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Lately, I’ve been asking myself an unsettling question. I’ll ask you the same question, too. Do you believe in only half of what William Carey said?

I’m referring to this quote from the 19th-century father of modern missions: “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.”

Our spirits soar when we hear these stirring words. But I fear that oftentimes it’s easier for me to settle for the first half of this quote only: to merely expect great things from God. It isn’t hard to expect God to bless me, give me my daily bread, and fulfill my desires (assuming they’re godly desires). But it’s a different matter altogether to have the tenacity to attempt great things for God at the same time.

I recently encountered a young man uncertain of his next steps in life. He seemed unsure regarding his marital prospects, his personal ministry, and his relationship with missions. He had no lack of sincerity, humility, and enthusiasm to discuss spiritual things. But he, like many young men, lacked initiative.

Nowadays, one need not turn far on social media to find words like “adulting” littering the online comments sections as younger generations lament the challenges associated with maturity. Of course, what we complain of as “adulting” today is simply what past generations would call living. We should be slow to judge those currently coming of age—after all, life in a fallen world is brutal. But the problem of prolonged adolescence within the modern church should be a clear indicator that it’s no wonder we fail to engage the missionary task as zealously as we ought. What do we do?

The Apostle Paul gives us a recipe in 2 Thessalonians. Speaking to this beleaguered group of believers, Paul explains that:

“…we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (vv. 11-12, emphasis mine)

How often have you resolved to perform some noble undertaking for the Lord? Perhaps you knew that God was leading you to present the gospel to someone, to venture to a faraway place on mission, to confront someone in sin, to make a sacrificially generous gift to some ministry, or to reach out in reconciliation to someone from whom you had been long estranged. In those scenarios, how did you do? Were you able to accomplish what you had purposed in your heart, or did your resolution fall by the wayside?

Paul’s prayer is that God would take all of our godly ambitions (“every work of faith”) and cause us to act. And how? Not in our own strength but “by his power” (v. 11), and that it would be for the glory of God in Christ (v. 12).

Take an inventory of your life. What work of faith have you been putting off? Today, pray for God’s strengthening grace, give him your resolution, and act.

Perhaps for you, this simply means that you need to get your own house in order. You’re not ready to go and make disciples until you’ve discipled yourself—establishing a healthy regimen of spirituality through prayer, study of Scriptures, and faithful participation in worship. Perhaps your next undertaking of faith is to finally tame your household budget, diet, relationships, or educational choices for your children. Perhaps it is simply to submit to and serve in your local church.

And then, perhaps the Lord is impelling you to do more than simply “adult” better. If you believe yourself to be called to missions, don’t be a Jonah. If you know God to be putting a particular person, place, or people on your heart, don’t set sail for Nineveh. Give these desires to him as well, ask him to prosper them, and act.

Talk is no substitute for action. Chronic indecisiveness is not a sign of wisdom but of double-mindedness. Procrastination is not a mark of humility but of passivity. A doer who acts will be blessed in his doing (James 1:25).

If you feel inadequate, good. No one is sufficient for these things (2 Corinthians 2:16). Yet that doesn’t change the fact that God has sovereignly ordained these good works for us from before time and saved us so that we might walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). We are not meant to meticulously plan all the circumstances of our lives or perfectly engineer our lot in life; we are simply to say, with Carey again, “If he give me credit for being a plodder he will describe me justly. Anything beyond that will be too much. I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”

In other words: expect great things from God, and attempt great things for him. Just don’t stop halfway.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by abwe on February 29th, 2024. Used with permission.

Alex Kocman is the Director of Communications and Engagement for ABWE. He serves as general editor for Message Magazine and co-hosts The Missions Podcast. After earning his M.A. in Communication and B.S. in Biblical Studies, he served as an online apologetics instructor with Liberty University and a youth pastor in Pennsylvania, where he now resides with his wife and three children. He was also Director of Long-Term Mobilization for ABWE from 2016-2020

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