Working Together for a Better Future

By Lukas Targosz

Partnering with God creates a potential for a better, kingdom-like, heaven-glimpsed future.

It took my breath away. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I had read these verses before, but somehow never stopped and pondered what they might mean. Thoughts were racing through my mind over a simple phrase from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:8-9, “For we are God’s fellow workers.”

I had always assumed that this passage inferred that we were co-workers for God. Suddenly I was reading the words “God gave the increase” (1 Cor 3:6-7)in a fresh way. I recognized it was not just about Paul and Apollos working for God, but that they were actually working with God. Three agents working on the same project. Not just two individuals, and wishful thinking! A real cooperation, not for God, but with God. Without God, the planting and watering would be worthless. Similarly, without Paul’s planting and Apollos’s watering, there would be nothing God could actually grow or increase. All three parts are equally important. In other words, God chooses to co-work with humans for growth as his partners. This simple thought revolutionized my life.

To put my story in context, I grew up in Communist Czechoslovakia with no real freedom. Someone else, in my case a “party,” would decide what we would do, creating obstacles to anyone with real initiative and creativity. I had decided to follow Jesus just a week before a sudden collapse of the system in November 1989. Very quickly, things had changed and we could do whatever we wanted. It was a brand-new world with brand-new possibilities. Young people with a newly acquired faith found themselves quickly thrust into the heart of Christian ministry. This was me! Within months, I was preaching and only five years later, I left as our first ever church missionary to India. I was 18, and I was desperately working hard for God. However, my frenetic efforts were challenged when, on the mission field, under the hot Asian sun, I heard God invite me to work with Him.

I began to understand ministry in a new way, and in particular my role within a ministerial context. Our culture seems to have a binary understanding of spirituality; it seems to be purely “self-help” where one has to work everything out for oneself, or heavily “deterministic” where everything is planned and there is no choice or personal creativity needed. The call to partnership with God was, therefore, a radical one. A Czech medical scientist and Catholic priest Marek Orko Vacha famously said, “The Creator creates creators.” By this, he was acknowledging that God the Creator makes people in his own image, and as such we have God-given creative capabilities. Therefore, creativity is a mark of the Creator’s image that we bear. If God is calling his people to a partnership, it also means that he gives them the power and the capability to create new things. Perhaps even create a new future. A God-like future. Isn’t God, after all, the one who makes all things new? And if he does, what does it say about our role as his partners in what he is doing?

Jesus taught his disciples something about wanting to see his kingdom come. In a model prayer that we call the Lord’s Prayer, he asks us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). We are asked to pray earnestly that we would see God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That Jesus asks his disciples to pray that it would happen shows that prayer matters. But what else could we do to see his will be done? Or how do we picture what his kingdom coming means?

I guess it depends on how we imagine heaven. Many people think about heaven as a place somewhere far away, another dimension. A place of joy and happiness, where immortal souls reside. But there seem to be various ways of understanding heaven in the New Testament. Paul proclaims in Ephesians 2:6 that he has “made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” We are seen to be sitting in heavenly places, but still here on earth. Heaven is not something to be seen only after our death. Paul affirms this idea when he says in Philippians 3:20 that “our citizenship is in heaven.” It would seem that heaven is somehow a reality in the here and now. But how? It is interesting that Stephen could see into heaven as he stood before his accusers. We are told that he could see God and his Son Jesus. It is also interesting that other people didn’t see into heaven, but that they just saw heaven’s reflection on Stephen’s face, as the face of an angel (Acts 6:15). Heaven was open, but whilst some saw inside, others only saw a reflection. Could the goal of our cooperating with God be to help those who do not acknowledge Him, see a reflection of heaven in our words and our works?

Heaven, then, can be seen in the “here and now,” as well as being in another dimension. Heaven represents a sphere where God rules, and where his will is done. Heaven is separated from earth by a veil that will forever disappear when Christ comes. In specific situations, this veil becomes more translucent, and the glory of God is more visible. So it matters what we do. The veil becomes more translucent when we get closer to God engaging in things like prayer, worship, art, and most importantly when we overcome evil with good by our service to the poor and as we suffer in many ways for Jesus. When we actively cooperate with God as His partner, the veil is thinner and we can see glimpses from another world. And what is even better is that people can see these glimpses of heaven reflected in us too.

God’s invitation to be his partners in creating a better, kingdom-like, heaven-glimpsed future is a grand invitation to his story and for his vision. It is a vision of another reality. This vision opens doors to an alternative future that is not yet but could be and should be. It is, indeed, a door to a better future. I believe the future is open, full of possibilities. God invites us to the work of shaping the future through the partnership of planting, watering, and growing. His vision is not for us to seek what is already determined for us to do, but to be creators of new things together with him. It is to sing a new song, musically or in a different way. We sing a song by bringing goodness that has power to overcome evil. It is a song of freedom, a song of grace, a song of praise. God’s invitation raises people to be God’s friends and partners in bringing the kingdom of God into the world. This has limitless potential. And it fills me with wonder, awe, and courage to step out into uncertainty. And it still takes my breath away.

Question: Why do we see ourselves as workers for God when God sees us as his co-workers?

Lukas Targosz is the senior leader of Element, a church focused on reaching atheists and agnostics in his native Czech Republic. He earned a Masters of Arts (Christian Studies) at Alphacrucis College in Sydney, Australia, and a Graduate Diploma of Arts (Leadership) at Sydney College of Divinity. He is the author of a few publications and a lecturer on leadership, having taught in two dozen countries around the world. He is an expert on everything to do with U2.

To purchase the book from which this essay comes, see Partnering with God: Exploring Collaboration in Open and Relational Theology.

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