“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” Psalm 127:1 (NIV)
The Leaning Tower illustrated above is a building destined to collapse at some point in the future. The foundation was not correct, and it won't last. In the image above you can see the attempts made by engineers to keep it standing as long as possible.
We are so frequently caught up in building things that don't last. I recall a story of a missionary to an aboriginal tribe, who saw his life's work dissipate the moment alcohol arrived in his community. He worked hard no doubt, and cared of course, but the scripture above applies here.
As workers for Christ, we need to be building in such a way that doesn't take the work out of God's hands. Lifelong missionary to Pakistan Jens Christensen said that we often forget who is the doer in changing the hearts of people.
In every sentence in the English language, there is a subject, object and verb. In this sentence for example... The dog chased the ball... The dog is the subject, the ball is the object and the verb is the word chased.
Let us apply this to the situation of serving Christ. We know that God has given us commands, such as the great commission, and the great commandment. We therefore quite naturally assume that we are the subject matter, and that saving souls (the object) are done by whatever method (the verb) we try.
We easily assume that whatever seems to work (the best verb) is the way forward. The big risk here is that we build a house that the Lord isn't building, and waste our effort.
However a proper consideration of this life of faith brings us to conclude that we are not the subject. Christ is the subject, and only He is able to change the human heart. The verse above confirms what I am saying... unless the Lord is the subject, our effort is wasted.
So if God is the subject, and not us, then where does that leave us? It leaves us in the strange position of being the verb. We are his method, his means. Even though God is omnipotent, capable of doing anything He wishes, He chooses instead to use the Church. So we are left having to depend on Him for guidance, to obey, sometimes without understanding, and to be on our knees as we go forward. It places the responsibility for results on the Lord, and the responsibility for humility and surrender on us. For us to be a good verb, we must lay down our lives.
It is a shift in understanding that makes a profound shift in outcomes.
When we make the Lord the subject, and we lay down our lives and our thinking to be his means, we take the whole matter off the sinking sand, and it becomes truly a kingdom thing. He is then building the Church (not us) and the gates of Hell don't prevail as promised.
When the Lord builds the church, the hearts of people are drawn after Him, and not on shallower more temporary things. We must Give God back his rightful place, and then the structures that we participate in building (as the verb) will stand straight, and remain as a permanent contribution towards the Kingdom of God and the Church as a whole.
Images of the Leaning Tower of Pisa by:
By Florian Hirzinger - http://www.fh-ap.com - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39171135
By Rolf Gebhardt - photo taken by Rolf Gebhardt, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5021233