The Lord of the Work

2017-07-09T09:09:34+00:00 By |Blog, Ekklesia, Fellowship & Church|

“Separate unto Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2b).

There is a pressing need in the Body of Christ to distinguish and discern the difference between the Lord of the Work and the work of the Lord. How easy it is to confuse these two things and treat them as one and the same. Yet the difference before God is quite vast.

This difference was revealed to me several years ago. I was conducting some meetings in Texas and attended a ministerial luncheon consisting of local pastors. My presence as a visitor was acknowledged and I was invited to stand and “share a few words”. What would I say to these pastors?

The Lord had already prepared my heart with a special word just for them. I said, “Brothers, I came all the way from North Carolina to remind you of one thing: the work of the Lord is NOT the most important thing.”

I allowed my words to sink into their hearing for a moment and the silence was deafening. I understand now what Jesus experienced when the Bible says that “He knew within Himself” that the people questioned and doubted in their hearts. I could sense this as these pastors silently wondered what could possibly be more important than the work of the Lord.

“Brothers, the Lord of the Work is more important than the work of the Lord,” I said. And I sat down.

In my experience, fewer than one person out of one thousand really understands this, even when they nod and say amen. I am still growing in this revelation. I am constantly being reminded by the Lord, “Chip, I am more important than your ministry. I am your priority. This is My work, not yours. I reserve the right to separate you for service or place you on the shelf. I reserve the right to send you forth or keep you at home. The Lord of the Work is more important than the work of the Lord. You keep saying this, but you do not always practice it.”

According to the Scriptures, the Kingdom of God exists wherever Christ has the preeminence. To seek first the Kingdom of God is to seek the preeminence of Jesus over all things. For many years I assumed that seeking first the Kingdom of God meant to seek first the work of the Lord – putting the ministry before everything else, even before the needs of my family.

While my intentions were good, the Scripture does not say, “Seek first the ministry.” It says to seek first the Kingdom of God. How does this apply to ministry? It means simply this: I must be governed by the Lord of the Work, not the work of the Lord.

The “work of the Lord” tends to take on a life of its own if we are not careful. We begin in the Spirit but then we use fleshly means to perpetuate the ministry. I can say this because I have been guilty of it. The thought and the intention may be good, but before we realize it, the work of the Lord becomes preeminent over the Lord of the Work. In fact, the minister, the pastor, the teacher, the apostle, or the prophet assumes the position of the Lord of the Work. How quickly the flesh comes in!

If God’s Eternal Purpose is for Jesus to have the preeminence over all things then this certainly includes the work. The Lord of the Work does not change, but the work of the Lord is constantly changing. The Lord of the Work governs the time, the place, the people, the provision, and the assignment. All these things may change as the Lord of the Work sees fit. He sets one up and brings another down. He opens doors and closes them. He leads us to speak or bids us to remain silent.

In the Book of Acts no one initiates anything. They are wholly governed by the Holy Spirit. He sets people apart, He sends them forth, He tells them where to go – forbidding them from going to certain places, only to send them later, when the time is right. We do not find apostles or prophets or pastors “working their gift” and going about willy-nilly, just doing whatever they feel like doing.

Watchman Nee observed that God often puts His greatest ambassadors in chains. Brother Nee himself spent the last twenty years of his life in the seclusion of a Communist prison. Is this not a waste? It sometimes appears that the Lord of the Work is not doing things correctly. We want to go out and the Lord tells us to stay home. We want to stay home and the Lord tells us to go. He is the Lord of the Work. I cannot explain everything He does, nor can I understand. In humility we must bow down and say, “You are the Lord of the Work, and I am only a worker. You are the Master, and I am the servant. You know what You want and what You need far more than I do. I only see a portion, but you see all things. So I submit myself and my work to you!”

Brothers and sisters, this is the only safe way. Can we submit ourselves to the Lord of the Work? Can we offer Him our gifts, our talents, and our abilities on the altar and let Him direct things? I believe that almost every apostle, prophet, or pastor that has gotten off track has done so because of this very thing – making the work of the Lord preeminent over the Lord of the Work. God gives them a gift, or a calling, or a ministry, and they begin working at it until they no longer need to be governed by the Holy Spirit. They have to constantly put out and perform. Really, they are too gifted. We need a little less giftedness and a lot more brokenness.

When I go back and take inventory of the places I have traveled and ministered in over the last few years I find a pattern. They were doing just fine until I arrived and proclaimed to them the preeminence of Jesus Christ and His sovereignty as the Lord of the Work. This word created a crisis in their fellowship although most of them did not realize it at the time. Sometimes it takes years for that crisis to fully develop, but nearly every church or group I have visited has since fallen by the wayside, voluntarily closed their doors, or gone into a deep, dark deception. As you can imagine, I do not get invited much anymore, and I am less and less inclined to go.

This is a painful thing – realizing that you have labored in the flesh, labored for religion, built a house of straw on some foundation other than Christ. But if we are so good at our ministry that we don’t need to hear from God and be governed by His Spirit on a daily basis then we are far gone. We have left our first love and made the work of the Lord more important than the Lord of the Work. We need to repent.

I need a ministry that is so impossible to perform that apart from the miraculous, divine intervention of God it will be absolutely nothing! God delights in the impossible because we are forced to rely upon Him – anything less and we begin to imagine we can do it. I need a gift from God that requires me to be on my face before Him in order for it to operate. If I can get up in the morning and just “work it” without Him and apart from Him then it is a dead thing. There is no life apart from abiding, and outside of that abiding I cannot draw upon the Life.

This is the only way the Lord will use something: if He can have the preeminence. He must retain the first and the final place. He must be the Head. The Lord of the Work is more important than the work of the Lord. I pray we will grasp this truth and make the necessary adjustments before it is too late and we suffer loss. May this word convict our hearts. Amen.

About the Author:

CHIP BROGDEN is a best-selling author, teacher, and former pastor who shares "real, simple, truth" about a Christ-centered faith that is based on relationship, not religion. Learn more »


  1. G.Johnson April 22, 2010 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    I have seen this and believe it is so yet many contradict this truth. Lately I was asked to do adult bible study to help a friend (baptist minister) who is helping a small church for just a short time get on their feet after their pastor leaving. Anyway the friend is baptist and a firm believer in the Romans Road teaching and being commanded to go ye into all the world and preach the gospel. I know the Spirit has led me to only do what I see Father do and only say what he says. The minister challenges this and wants to do house to house, food for the hungry etc. I know I am going to have to gracefully bow out. I am very uncomfortable about this. Once I thought I need to be doing something like hospitals, nursing homes etc; for I was out of prison ministry at the time. I heard the Spirit speak “so you want to do a good thing do you”? very sarcastic. Well I said Lord are you being sarcastic, should I not be doing a good work some where? He replied, Do you want to do a good work or a God work? If it is a God work, you will wait on me to show you and send you and until then you will only wait on Me! He has no responsibility to confirm your word only HIS WORD! I have been so torn but I do feel like this baptist pastor is sincerely wrong but loves people and his heart wants to win souls for his crown as he puts it.

  2. Sharon April 23, 2010 at 9:20 am - Reply

    Another excellent article.
    The words that have been leaping out to me recently are “Separate unto Me”.
    I really don’t know how to put this into words… But I’m discovering that when I am “kicking against the pricks”, I am usually angry at God. I am feeling frustrated, because I do not like what He is doing in my life. Yet after I have my temper tantrum, I come to the conclusion that He knows what He is doing, even though it doesn’t feel very good to me.
    God is the one to “separate” us, even when we don’t want to be separated.
    I take comfort in that, knowing that there is a purpose in all of this, although I don’t know what it is right now. I know He does.

  3. Traci July 9, 2017 at 10:23 am - Reply

    “We need a little less gifted ness and a lot more brokenness.” That’s very insightful, Chip.

  4. Mohandas July 9, 2017 at 11:45 am - Reply

    AMEN.. my dear bro.

  5. Regina July 9, 2017 at 11:57 am - Reply

    Beautifully written. Has me thinking, praying and opening my heart more to His way of things.

  6. Kenneth Dawson July 9, 2017 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    Once again your article is very timely for me–I am currently unemployed and am seaching for a job–my mother is in Daytona Beach,FL.–SHE IS 83 and might need me to move back to Florida–Do I stay in Tulsa and seek work or seek work in Florida–so I am doing applications on the internet for both places and waiting for my Lord to make the arrangements–I only want to be where Dad wants me and doing what He wants but I must be patient and wait for His prompting.

  7. Chrissy July 9, 2017 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    I agree Chip and The Lord showed this to me when I found myself in a job that I had no qualifications for and no natural skill for that particular work, it was right outside of my comfort zone! I learnt to depend totally on The Lord step by step day by day minute by minute and this work was completed on time and in a way that was so well executed it has left me in no doubt that I can do all things I am called to do when it is Christ that strengthens me but I put no confidence in the flesh. I think I am blessed because I don’t have any
    strong natural talents that I can boast of so find depending on The Lord essential. It wasn’t always this way though and once I was a very strong and independent woman, however I now have a thorn in the flesh that has dealt with that nicely and I can thank the Lord for it now as I know in retrospect just how my independence was a hindrance to letting the Lord work through me and be Lord of the work. He will get the message through to us some way when we are open to Him. I can no longer standup unaided for longer than a few minutes at a time but that doesn’t matter because The Lord told me from now on (after retirement) all your work will be done on your knees!


  8. Allen R. July 10, 2017 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing your excellent thoughts, Chip. If we look at the pattern of Jesus own life on the Earth, we see it is exactly as you say. We see Him in the garden of Gethsemane in prayer with the Father saying, “…not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk 22:42). He was almost at the end of His ministry on Earth. I personally feel He prayed that same prayer many times before that, just not written down, perhaps not in the hearing of the disciples. Not counting the resurrection and the 40 days He spent with His disciples afterward, going to the cross was the completion of His earthly ministry, an excruciating experience, the sacrifice beyond our total comprehension. His ministry also began with an excruciating experience; He was “led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” (Mt 4:1). He fasted 40 days. I don’t think it took Him 40 days to get hungry in the wilderness away from all civilization. He had victory over the devil and His own flesh from the beginning to the end of His time on Earth. He served His father above all things. The words I speak are not my words, they are my Father’s. The works I do are not my own, but my Father’s (paraphrasing). He was constantly in touch with His Father (and ours). As you said, He understood the God of the work was greater than the work itself. This was not a new thought to me. I don’t glory in the fact that I have continued in this understanding for many years. I am thankful that you have shared it here as that helps me understand we are brothers in the same struggle. My own prayer is that I can continue to pray, “not my will, but thine, be done,” esteeming my Heavenly Father above all things as Jesus did, as you are now teaching, realizing always that “I can of mine own self do nothing” (Jn 5:30). Prayers are with you, brother, and all who take your teachings here to heart. Thanks so much again for allowing our Heavenly Father to move through you and for giving Him the glory.

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