Q. Re: Understanding John 15:5-6. I’m a bit confused on how to know we are following the Lord’s prompting in doing good works, or doing it in our own strength? How do we know the difference? Can you give an example of each?
A. I think a good way to tell the difference between our will and the Lord’s is by looking at who is getting the credit.
For example, I know a person who by all outward appearances seems to be doing remarkable things for the Lord. But as I came to know him better I could see that he has an almost compulsive need to get personal credit for everything he does. He only undertakes projects that bring him a lot of attention, and he always finds subtle ways to let others know how much he’s doing for the Lord. I’ve even observed him taking credit for the work of others. Most people aren’t as extreme as this person, but the Lord said if you seek the recognition of men for your good works, then you’ve gotten all the reward you’ll ever get (Matt. 6:2).
In contrast, I know another man who is the exact opposite. He never takes action before going to the Lord for confirmation. He looks for ways to do things anonymously and is almost paranoid about staying in the background. When he is acknowledged he’s quick to say, “Don’t thank me, this is the Lord’s work. Give thanks to Him.” He’s a good example of the Lord’s instructions to be so secretive that it’s as if your left hand doesn’t know what your right hand is doing so your giving may be done in secret (Matt. 6:3-4). He only wants to receive his recognition from the Lord.
Romans 12:1-2 is a good verse to apply here. If we give our whole life to the Lord as a living sacrifice, then everything we do is an act of worship. That’s always in His will.