White: Human Agency

Ellen White twice points out God’s use of human agents in The Desire of Age’s chapter on Lazarus (Chapter 58). Before looking at these two quotes, first, we should see that they are in the context of Jesus’ compassion.

In the preceding chapter on the Rich Young Ruler (57), White points out God’s intentions for this wealth.

The ruler’s possessions were entrusted to him that he might prove himself a faithful steward; he was to dispense these goods for the blessing of those in need. So God now entrusts men with means, with talents and opportunities, that they may be His agents in helping the poor and the suffering. He who uses his entrusted gifts as God designs becomes a co-worker with the Saviour. He wins souls to Christ, because he is a representative of His character. (p. 523)

Here we see that God cares for those in need; God has compassion. Moving to the story of Lazarus in chapter 58, we again see this compassionate spirit in Jesus. Commenting on the phrase “Jesus wept,” White shares:

Though He was the Son of God, yet He had taken human nature upon Him, and He was moved by human sorrow. His tender, pitying heart is ever awakened to sympathy by suffering. He weeps with those that weep, and rejoices with those that rejoice. (p. 533)

His heart was pierced with the pain of the human family of all ages and in all lands. The woes of the sinful race were heavy upon His soul, and the fountain of His tears was broken up as He longed to relieve all their distress. (p. 534)

With this compassion and care in mind, we can see the relevance of God’s use of human agents. White emphasizes that God asks us to play a part in His work.

“Take ye away the stone.” Christ could have commanded the stone to remove, and it would have obeyed His voice. He could have bidden the angels who were close by His side to do this. At His bidding, invisible hands would have removed the stone. But it was to be taken away by human hands. Thus Christ would show that humanity is to co-operate with divinity. What human power can do divine power is not summoned to do. God does not dispense with man’s aid. He strengthens him, co-operating with him as he uses the powers and capabilities given him. (p. 535)

There is a stir in the silent tomb, and he who was dead stands at the door of the sepulcher. His movements are impeded by the graveclothes in which he was laid away, and Christ says to the astonished spectators, “Loose him, and let him go.” Again they are shown that the human worker is to co-operate with God. Humanity is to work for humanity. (p. 536)

This theme reminds me of the thesis of Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. The basic idea is that what when we pray for people in need, we should then go about doing all we can for these same people. After I pray for people to have food, peace, comfort and justice, I need to be ready to respond to God’s call to work on these very things.

My prayer: “God, encourage Julie who just lost her husband.”

God: “Definitely. Now go buy her chocolate cheese cake and don’t tell her to stop crying when she can only eat a bite or two.”

My prayer: “God, do something about kids who are being trafficked.”

God: “Gladly. And I’m going to use you even though you don’t think you have anything to offer.”

Reflection Questions

  1. What suffering or injustice especially burdens you? (see also Nooma Store)
  2. How have your prayed about this issue or situation?
  3. Have you sensed any leading from God about how to get involved?
  4. What would be a first small step toward learning more about the topic and intervening with humility as God enables?
  5. Have you ever gotten involved with an issue or situation and it turned out badly? What lessons were you able to learn from that experience?
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2 Responses to White: Human Agency

  1. Chris Blake says:

    Wonderful reflection, Jeff. The questions rock, too.

  2. Jeff Boyd says:

    Thanks, Chris. I’m slowly beginning to see how radical Ellen White was–an extremist for love.

    Recently, I came across another quote from her on this topic of prayer and action–To Be Like Jesus, “Not Only Pray, but Ask and Work!, January 9.” Excerpts reflecting on Nehemiah:

    “The example of this holy man should be a lesson to all the people of God, that they are not only to pray in faith, but to work with diligence and fidelity.”

    “Men and women of prayer should be men and women of action. Those who are ready and willing will find ways and means of working. Nehemiah did not depend upon uncertainties. The means which he lacked he solicited from those who were able to bestow.”

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