The more I ponder this verse, the more excited and stirred I get in my spirit. I believe that I and many of my fellow Christians have failed to grasp the immense import of what Jesus is saying.
Consider this, from the words of Christ Himself. The divine, perfect, sinless Son of God said that He could do nothing by Himself, he could “do nothing of his own accord” (ESV, RSV). That is an astounding statement and would remain mystifying if Jesus hadn’t finished the sentence — “…he can do only what he sees his Father doing.” And I believe that, my brothers and sisters, is a major key to unlocking the power of God in our own God-given ministries.
Think of it. Elsewhere (John 1:3,10; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2) Jesus “the Word” is spoken of as the One by whom God created all things! Yet while on earth He did nothing—nothing!— by Himself, but only what the Father in heaven was doing. If this Father-directed ministry was at the very heart of all that Jesus did, how can we possibly minister effectively any other way? We cannot.
I reflect back upon my 45 years of ministry with a touch of regret. Did I (as my Savior did) set about every day to be a direct reflection of the will and the words of God the Father? Sad to say, no. In all those years, I recall hearing this truth preached perhaps one time, and I don’t think it sank deeply into my spirit. Like so many of my brethren, I committed myself to working diligently for the Lord, and God was gracious to provide some fruit. However, looking back at this late stage in my life, I realize that—not deliberately, not consciously, but quite definitely—I did not consistently have as my overriding motivation the question:
And take heart. God doesn’t leave us in the dark concerning His desires for us and our labors for Him. Jesus went on to say (vs. 20), “the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” He will do that for you too. Jesus assured us that when the promised Holy Spirit would come (and He has!), “he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Jesus said further that “all that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you” (vs. 15). In brief, the will of God the Father is expressed to and through Jesus the Son and is made known to us by the Holy Spirit. That should be our daily quest: to hear from the Holy Spirit what the heart of God is for us to do and to say each day. This Father-directed ministry totally governed the words and the actions of Jesus while He was on the earth. To emphasize this point further:
Let’s look at some examples of Jesus’ public ministry. Remember that every instance of what He did and said was guided by the principle that He could “do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing” (John 5:19, ESV) and “whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say” (John 12:50).
This might cause some bystanders to be alarmed—spitting, making mud, and putting it into the man’s eyes! But Jesus did exactly that. Why? He did nothing on His own initiative, but only what He perceived His Father in heaven directing Him to do. Now please hear me. I’m not suggesting that you imitate this precise method of healing ministry. This is how, in this singular occasion, Jesus healed this specific man, as directed from above. Another time He just touched the eyes of two blind men, and they were healed (Matthew 9:27-30). Yet another time Jesus simply spoke a word and a blind man was healed (Mark 10:51-52). Why the different methods? Because Jesus was doing as the Father showed Him in each instance—“I do nothing on my own initiative.”
Jesus healed a deaf man who could barely talk. How? First he put His fingers into the man’s ears, then spit and touched the man’s tongue, finally sighing and saying, “Be opened!” And the man was healed. Another time he healed a deaf boy by casting out a “deaf and mute spirit,” that is, a demon that was causing deafness and other problems (Mark 9:17-26). Again, why the different approach to each healing? Because Jesus was doing “only what He [saw] His Father doing” (John 5:19).
Jesus touched a leper and healed him. In another situation He did not touch the ten lepers, but spoke to them to go show themselves to the priest, and as they went they were healed of their leprosy. Different situations, different approaches to ministry, but always guided by the fact that “the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does” (John 5:20).
The obvious question arises: Why hadn’t Jesus healed this lame man? For surely the Lord had on various occasions passed by this lame man who begged daily at the temple gate. Again, I believe the answer lies in Christ’s words in
In His public ministry Jesus raised only Lazarus and two others from the dead (see also Luke 7:12-15 and Mark 5:35,41-42). Why only three? The simple and biblical answer is that this was the will of His Father, that in Christ's public ministry He raise only those three from the dead. It’s good to remind ourselves that at His Second Coming Jesus will raise millions of believers from the dead! But in His first coming to earth Jesus was prompted by God to raise only those three. This would have greatly strengthened the faith of His followers, to whom He said that they would go forth and “heal the sick cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils” (Matthew 10:8, KJV). Now it is our turn to listen daily, hourly, even moment by moment for that distinct prompting of God the Father to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse the lepers, and to cast out devils. Shouldn’t we always be willing to minister, to pray? Of course. But I’m saying, let’s minister and pray not with a generalized, “shotgun” approach, but listening to and heeding the clear, distinct guidance from heaven that reflects the precise will of the Father for you specifically as you go forth to minister.
When that invalid picked up his mat and walked, most of us would have cried aloud to the other disabled people there, “The Holy Spirit is moving. Come forward and be healed!” But that’s not what Jesus did. Instead, after healing apparently just that one man, He “slipped away into the crowd.” What! Surely this was a great opportunity for “a move” of divine healing. Certainly faith would have risen among the sick as they saw that first lame man healed. But no, Jesus slipped away after just that one healing. We can bring our limited human intellects into trying to figure that out. But to do so is to forget that Jesus did “nothing on [His] own initiative.” It was entirely the will of the Father that Jesus heal that one man and quietly slip away. The takeaway for me here is this: Would I like to see a whole roomful of sick people healed? Of course! But was that the Father’s will here? Clearly no. But that one man was wonderfully healed, and the Father’s will for this particular scenario was accomplished. Ask yourself this: If you could be divinely led to just one sick person today (or even this week), and you followed that leading and saw that person miraculously healed, would you not be immensely encouraged to listen intently for the Father’s next leading?
It’s not just prayer that works. It’s prayer “according to his will” that gets results. God’s Word the Bible gives us a broad, extensive revelation of His will on a wide variety of topics. Learn from the Scriptures His will for healing, for evangelizing, for ministering to hurting people, and dozens more opportunities for ministry. Then each day, and throughout the day, ask God to give you personal direction for His specific desires to use you for His glory. In sum of all we have looked at, make it a frequent daily prayer to ask God the Father for ministry guidance. I suggest two simple prayers that will follow the model of Jesus Himself and how He ministered consistently and effectively under the Father’s direction while on earth.
“Heavenly Father, what are
“Heavenly Father, what are
Respond obediently as God the Father shares with you His heart and His plans for each specific situation. And begin to see God move in ways you have not experienced before! As God Himself guides and directs your ministry efforts, expect them to change from powerless and unproductive to powerful and fruitful, for the glory of God Almighty!
©2016, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.