Every believer is both commanded and anointed to do good, and we cannot do it on our terms. We are called to life as Christ did and reveal His heart. Doing good requires a heart attitude of servanthood and surrender so Christ in us can work through us.
Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)
The narrow way can seem like a scary road to be on at times. It’s…well, narrow, so there isn’t any room to really manoeuvre. Which, when we think about it, is most likely why God made it that way. There’s no going back, turning around, or stepping off on to an easier route. We pretty much have to keep going and trust Him every step of the way. It does have its advantages, though. Being narrow, there aren’t any distractions. It’s a kind of ‘what you see is what you get’ situation, even though we cannot always see around the next corner. Today’s verse is one of the ‘narrow road’ verses. It is what it is. There’s no manoeuvring out of something that’s black and white with no fuzzy grey bits. It tells us plainly that if we know to do good and don’t do it, it’s sin.
To do good is our God-given purpose in Christ.
As disciples of Christ, our purpose is to do good. Acts 10:38 says, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. Jesus had a God-given ministry to do good, and every single believer has the same. We are called to continue His work, which includes doing good. If we choose to follow Christ, it’s not negotiable. It’s not a command for pastors or teachers or those with ‘ministries’ in this or that. The command is for each and every believer. It is through doing good, as Jesus did, that we reveal the love, grace, and mercy of God to others. This is one reason why it is a sin to know and not to do. We are created to serve the purposes of our sovereign God.
To do good is to manifest servanthood – the nature and attitude of Jesus. When we fail to live as He did, we diminish the nature and character of God whom He reveals. In essence, we’re taking away from the Word – Christ – which God has said we should never do. We portray a wrong image of Jesus to the world. It’s a fact that no one will take us seriously if we only talk the talk. Servanthood manifests in joyful obedience, through which the love of God flows. When we do good alongside speaking the Word, we are a living testimony to the power and love of God. He graciously confirms His Word and manifests Himself in all we do. To fail to live out our God-given purpose when we know better is sin. It’s disobedience, which is rebellion against God – a conscious decision to ignore His purpose.
We have an anointing to do good.
The verse from Acts tells us Jesus was anointed and so went out doing good. The Bible tells us that if we are born again, we are in Christ and He is in us. Therefore, His anointing is in us through the infilling of the Holy Spirit who empowers us. The intimacy and this kind of unity with Jesus isn’t possible unless we are surrendered to Him. The Holy Spirit will not operate if we’re in rebellion. The anointing doesn’t go away. It simply remains ‘dormant’ until we choose obedience. What’s important here is that this is the same anointing Jesus had. It’s also for exactly the same purpose – to go around and do good. If we desire the anointing we must also desire its purpose. Lamenting a lack of power in our lives should make us pause and consider what we’ve done with the anointing we’ve had.
To ignore or not use the anointing we have from God is sinful. It renders His blessings and purposes of little account. It’s disrespect and disobedience and borders on the presumptive. We’re saying we want the anointing but also to decide when and how to use it. This kind of arrogant attitude disregards the sovereignty of God, to whom belongs all the power and glory. It puts self in the driver’s seat and makes a mockery of the things He desires in and through our lives. I’ve even heard some believers say we should never ‘waste the anointing,’ i.e. on those who don’t deserve it. This is a cop-out. It’s God’s anointing and He decides when and how it should be used. Besides the arrogance, there is the absolute truth that none of us are deserving. If this were the criteria, none of us would ‘qualify’ for redemption or anointing.
What does to do good entail?
The simple answer to this question is to look at the life of Christ. Whatever He did is what we should do. What we need to take hold of, though, is that to do good is not simply a matter of good works without faith. Our faith is what keeps us in Christ. Anyone can do good and appear ‘godly’ but have no relationship with Jesus. The difference for believers is us in Jesus and Him in us. It’s a matter of surrender, of relationship, and of obedience to the Spirit’s leading. It’s not the good that touches lives but the God in the good. Just as none of us are righteous, none of us are good either. On our own, anything we do is simply self and without eternal value. When Jesus works in and through us, the power of the anointing makes the impact.
To do good covers a wealth of opportunity for every believer. Whether it be shopping for an elderly neighbour or praying for others in intercession, each of us can do good. God places us in a harvest field and that is where He desires us to work. Sometimes, simply having patience can be doing good. The defining factor is always Christ. Him in us and us in Him is a powerful testimony. When we step out in faith and obedience we can be absolutely assured that the anointing and power of Jesus will be released in whatever measure is needed. We must never imagine that simple things aren’t anointed. Being led by the Spirit to provide a meal is as much doing good as healing the sick. Jesus fed the multitude, and the principle is the same – He had compassion. God’s love in us will work through us.
To do good is a heart attitude.
It’s not so much what we do but how we do it. God always looks first at the heart, not the good we do. To do good is simply the outworking of our heart attitude. If this is of self, our works are without value. When we do it in Christ, they have eternal value and power because He is in them. In other words, if we’re not joyfully and willingly surrendered and obedient, we aren’t doing good according to God’s definition. We can work and give until the cows come home. Without Jesus it’s simply work, not spiritually good work. The difference lies in whether we accept servanthood or not. The question we should all ask ourselves is whether our good reveals Jesus. To do good for the kingdom always has a practical physical and an eternal spiritual implication. Both must be present for the anointing to flow.
Unfortunately, we’re often side-tracked and deceived by self. For one thing, our hearts want to be selective when it comes to doing good. We want to pick our preferred opportunities. Secondly, to do good carries a strong temptation to pride. We prefer that others see what we have done. This will often lead us to do only those things in which we’re sure of success. But God’s definition of success and ours are very different. And He will never share His glory. If our heart attitude isn’t aligned with the servanthood of Jesus, we’re into dangerous territory. To do good is to lay down all, as He did, for the good of others. Christ did good for all. He had compassion on all, including the outcasts, the reviled, and the unlovely. The right heart attitude can only be found in surrender to Christ in us.
We must both desire and will to do good.
Will and desire are powerful things if they work together. We can desire something but not have the will to go after it. In the same way, we can will ourselves to do something, but if the desire is not present we work against ourselves. To truly do good as God defines it is to harness both our will and desire to work together. This means is that we must desire and will to be like Jesus. The good will then be a natural outworking of the work of the Spirit in us. We never have to strive to do good. Once our will and desire are fixed on Jesus, the opportunities and anointing will flow naturally. It’s not about desiring to do the good we know to do to avoid sinning. Rather, it’s about knowing the God in the good who anoints and empowers us to do His will.
Lord, thank You for the warning today. Forgive us if we’ve approached the matter of doing good in the wrong way. We surrender our hearts willingly today to seek Jesus. Thank You that when our will and desire are focused only on Him, the rest will follow.