As we remember and commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend, I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for him. Dr. King was many things – activist, leader, teacher – but before everything else, he was a pastor and a follower of Jesus. Because I’m a pastor myself, over the years, I have been perpetually challenged and encouraged by Dr. King’s work. He’s provided me continual insight and guidance through his writings and preaching.
As I read his writing, the most beautiful thing for me is his beliefs were never just words on a page. Anyone can see the legacy of the way he lived his life. Few have shared his ability to stand in the face of tyranny and the threat of harm (which ultimately took his life). He did everything with tremendous purpose.
And before anyone says anything – no, Dr. King wasn’t perfect…But no person, except for Jesus, has ever been perfect. And Jesus was exactly who Dr. King sought to follow.
Perfect or not, Dr. King’s influence on the social makeup of our country is unparalleled. Without the use of force, he inspired change in individuals and society in a way few other individuals have. Imagine if the Church could have the same level of influence, inspiring people to welcome in the kingdom of God! As I reflect on his life, I find myself asking a simple question: How can I learn to live my life with influence like Dr. King did? And how does the Church progress and grow her influence in a world that thinks of Jesus as largely irrelevant?
If we only have one life to live, and we want to steward our lives for impact, we have to ask questions like this. And thankfully, Dr. King often spoke right into the heart of these questions, too:
“Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God.”
So many of us don’t progress as individuals or within our communities because of what Dr. King calls “inevitability” – it’s the idea that the future is already written, and we’re just waiting around for it to happen.
Inevitability is a lie.
Of course, God has an ultimate plan of redemption for all of creation. He has plans for our lives. As someone who loves to take control of a situation, knowing God has a plan for me no matter what is honestly hugely reassuring. But none of us are robots just shuffling along a track laid out for us by God. God gives us freedom to choose how we walk through this life. That means the future is not inevitable.
And this is a tremendous source of hope for us too. The fact that tomorrow is not yet written also means tomorrow does not have to look like yesterday. Tomorrow doesn’t even have to look like today!
Just because something has been a certain way for as long as we can remember, it doesn’t have to stay that way…Don’t you find that incredibly hopeful? I do. Now, life is always a mixed bag, right? We’ve all got certain things going on that are pretty amazing, and I’m so thankful for that. But for many of us, certain parts of life are also really messy a lot of the time.
If I’ve learned anything from Dr. King, it’s this: change is always possible.
But how does that change unfold? Dr. King left us a model for change that’s two parts.
First, change comes from the tireless efforts of people. Now, we all know this – people are tremendous potential for all sorts of things, good and bad. Under various circumstances, people can be forces of evil or forces of good…That’s the challenge of being human, accepting the responsibility each of us has to live as change agents for good.
And don’t miss the word “tireless.” Many of us are deterred from being change agents in the world by the cost of the role – change takes tremendous time and energy. Sometimes, we miss out on changing our world because it feels like it costs too much. But when we have a vision, that vision drives us into full and perfect effort to see that vision become a reality….So our tireless effort really hinges on us finding a vision we can get behind whole-heartedly.
But Dr. King is not encouraging us to choose our own vision to work tirelessly in. He’s saying there’s already a vision the Church needs to involve herself in tirelessly.
And that brings us to the second key aspect of change: we are invited to be coworkers with God in Canis vision to change the world. What we find here is that God already has a vision for the world that he made and that he sustains, and God is inviting us to partner with him in his vision. God is looking for coworkers. This is what gave Dr. King such tremendous passion and drive, as well as such great influence with other people: he knew his work as a civil rights activist was part of a divine calling – his response to God’s invitation to be a coworker in his vision. Many people were also drawn into that vision…and it changed the world.
As we all remember Dr. King and seek to become world-changers too, I want to share with you 3 simple questions to help you become a coworker with God.
- Do you know God?
Being a coworker with God means actually knowing God. Dr. King knew the God of the Bible. The God who created and sustains all of creation. The God who forgives the sins of people through the cross of Jesus Christ. The God who empowers people to live transformed lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. This God knows us and desires to be known by us. Just like with any job or work we do, we take the time to know our coworkers….It’s no different when we engage kingdom work. Do you know God?
- Are you available?
If you think about your job, it is essential that you show up to do your work. No one keeps a job that they are not available for. In the same way, in order to join God’s work as a coworker, you need to be available. There is an old saying that says that God is not looking for ability, God is looking for availability. All through the Scriptures, we find God partnering with people who aren’t the most gifted or skilled or even faithful, but with people who are simply available. So let’s ask ourselves, how can we present ourselves available to God to join His work?
- Are you willing?
Sometimes whether or not we’re coworkers with God isn’t a question of time, it’s a question of desire. It’s one thing to know God and be available. But it’s another thing to know God, be available and be willing to go. Our willingness speaks to the desire of our hearts to be involved with what we are invited into. You might be available, but do you want to go? When I catch myself making excuses about working with God, this is where I catch myself getting evasive. Sometimes we just don’t want to have to deal with all that God’s invitation entails, so we stay away. But faith is the willingness to partner with God to transform the world.But faith is the willingness to partner with God to transform the world. Click To Tweet
If we work on these three things – knowing God, being available to Him, and being willing to accept His invitation – we will become coworkers with God, pursuing progress with tireless effort. That’s the vision that fueled Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And that’s the vision that will change our world for the better today.