Thomas Kelly was a mid-2oth Century Quaker mystic and writer who is best know for his now-classic book, A Testament of Devotion. In it, Kelly makes this simple and profound distinction: “Too many well-intentioned people are so preoccupied with the clatter of effort to do something for God that they can’t hear Him asking that He might do something through them.”
There’s a vast difference between working for God and being open for God to work through us. If we think we are working for God, then it’s up to us–our energy, strength, gifts and wisdom–and the results are up to us, too. If we are allowing God to work through us, then we are stewards of, and channels for, God’s love, grace, and mercy. We have power, abilities and resources from beyond ourselves. Our responsibility is to be faithful; the results are, like the work is, God’s.
I think that, in John 15, Jesus was talking about our being worked through:
2345I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. . . . Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.