*God is the Giver
Every good and perfect gift is…from the Father.
James 1:17 NIV
It is true that outward religion is worth nothing without the religion of the heart. “God is Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24 KJV). Therefore, external worship is lost labor without a heart devoted to God. The outward ordinances of God profit much when they advance inward holiness. But when they do not advance it, they are unprofitable and void. And when they are used in the place of inward religion, they are an utter abomination to the Lord.
All outward means whatever, if separate from the Spirit of God, cannot profit at all, cannot lead in any degree either to the knowledge or the love of God. Without controversy, the help that is done upon earth, He doeth it Himself. It is He alone who, by His own almighty power, works in us what is pleasing in His sight. All outward things, unless He works in them and by them, are mere weak and beggarly elements. We know there is no inherent power in the words spoken in prayer, in the letter or the sound of the scripture read, or in the bread and wine received in the Lord’s Supper. It is God alone who is the giver of every good gift, the author of all grace. The whole power is in Him, whereby through any of these, there is any blessing conveyed to our souls.
*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
In this twenty-eighth lesson on prayer, Wesley talks about response-ability; the ability to respond to God in a way pleasing to Him. And He makes the point that it is God alone, by His own almighty power, who works in us what is pleasing in His sight. To participate in what God is doing, we must be able to surrender all our self-will and follow hard after His will. It is a laying down and picking up at the same time. It is emptying ourselves so that He may fill us to overflowing with His Holy Spirit. So along with responsibility comes availability.
Perhaps Jesus expresses it best in John 15:1-11:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 ” You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 ” Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10” If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11” These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
We cannot bear fruit in our own strength. When we try, we become as the unfruitful branches, who, by their lack of fruit, have proven their lack of abiding in the vine. As Wesley says, “All outward things, unless He works in them and by them, are mere weak and beggarly elements.” They become those things that are thrown into the pile and burned. As Wesley concludes, “It is God alone who is the giver of every good gift, the author of all grace. The whole power is in Him, whereby through any of these, there is any blessing conveyed to our souls.”