profess to be Christians. The only way we can prove it is by performance. Does our faith cause us to work for Jesus?

The book of Titus emphasizes “personal work.” “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work” (Tit. 3:1). “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Tit. 3:8). “And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful” (Tit. 3:14). We have our own personal work to do.

Paul likens the church to a physical body. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Cor. 12:27). Like the physical body, each member has a part to play. Paul said that every joint supplieth something to the body (Eph. 4:16). There will be differences as far as abilities, opportunities, and even desires; but all are expected to do their share of the work. The work of the church is for every member of the body of Christ. Every Christian must take it “personally.”

“Once upon a time there were four men named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was asked to do it. But Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it. But Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about it, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, and Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody, and Nobody did the job that Anybody could have done in the first place.” Each Christian has his own personal work to do. Jesus said, “I must work.” Friends, this is what “personal work” really means!

— Mike McDaniel