I’ve been intensely studying the scriptures now for around 35 years, and one thing that never ceases to amaze me is that you can study a subject in detail and think you’ve really got a handle on what it means, but then you go back to the same scriptures in a few years and the meaning isn’t quite the same. Maybe it has a totally different meaning than you thought it did the first time. It may have had a life-changing impact on you, or maybe the deep meaning that was there before becomes deeper, and it can help you to plant your feet more firmly on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, God the Father, and Their truth.
Several years ago now, I gave a message entitled “Faith in the Operation of God.” Personally, I can’t think of any concept that has ever benefited me more than the idea in that message has. I’ve looked at the notes many times over the years, and often mention the phrase in email exchanges regarding some calamity taking place in the world – or, sadly, in the churches – these days, and particularly among those entrusted with administrative functions at any level of society.
Let’s start by quoting a very familiar scripture, which tells us that literally everything happening in our lives can be used by God for a good purpose.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
The phrase “work together” is translated from the Greek sunergeo (G4903). Spiros Zodhiates writes that when this word is referring to things, it means “to work together for something, cooperate, contribute to an end or a goal.” It sounds much like the English word “synergy,” and means about the same thing too.
As it says here in Romans, every type of thing contributes to an end goal according to God’s purpose. I don’t know how many times I’ve been through something, or observed someone else in the church go through something, and just within my own easily exasperated mind groaned wondering what possible good could come of this? So, do we believe that “all things” really do contribute to the “good” end that God has in mind for us?
Most of us have been through, or have seen good friends go through, horrible trials. We have suffered or shared in the suffering of losing a small child, a mate, or a dear friend. We know someone, or have ourselves suffered a debilitating illness or injury and endured years of agony. How do experiences such as those “work for good”? Can they be included in the “things of every kind and sort” that contribute to a real, tangible goal that the great God has in mind for us?
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Col 2:6-12)
Notice the emphasis in these verses on our relationship with the one sent, Jesus the Christ. Part of this relationship is avoiding being cheated or deceived, struggling against some very formidable distractions that would take us away from Jesus Christ.
The phrase “faith in the working of God” in Colossians 2:12 is translated “the faith of the operation of God” in the King James Version, and that’s the wording I chose for my title. The Greek word translated “working” or “operation” is energeia (G1753). It means something that is operative and active, referring to energy or the being at work. It is efficient, active power.
We know from Hebrews 11:1 that faith is the substance or realization of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. We really can’t see God at work, but in time we do see some of the results of God’s inner working. But the first time I studied this, I focused on our faith in God’s “inner working,” and gave a message entitled “faith in the operation of God,” but that’s really not the way it reads. It is “the faith of the operation of God.”
The thing I didn’t focus on earlier was God’s faith in what He is doing in us, and His faithfulness to His commitment to working out a good outcome in our lives. In short, God has faith, and it is a rock solid faith in His plan and purpose. It is tried and tested, on those who have gone before us, and we can see it everywhere in His word.
Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. (Heb. 13:7)
The Greek word for them which have the rule over (G2233) actually means, “to lead, or go before.” Metaphorically, it means “to lead out before the mind.” We’re not just supposed to blindly follow someone because they occupy a position or office, but to attentively examine their mode of life, their conduct, and their behavior in life.
Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Is. 55:6-11)
God sends His word down here like seed sown in a field and we read, we study, we pray, we meditate, and mull it over in our minds, but we are hard pressed to understand the real depth of its meaning. God invests His word in humanity, and He has faith in the fact that there will be a return on His investment.
“For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Is. 55:12)
He really wants this to be our outcome – an end result where all things work together for good – and to make sure that His word prospers and produces fruit in us, He will always be faithful to work effectively in us because of the faith OF the operation of God.