Sometimes we can get confused between our responsibility and God’s responsibility.
It could be argued that one of the basic definitions of leadership is taking responsibility for a situation. Leaders are to be proactive in making things happen, and must take responsibility if nothing is happening. It’s their job to ultimately get the job done, and they carry the can if it isn’t done, or if it’s not done on time, on budget, or to sufficient quality.
By contrast, it could be argued that one of the basic definitions of spiritual formation is recognising it is only God who has the power and authority to get things done. “Apart from me you can do nothing” says Jesus. And therefore spiritual formation becomes about how we get ourselves out of the way, and ensure God is free to work His will through us. It’s about recognising that God is responsible, not us.
So which is correct? Who should be taking responsibility? Us or God?
The answer, like so many things, is both. These statements can seem like opposites, but they need not be. We should be taking responsibility for our actions, but God bears responsibility for the fruit those actions bear.
We do need to take responsibility for our planning, for our time management and for our actions, in light of the vision God gives us. We have a part to play, and we should play it well since we are serving the most High God. We need to examine our hearts at the end of every day and ask “Did I do a good job?” “Did I do all I could?” “Will the master say to me, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant?’” But that’s where our responsibility ends.
God bears the responsibility for how our actions bear fruit. If we try to take responsibility for how others react to our actions, we end up stressed, burdened and burned out. We need to trust God with the results, knowing that He bears the ultimate responsibility.
In June 1865 a young missionary to China called Hudson Taylor stood on Brighton beach. He had returned home to England due to ill-health, but still felt a call to return to China, and bring other missionaries with him. And yet he knew he was not equal to the vast task of evangelising the remote, inland parts of China. He certainly didn’t want to take responsibility for leading a team of people on such a dangerous mission.
… I wandered out on the sands alone, in great spiritual agony; and there the Lord conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service. I told Him that all the responsibility as to issues and consequences must rest with Him; that as His servant, it was mine to obey and to follow Him – His, to direct, to care for, and to guide me and those who might labour with me. Need I say that peace at once flowed into my burdened heart? There and then I asked Him for twenty-four fellow workers, two for each of eleven inland provinces which were without a missionary, and two for Mongolia…. If we are obeying the Lord, responsibility rests with Him, not with us… I go forward leaving results with Thee.
Mark Williamson is a founding director of One Rock International. He’s a lay preacher and leader within the Methodist Church, author of a biography on John Wesley, and currently researching for a biography on William Wilberforce. He enjoys good films, good food, praying for London, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.