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The Paradox in the Divine and Human Partnership

"All that we have accomplished you have done for us" (Isaiah 26:12). Partnership with God is marvelous. He works through our personalities, vocabularies, and temperaments in an amazing blend of the divine with our human elements. We are sometimes tempted to think it is we who preach, teach, heal, comfort, counsel, and minister effectively. But whatever we appear to accomplish, God actually does.

A similar paradox is found in God's promise to Joshua. "I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses" (Joshua 1:3). Joshua and the people of Israel walked on the land and fought for it, but it was God who gave it to them. They walked and God worked simultaneously and in a perfectly combination of human and divine elements in their partnership.

Eleazar, son of Dodai and one of David's mighty men, also had an experience of a close blend of the human and divine working together. "Then the Israelites retreated, but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead" (2 Samuel 23:9–10, emphasis mine).

The Lord worked so mightily through Eleazar that it was impossible to determine where the human hand stopped and the sword began. God worked through the man and God worked through the sword. The sword and the man were both used of God. Eleazar did it and God did it.

Psalm 44:3 says, "It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them." Here is a reference to an arm and hand. Does that remind you of Eleazar's hand and sword? They worked together in such a way that the unit accomplished what neither half of the unit could have done alone.

Jesus taught us that without Him we can't do anything. He said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5 How foolish for the branch to boast about what the vine enabled it to do. The vine and the branch work together in a partnership.

Later, Paul restated this concept. Today's New International Version of the Bible helps us understand this more clearly than other translations: "I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). Notice the context, Paul can abound or be abased. He does this through Christ who strengthens him. Some translations render this verse, "I can do all things," apparently indicating that we can do anything. But surely the Bible does not literally teach this. We cannot fly. Neither can one Christian minister alone save the world in his or her lifetime. It is consistent with the teaching of the Bible to believe that what we do do, we do through His strength. "All that we have accomplished you have done for us" (Isaiah 26:12). We do it, but only with His enabling strength. The human and the divine work together. God uses the tool. The spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet.

The same concept is included in the future action of placing crowns at the feet of the One on the throne in heaven:

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (Revelation 4:9–11)
The Bible does not say this, but it implies and hints that when we get to heaven, we too will likely lay our crowns at His feet, acknowledging that it was He who made it all possible.

When we realize the impossibility of our ministry situations and pray sincerely that God would be involved and help us, and then state that we will be careful to give Him all the glory, we need to be serious, deliberate and intentional. God does work miraculously through us. He works so cleverly, naturally, and in ways perfectly consistent with our own personalities, temperaments, vocabularies, training, and intellectual gifts, we may think it is we who are doing the ministry so well. If we could grasp the danger of this handicap and get out of God's way, would He not work even more mightily through us?

Practical Applications:

1. When we read of something in the Bible God intends to do, it is right to partner with Him and pray that what He said would happen happens. We can partner with God to bring about what God desires. Prayer is partnership with God.

2. Our hearts deceive us and sometimes we inwardly accept the credit for what God does through us even though we say the right things such as: "All the glory goes to God." "I give Him all the glory." "God did it; not I." Are we just mouthing those words or do we really mean it? Do we truly understand it?

3. Is it possible that if we were to learn this better and at a deeper level, God would trust us more and show it by using us more?

4. The things that some of us do are more public than what others do, but God keeps good records and each will receive an appropriate reward. We need not be so concerned about who gets the credit here.