Doing Significant Things for God

Have you ever looked at a very big problem and discovered that what you thought was a big problem would become an even bigger opportunity for good? That’s what Thomas Edison experienced when he was 67 years old.

At around 5:30 in the evening on Dec. 10, 1914, a massive explosion erupted in West Orange, New Jersey. Ten buildings in legendary inventor Thomas Edison’s plant, which made up more than half of the site, were engulfed in flames.

According to a 1961 Reader’s Digest article by Edison’s son Charles, Edison calmly walked over to him as he watched the fire destroy his dad’s work. Edison told his 24-year-old son, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.” When Charles objected, Edison said, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”

Later, at the scene of the blaze, Edison was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.” He told the reporter that he was exhausted from remaining at the scene until the chaos was under control, but he stuck to his word and immediately began rebuilding the next morning without firing any of his employees.

After thoroughly surveying the damage, Edison determined that he’d lost $919,788, according to Matthew Josephson’s biography. The flames had consumed years of priceless records and prototypes, and his plant’s insurance covered only about a third of the total damage.

But after just three weeks, with a sizable loan from his friend Henry Ford, Edison got part of the plant up and running again. His employees worked double shifts and set to work producing more than ever. Edison and his team went on to make almost $10 million in revenue the following year.[1]

Then there is the story of Sir Alexander Fleming when he discovered penicillin, the cure to many infectious diseases.

[This man] was trying to find a wonder cure for infectious diseases. This was less than a century ago and people were still dying at an alarming rate from infections that today we wouldn’t even think of being life-threatening.

After countless failures, he threw away his Petri dishes [in frustration], then noticed a little later that the mold growing in his discarded dishes was killing bacteria. [He turned his attention to studying these bacteria and the result was penicillin, which has worked to help eradicate an astonishing number of infectious diseases for more than 100 years.

The solution to the problem ended up being the thing he discarded.[2]

Jesus expected his disciples to have a similar experience. As you know from the end of John 13 and the beginning of John 14, the disciples were fearful and confused because Jesus was going to go away from them. They had followed him and trusted him in every way, in hopes that he was going to set up his kingdom. But he was going to die instead, and they were worried.

When you believe the truth about Jesus, God enables you to do significant things.

Jesus assured them, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe on God, believe on me.” Then he reminded them that he was the only way to God. He also reminded them that he himself was God. They had nothing to fear. They thought that his going away was a tragedy, but it was the best possible thing that could happen. He was providing a way for them to have a home in God’s forever kingdom. But there’s more. He was also preparing them to do some significant things (John 14:12-14). When you believe the truth about Jesus, God enables you to do significant things.

This opportunity is available to those who believe on Jesus.

Jesus does not make this opportunity available to everyone in the world. He only does so for those who believe on him. Only those who believe on Jesus as God and Savior are born into the family of God. But when you are born into God’s family, then God becomes your Father. With this new relationship comes new privileges and responsibilities.

You already know about one of these privileges. John 14:2-3, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” This privilege is a future home in God’s forever kingdom. When you believe on Jesus, he gives you a place to live, with immediate access to God that will never go away.

But Jesus does not focus on this distant, future benefit alone. He also teaches you about another benefit which you should experience right now in this life. In fact, when you study what Jesus says throughout John 14-16, you find that he focuses far more on this benefit than on your future in heaven. It is the benefit of being able to make a significant difference in the world today.

Jesus does not focus on this distant, future benefit alone. He also teaches you about another benefit which you should experience right now in this life.

(To find more detail about your future in heaven, read another book that John wrote, Revelation, the last two chapters. John 14-16 provides us with all kinds of detail about the amazing life that God intends for you to live right now. Revelation 21-22 gives all kinds of detail about the amazing life that God has planned for you to live when this life is done.)

It is possible because Jesus died, resurrected and returned to the Father.

In John 14:12, Jesus reveals why you can make a significance difference in the world today. It is because he “went to his Father.” What does this mean?

First, it does not mean it was the first time he had been with God the Father. John 1:1, tells you that Jesus was God. Look at this verse again. It also says that Jesus was with God. In John 1:2, you see that he was with God in the beginning. Jesus has always been with God, except for when he came to earth as a human being. When we returned to be with God, he also did so as a human being. As a human being, he died for the sins of the world. Then he rose from the tomb and ascended back into the presence of God, where he had been forever.

The big difference between what is was like for Jesus to be with God in the past and what it is like for Jesus to be with God now is that now he is not just God, but he is also a human being. As a human being, he fulfilled the punishment you deserve to pay for your sin. Today, he is in the presence of God as your personal representative. Because he is both a human being and God and because he completed the punishment for our sins, he has opened the way to a close relationship with God that will never go away.

In the beginning, our first parents – Adam and Eve – closed the door to a close and lasting relationship with God. They did this by choosing to follow a lie rather than to trust what God had told them. But Jesus did the opposite. He opened that relationship for us again. With a close relationship to God restored (and far better than before), God gives you a new hope for opportunities and responsibilities not only in heaven, but in your life now. Adam and Eve closed the door to a relationship with God, but Jesus opened it again.

Adam and Eve closed the door to a relationship with God, but Jesus opened it again.

In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Ultimately, the thief was Satan himself when he came into the garden to deceive our first parents, stripping them of an open, vibrant relationship with God. But Jesus came for the opposite purpose. He came to reverse the curse that comes from our sin and to restore to us the kind of life that God made us to live. In fact, he came to give us a kind of life that surpasses the Adam and Eve had in the beginning.

You will do significant things.

In John 14:12, Jesus said, “The works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do.” To understand what Jesus is saying, we need to look back at what he said in John 5:20. He said this after he healed the man born blind. “The Father loves the Son and shows him all things that he himself does; and he will show him greater works than these.”

When you study the rest of what Jesus taught in those verses, you can understand what “greater works” refers to. Jesus is saying though the miracles he performed in his earthly ministry were amazing, there were greater works ahead. These works would not be physical miracles. They were something far more significant, something much greater. They would be raising all people from the dead and giving the final judgement for their lives, whether to destruction forever in the Lake of Fire or to eternal life in God’s kingdom.

In John 14:12, Jesus said that those who believed on him would do two kinds of works. First, they would do the same kind of works that he did, works of a physical, miraculous nature.

What is a miracle? It is an extraordinary event wrought by God that cannot be explained by any natural means.[3] Why are these miracles significant? In the OT, miracles occurred primarily in relation to a prominent leader, like Moses, Elijah or Elisha. These miracles proved that these men were genuine prophets and that they spoke the words of God.

In the NT, this pattern repeated itself with Jesus, only he did a lot more miracles. In some ways they were more amazing (Luke 4:36-37, 40-41). But NT miracles differed from the OT in another way. The groups of twelve and seventy disciples also did miracles (Luke 10:1, 9, 17-19; cf. Matt 10:8; Luke 9:49-50). In the book of Acts, the apostles, some deacons, and even some other believers did miracles as well.

  • Peter (an apostle) healed the lame man at the Temple (3:7-11).
  • Peter healed many from various cities (5:12-16).
  • Stephen (a deacon) wrought great wonders and signs in Jerusalem (6:8).
  • Philip (a deacon) did great miracles and signs in Samaria (8:6, 7, 13).
  • Ananias (a believer) healed Saul’s blindness (9:17-18).
  • Peter healed Aeneas (9:32-35).
  • Peter raised Dorcus from the dead in Joppa (9:39-42).
  • Paul blinded Elymus (13:11-12).
  • Paul performed miracles in Iconium (14:3, 4).
  • Paul healed a crippled man at Lystra (14:8-18).
  • Paul healed a woman possessed by an evil spirit (16:18).
  • Paul performed other miracles in Ephesus (19:11, 12).
  • Paul raised Eutychus from the dead in Troas (20:8-12).
  • Paul healed those on the island of Malita who had disease (28:8-9).

What was the reason for these miracles? Why did a variety of believers do miracles, not just Jesus and the apostles? These miracles served as evidence that the message of Jesus was from God and was true. They also showed that God was introducing a new order, a new stage in his plan for the world. This stage was based upon the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

While every other stage before this looked forward to Jesus, this stage would enjoy all that the work of Jesus on the cross makes possible. It was only after Jesus had died, resurrected, and returned to the Father that the truth about Jesus would be made perfectly clear. After this, the good news about Jesus Christ would enjoy a special degree of clarity and power never possible before.

From the 10 plagues in Egypt through Moses to the miracles we see in the book of Acts, we see miracles like this. But the greatest miracle of all is not any one of these things. It is another supernatural event wrought by God that cannot be explained by any natural means. It is the miracle of the new birth, of a person choosing to believe on Jesus. This is the greater works of resurrection and judgment that Jesus is talking about.

Genuine physical miracles occurred in the early years of the church, proving that the movement was from God and was true. But these miracles diminished over time, just as at any other stage in God’s plan for the world. The one thing that continues to happen today in a greater way than in the ministry of Jesus is the conversion of souls throughout the world.

This does not mean that God cannot do physical miracles today. He can inject himself into history and do a miracle any time he wants. He is God, and sometimes he will do that. But the Bible does show a pattern of miracles at the beginning of a new stage in God’s plan, and even in the book of Acts, you find a gradual decrease in emphasis on physical miracles and a growing emphasis on spreading the news about Jesus and people believing.

This is important because it is those miracles that should continue to give us the evidence we need today that we are following the true God by believing the message of Jesus. The writer of Hebrews tells us this: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will (Heb 2:3-4)?”

So yes, those who believe the truth about Jesus would perform some miracles like Jesus did. But even more significant is the second thing that Jesus said, they would even go further and do greater works.

Friends, you need to understand how miraculous it is whenever a person believes the truth about Jesus. Every person born into this world is deeply confused, deeply sinful, and deeply blind to the truth about Jesus. When anyone believes the truth about Jesus, it is a miracle of God. It is an extraordinary event wrought by God that cannot be explained by any natural means. It is more significant than walking through the Red Sea on dry land, and it is more significant than raising Lazarus from the dead. What is more significant? Moving around some molecules of matter to split the Red Sea in half or bringing about the spiritual birth of a person who is rebellious against God and blinded by the darkness of their sin?

You need to understand how miraculous it is whenever a person believes the truth about Jesus.

That’s what makes this so amazing. Jesus came into the world, died on the cross, rose from the tomb, and returned to the Father in heaven. Then he gave to you and me the opportunity to share the most significant message ever told. He gave you and me the opportunity to do the most significant thing – be a part of giving the gospel message with the love, the clarity, and the power that only his work on the cross, in the grave, and at the throne of God could make possible.

God will answer your prayers.

As you take this opportunity to share the news about Jesus to the world, you will find that you need to do something very important. You will discover your need to pray more than ever before. Jesus emphasized this by repeating what he said about this two times. In v. 13 he said, “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do.” Then in v. 14 he said, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

This repeated promise does not say everything there is to say about prayer. Nor does it give a blank check to ask God for anything at any time for any reason. Furthermore, this teaching does not give us a password to add to the end of our prayers to guarantee an answer. Just because you say, “in Jesus name,” at the end of a prayer doesn’t mean anything of itself.

Jesus is teaching that as you focus on doing the greater works of spreading the news about Jesus, you are going to need his help. You will need courage to speak, wisdom to answer questions, and material resources to put your ideas into practice. Whatever you need to get the job done, you can ask God to provide it in the name of Jesus.

Whatever you need to get the job done, you can ask God to provide it in the name of Jesus.

What does it mean to ask in the name of Jesus? This phrase “asking in my name” appears in John’s Gospel six times and this is the first one (John 14:13, 14; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26). Each time it refers to prayer. It means to ask God for something under the authority of Jesus. If I ask God for something on my own authority, I am nothing. I am a sinner who has no reason for God to hear me. But Jesus is both God and man, my perfect representative. What’s more, he has died for my sins in my place and defeated them forever by raising from the grave. When I ask God for something, I do it knowing that I come to him on the merit of Jesus Christ alone.

Here is one illustration to help you understand what this means. Imagine that you are a father and you walk into your kitchen at home and your young child is helping himself to a bowl of ice-cream from the freezer, you might say, “Son, you shouldn’t be doing that. Only Daddy can do that.” But suppose your son says, “Daddy, Mommy said I could.” That is how it is with Jesus. We have no reason or authority to ask God for anything, but we ask with the permission and authority of Jesus.

Here is another illustration to help you understand what this means. Suppose you are a child and your mother gave you $100. Then she told you to go to the grocery store and buy whatever groceries you want. Is she giving you permission to visit the toy store and buy a new toy? Is she giving you permission to buy some cigarettes or beer? She doesn’t have to say all of this. Based upon her instructions and things you already know about your mother from things she has said at other times, you know that she is not giving you permission to buy anything in the world. She is giving you permission to buy any food items that are appropriate for feeding the family at home.

It would be an incredible feeling of trust and empowerment for a child to go to a grocery store with $100 to spend, especially when their mother gave them the freedom to make their own choices about what to put in the shopping cart. But this opportunity is also a responsibility. You must do what you are told. If you don’t buy any groceries, you will fail to succeed. If you purchase cigarettes, beer, or toys, you will fail. If you purchase all kinds of junk food, you will fail. But the choice is yours.

Friends, Jesus has sent you into the world with the priceless gift of his death and resurrection for our sins. He has entrusted to you the good news about Jesus that has the power to change lives in a miraculous way. Are you taking this opportunity seriously? And if you are, are you asking for the wisdom, the resources, the compassion, and the courage that you need to do these greater works that Jesus has sent you to do?

Jesus will reveal the greatness of God.

When you set out to do the greater works of helping people learn and believe the truth about Jesus and as you ask God to supply the needs you have to do this work, then v. 13 tells us that “the Father may be glorified in the Son.” This means that you will be the means through which Jesus makes people see that God the Father is glorious and wonderful.

Jesus taught this at another time and Matthew records it in his gospel (Matt 5:14-16). “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Friends, whatever works you do to show the world that God loves them, that is a good work that God is pleased with. And when your works and your words cause people to believe the truth about Jesus, then God has used you to accomplish the greater works that he taught to his disciples in John 14:12-14.

Is your life a bright and shining light for the glory of God? Do people see the love of God and learn the truth about God through your works and through your words?

Friends, we must be crystal clear about Jesus. This world is full of false hopes that never pan out. But the truth about Jesus gives us the hope that we need just as much today as 2,000 years ago. If you have believed the truth about Jesus, then he has prepared a place for you in heaven. You can rest in peace knowing that he is the only way to God. You can find comfort knowing that he is God incarnate.

Knowing these things, you should not let your heart be afraid or worried about anything you face in life, especially if the problem – whether real or imagined – is somehow due to your faith in and obedience to Jesus. You can go forward to spread the news about Jesus to the world, knowing that whatever you need in the process – wisdom, creativity, courage, compassion, strength, or material provisions – he will provide.

If you ever doubt this, then remember that Jesus has given you the permission you need to get this job done. Now is the time in your life to get busy doing significant things for God – spreading the good news about Jesus to the world and asking for whatever you need to get that done.


[1] Cited from http://www.businessinsider.com/thomas-edison-in-the-obstacle-is-the-way-2014-5 on January 23, 2018 at 2:04 p.m.

[2] Cited from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235422 on January 23, 2018 at 2:06 p.m.

[3] Cited from https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-56/does-god-do-miracles-today on January 22, 2018 at 4:54 p.m.

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