by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
He works with all
With all people, regardless of their type, God works with all: with doubting Thomas, with enthusiastic Peter, with John the Son of Thunder, with mighty Samson, and scared James. Do not think that God will ever give up on you one day, ignore or reject the chance to work with you. God is prepared to work with every man. God works in Andrew the ignorant fisherman and Paul the philosopher. God uses everything, even a man’s sin, to bring good.
The betrayal of Judas was used by God for the cause of Salvation, as was Pilate’s cowardice, and chief priest's envy. Anything that falls in the hands of God can be worked with. So, feel safe, because God will be working with all of you. God’s work does not depend on your fitness as much as it depends on God’s ability, He who brings something sweet out of the strong and bitter. Who would have thought that St. Peter, the one who was afraid of a servant girl and cursed and swore, saying, “I do not know the Man!", would be fit to stand before governors and rulers only a little while later?
Who would have thought that Jacob, who deceived his father, Jeremiah, who could not speak for he was a youth, or Moses, the slow of speech and slow of tongue, were fit for being leaders and God’s messengers? The Bible is truthful in saying, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not.” Put yourself, then, in the hands of God and say to Him, "Use me, O Lord, in anything. Put me in any work, for You know better."
Believe me, if God chooses only the good elements for His work, none of us would have been useful for anything! For none of us is good! God, in His work, can use the worm that ate the plant, and used the plant to give an example to the great prophet Jonah! The worm can do a great work in God’s Kingdom, if it left itself in God’s hands. Is it not strange that God uses Balaam’s donkey? God is ready to work on the weak and the strong. He is ready to use the five loaves to fill five thousand. “The battle is the LORD's” and God is capable of winning it with the many and the few.
It is not fit to excuse ourselves from participating in God’s work because of the few gifts one has, because it is not a matter of abilities and human capabilities. If we were the ones working, it would have been permissible to say no. However, this is a work that will be done by God and not by us. When Gideon brought thirty thousand warriors to fight with them, God refused that large number so that Gideon would not claim that glory to the large number. And God chose 300 out of these thousands and won with them and He was glorified in the few. Do not apologize because of your little ability, for it is not your ability that works, but God.
David did not go himself to Goliath, but he said “I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts.” (1 S 17:45) And St. Peter said in healing the lame man: “It was not by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk.” It is God who works. God does everything. He is the physician, the healer of our souls, bodies and spirits. He is the engineer who put in place the astronomical laws. He is the builder, for “unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” (Ps 127:1). And He is the guard who guards the city. (Ps 127:1) Also He is the good teacher. (Mt 19:11) He is the sower who went out to sow. (Mt 13:3) He is the servant who came “to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Mt 20:28) We glorify God as we see Him perform every job and finish it Himself.
God is always working
He never ceases working, ever. Even on the Cross, He was promising the thief that that he would go to Paradise, He entrusted St. Mary to the care of St. John, gave St. John a blessing, interceded for those who crucified Him, in addition to the gift of redemption.
Even during His death, His spirit united with His Divinity, took out of Hades all those who relied on the Hope, and took them to Paradise along with the Right-Hand Thief. The act of the Cross did not end by redemption, by His rising to Heaven, and not by His saying on the Cross: “It is finished”, for He is still working till now. He says: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20) “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” (Rev 3:20). He is the model of continuous work. In all this, He sets an example for us to work continuously to reach His Kingdom.
God Works in Silence and Humility
He works in total quietness, and maybe even in disguise. And it happens a lot that He refers His work to some of His sons so that they get glory for it. You might ask for His help, and He offers it through the Virgin Mary, Archangel Michael, St. George or one of the living saints and He disappears and His sons get credit for it. You have to feel God’s Hands in all the good you get.
You might think that God has forgotten you if He is silent, or perhaps think He is not working, while in fact He is in the depth of work for you, without you feeling it. Even Prophet David reproaches the Lord saying: “Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Ps 10:1). But the Lord was not standing far off, He was working in silence. The disciples thought that He was asleep on the ship as the waves were crashing in the storm and they reproached Him, saying: “Do You not care that we are perishing?” But, at that same time, He cared, for if He did not, they would have sunk. He replies using the same phrase: “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (Jn 5:17)
It is impossible that God disappears in times of trouble; otherwise trouble would have swallowed us. But out of our bitterness we complain. And if we had the eye of faith, we would have seen God’s work so clearly, and we would have seen that those who are with us are more than those who are against us. God is the Pantocrator; He neither slumbers nor sleeps. Do not think that He is far from you in your troubles. He observes everything and works for your sake.
Daniel felt His work, and said in joy “My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths” (Dn 6:22). And the three young men felt His work as they saw him walking with them in the fiery furnace, and He did not allow the fire to have power over their bodies or their clothes. Not a hair of their heads was burned nor a single strand of their clothes. Was it an option for the three young men to doubt in God’s intervention and His work? Imagine, the King gave orders to worship his gods, and it seemed as if God was not reacting. The three young men were caught, and God did not do anything!! The King gave orders to fire up the burning fiery furnace and to heat it even more than usual, and God still was silent! And they carried the three young men to the fiery furnace, and God was still silent! Then they cast them into the furnace! And in all that, it seemed as if God was silent and not reacting... But God was in fact acting, in His silence, and His work was shown at the right time.
Satan is the one fighting us by claiming that God is not working! That’s why David said: “LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who say of me, "There is no help for him in God."”. But is not there no help, really? David continues his meditations and says: “But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head…” (Ps 3). No matter how long it takes, the Lord will surely come, even if it was at the fourth watch of the night. Even if the sea arises, the Lord will come walking on the sea, stepping on the sea, when its waves arise, and He quiets them.
Be assured of God’s work, and trust from deep inside you that He is working. Say as David said: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me.” (Ps 23) “Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, In this I will be confident.” (Ps 27). Faith brings tranquility.
It is nice to trust in God’s work so that we feel assured of His care, protection and plans. And in all our matters, we remember that God works so “we rest and rejoice.” No doubt, the statement “My Father has been working until now”, is very comforting. The Father is working, so is the Son working and the Holy Spirit is also working with us, and we go into the communion of the Spirit. The whole Trinity is working with us and for us, along with all the forces of Heaven, the saints’ souls, and the ambassadors of Christ on Earth.
And in trusting in the Lord work, work with Him. You should also say: “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Do not be lazy. God works in us, with us, and using us. We are tools in His Hands.
Say to Him: "I will work with You, O Lord, but I can not hide my weakness from You. I do not have more than five smooth stones from the brook and I have no other weapon to fight Goliath with." And be sure that God will say to you: "Those five stones are too much; I will make you win with one of them. And keep the remaining four as a memorial."
And you will say to the Lord: "Forgive my weak faith, for I have brought five stones. You have taught me by experience that one is enough, because my Father has been working until now."
*Revised for grammar and translation. The original version of this article appeared in El Keraza.