Whose Responsibility Is It?

In my study this week I was reminded of a very important truth that has many applications to our walk with Jesus. I am thinking of the spiritual principle that “we can’t do God’s part and He won’t do ours.” When you look at the statement on paper, or say it out loud, it is an obvious observation. Yet in the midst of daily life it isn’t always that easy to keep straight, what is God’s responsibility and what are those things God expects us to do. Take for example the fact that only God can “save” another person. We can pray, we can witness, and we can love them with the love of Christ, which are all important and appropriate actions but if they are born again and enter the kingdom of God it will be because God saved them. The new birth is a miraculous act accomplished by God’s Holy Spirit. Likewise, we cannot control or change another individual’s choices in life. We cannot change what they believe, how they think or the way they act. Ultimately, if those things are going to change it will be them responding to the sanctifying work of the Word and the Spirit in their lives. The apostle Paul summarizes the principle in his letter to the church at Corinth, “I planted, Apollos watered but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).


Having stated the principle I would like to suggest a couple of points of reflection. First, as I have already suggested it isn’t always clear to us what is God’s responsibility and what is ours in any given situation? And the reality is that we often get it wrong which gets us into trouble.   When we try and do God’s job we take on an impossible task leading to frustration and an extreme weariness that impacts us body, soul and spirit. In addition, God does not look favorably on our seeking to take His place and we can now count on God as our adversary in that particular area of our life. Not a good place to be! The other side of the coin is equally destructive when we wait upon God to do those things He has placed under our dominion. What we find is most of them require growth in character and maturity which is the primary reason we seek to avoid them. But God will not do our part for us and they will remain tasks undone. Clearly discernment is required as we embrace the tasks and challenges of life.


Through the years I have found The Serenity Prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr to be immensely helpful in addressing this dimension of the spiritual life. The first verse is especially helpful in that we call upon God to grace us with the ability to discern the correct action, courage to embrace our responsibility, while still remembering there a great many things in life that belong in God’s domain alone.


Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.


The prayer also acknowledges that there are things in life that just are and probably never will change, at least in the way we want them to change. The acknowledgement is the first step to a persevering faith that endures the hardships associated with living in a world thoroughly corrupted by sin. We live in a world that is in conflict, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness and there are seasons where we are called upon to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:3)


Is there anything in your life that you are seeking to change that is God’s responsibility? If you are tired, frustrated or angry spiritually it might be worth checking in with God about it. Or is there an area of life where you are waiting, and have been waiting for a long time, that God says is your responsibility? It may be God is calling you to mature spiritually by growing in character. Make the Serenity Prayer a daily prayer and look for God’s response. He truly desires that we live in this reality that enables us to experience the abundant life.