Work and Miracle Accomplish Goal
God’s schedule often consists of a sequence of tasks, revealed incrementally but not in advance. Completion of a task opens opportunities and conditions for the next task, irrespective of perceived success or failure. God provides input to accomplish a task but expects human effort to combine with his input. We discuss Christ teaching in interactions with a man born blind to understand Following God’s Schedule by working with him incrementally. Also, we discuss Peter’s escape from Herod to illustrate working diligently toward receiving and utilizing God’s intervention.
In continuing with our study series on Following God’s Schedule, we note that God often will provide his schedule as a sequence of tasks, revealed in increments but not in advance. As we discuss in a previous study under Human Relationship with God Regarding Work, completion of a task opens opportunities and conditions for the next task. Irrespective of perceived success or failure, the outcome of a task always leads to opportunities for a new task. Recognize and commit to the new task to advance in following God’s schedule. We discuss Christ teaching in interactions with a man born blind to illustrate God’s schedule revealed in sequential task increments.
Furthermore, each task includes a direct contribution from God and a contribution to be accomplished by human effort. God’s contribution could be closely tied with, and at times indistinguishable from, human effort and could occur before, during, or after the human contribution. We discuss Peter’s escape from Herod to illustrate God combining divine contributions with human effort to accomplish a goal.
Also, the end of a task at times indicates several options for a new task. Some of the options represent an attempt by the enemy to divert a person from following God’s schedule, whereas the other options provide opportunities to continue on God’s path. David faced a similar situation following his departure from Saul. He needed to protect himself from Saul but at the same time continue to build his reputation as a potential future leader of Israel. He identified his immediate and long-term needs and made choices based on satisfying the needs. We discuss events following David’s departure from Saul to understand his choices and staying on God’s schedule toward becoming king of Israel.
David’s choices during the period illustrate Searching for Next Step in Following God’s Schedule. The current study focuses on Christ teaching through interactions with a man born blind and the example based on Peter’s escape from Herod, to understand God’s schedule as a sequence of tasks to be accomplished incrementally through combined divine intervention and human effort. The next study will focus on understanding David’s choices following his departure from Saul, which illustrate Searching for Next Step to remain on the sequence of tasks representing God’s path or schedule to fulfillment of his promise.
Interactions with Man Born Blind
Christ uses interactions with a man born blind to lead us step by step through an illustration of human relationship with God regarding work. The interactions illustrate a work schedule defined through a sequence of tasks revealed incrementally but not in advance. As we discuss in a previous study under Human Relationship with God Regarding Work, Christ explains through the teaching that God defines a work mission for every person, divides the work into task increments with a performance time for each, initiates a task directly or provides instructions for the initiation, and guides the person toward completing the tasks on time. Each completed task opens opportunities and conditions for the next task. Christ launched the teaching by explaining that the man’s blindness from birth was to serve a purpose of revealing human relationship with God regarding work: “‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’” [John 9:3].
Through the interactions, a man born blind was launched onto a gospel mission: to proclaim God’s message to all, using his life experience as physical evidence that Jesus is the Messiah and to illustrate the work aspects of human relationship with God. He performed the mission in task increments as God guided him. The biblical account describes the first three tasks and the beginning of the fourth. We describe the three tasks using a sketch format to emphasize the relationship they illustrate. As shown in the pictorial, each task description identifies an objective, initiation, instruction, outcome, and miracle.
TASK OBJECTIVE represents the purpose to be accomplished through a task. The objective usually is evident at the end but not necessarily at the beginning. For example, when Christ told the blind man to “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” [John 9:7], he did not tell the man the objective was to gain sight.
TASK INITIATION represents something that God does or directs a person to do to start a task. For example, Christ anointed the man’s eyes with moist clay before giving him the instruction to go and wash in the pool: “He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay” [John 9:6]. God’s initiation of a task is at times contained in the miracle/outcome of a previous task. Anointing the man’s eyes with moist clay appears symbolic to illustrate God’s contribution toward a task. If all he wanted was to heal the man, he could have accomplished the objective just by touching him or pronouncing the healing.
TASK INSTRUCTION represents a specific command to do something. God gives a recipient either a clear and direct instruction as in Task 1 or an instruction that becomes evident with the unfolding events as in Tasks 2 and 3.
TASK OUTCOME describes the result of a task and includes a miracle.
TASK MIRACLE Every task includes a miracle with the outcome. The miracle is an aspect of the outcome that could not have happened through human effort alone. The outcome defines conditions and opportunities for the next task.
The man was led through a sequence of tasks incrementally, such that he rose from apparently the lowest status in his community to stand toe-to-toe before the teachers of the law (associated with the most revered status), explaining boldly to all that Jesus is the Messiah. The outcome and miracle of Task 3 appear to have ushered him onto his next task of proclaiming the gospel message to all. News of his expulsion from the synagogue and interactions with the Pharisees reached Jesus, who met with the man again and explained himself more: “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you” [John 9:37]. Then he blessed the man for his mission.
Peter Escapes from Herod—
Work and Miracle Accomplish Goal
God provides input to tasks but expects the recipient to apply human effort as well. Furthermore, his contribution could be closely tied with, and at times indistinguishable from, human effort and could occur before, during, or after the human contribution. Because the strategy and timing of God’s intervention are generally not known a priori, a person needs to apply human effort diligently to position themselves to receive and utilize his contribution. That is, we work diligently because we have faith that he will intervene and we want to be ready to accept and utilize his intervention.
As we discuss in a previous study under Peter Escapes from Herod’s Prison, the account of Peter’s escape from King Herod provides an illustration of God’s intervention combining with human effort to accomplish a goal. In the example, God performed an aspect of the task that would have been humanly impossible for Peter, then left Peter to complete the remainder by human effort.
As detailed in the biblical account [Acts 12:1–19], King Herod had started a new wave of persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. After he killed James, John’s brother, and noticed Jews appeared pleased with the killing, he arrested Peter, intending to kill him also. He held Peter in prison under maximum security, intending to try him publicly and kill him after the Passover festival. An angel appeared to Peter in prison on the night before his scheduled public trial, freed him, guided him to about one street length out from the prison, and left him [Acts 12:10]: “They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.” Thereafter, Peter realized that God had intervened to free him from the prison and that he had to do more to escape. He visited with the church family praying for him at Mary’s house and told them how God brought him out of the prison. Then he left and went away, so Herod and his men could not find him when they looked for him in the morning.
God assisted Peter’s escape from Herod by freeing him from jail and guiding him out from the prison premises. However, Peter needed to complete the escape by human effort. If he remained where the angel had left him, Herod’s people would have re-arrested him later. This experience illustrates God’s contribution to a task combining with human effort to accomplish the task objective. To understand better, we liken God’s contribution to providing a lift from a pick-up point to a drop-off point. The recipient can accept and utilize the lift by getting to the pick-up point on time and being ready to continue the journey beyond the drop-off point. That is, to accept and utilize God’s intervention, a person has to work diligently to place themselves in position to receive and utilize his input. You work hard because you have faith [James 2:18] that God will intervene and you want to be prepared to accept and utilize his intervention.
Summary of What We Learned
God’s schedule often consists of a sequence of tasks, revealed incrementally but not in advance. Completion of a task opens opportunities and conditions for the next task, irrespective of perceived success or failure. God provides input to accomplish a task but expects human effort to combine with his input.
We discuss Christ teaching in interactions with a man born blind to understand Following God’s Schedule by working with him incrementally. Also, we discuss Peter’s escape from Herod to illustrate working diligently toward receiving and utilizing God’s intervention.
You can download a PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation of this bible study from PDF_LINK.