I have a dream…fearlessness. I know, it’s not one you hear of that often. But, recently it’s becoming something of a life-goal. I’m realizing that not taking ground in this area effectively makes me impotent in many other areas where I seek to experience growth.
Picture, with me for a moment, that you and I are trees. There are two types of tree we can be: The first is a well-tended tree that is full of thick sap (Faith) which nourishes its entire structure, making it able to boast a straight trunk, sinewy branches and healthy green leaves. The second tree is a sad sight. What good could have been done by faith has been negated by the outcropping of weeds (Worry) and vines (Fear) left uncontested.
I don’t know about you, but I’m determined to be that first tree. And I don’t need superhuman strength to do it, all that I’m going to lean on is that supernatural strength that raised Christ from the dead. Are you with me?
Guilt is the unwelcome guest at every feast you’ve ever had with God. You have heard that there is supposed to be pleasure in these occasions, but you don’t feel any. In fact, you have a hard time imagining that such a thing is possible. Between God’s extreme holiness and your deplorable sinfulness, relating with God–even after you’ve received Christ’s sacrifice for your sin–seems like nothing better than an immense chore.
You wonder why God ever wanted a relationship with you in the first place. I mean, maybe if you tried really hard, you might be able to accept the reality of His wish to extend forgiveness and pardon to mankind. But why would He try to then establish a connection with the very individuals who never treated Him as He deserved before? The thought may strike you as relational suicide, with the only explanation for such being that God is really dumb. And surely, He can’t be that dumb.
But, what if this has nothing to do with being dumb. What if it has everything to do with Love–a love that will not give up on or relinquish It’s object no matter how exceptionally you fail. This is a Love that is too deep to be earned; to precious to be manipulated. It is yours for the taking because it is His for the sharing. You don’t have to worry about abusing this love with your humanness; It has already been broken for you. Christ put Himself through everything for you so that you wouldn’t have any second-guesses.
But, maybe you have second-guesses. Maybe you can’t quite release yourself from a particular in-your-head-replay of sin that seems to contest everything that Christ has accomplished for you. Will you pour out the matter to God, asking Him for every ounce of power necessary to claim His victory as your own?
Looking at your life, you’re threatened by what you see. Life has so not turned out like you thought it would have. The contents He’s heaped on your plate are more than you can handle, let alone stomach.
You’re striving to make the most of it, but you don’t know if you and God will ever be on the same page. There are just too many things you disagree on. You would like to be able to accept what He’s doing in your life, but that’s not going to happen without a lot of help.
And you’re not really sure if God helps with that kind of thing. After He’s allowed so many things in your life to be difficult, will He really turn back around and meet you in your pain? Wouldn’t that be like acknowledging that He had made a mistake?
If you’re unsure about this, maybe it’s time to find out. Are you willing to take that chance?
Yes, that’s what I did. No excuses, no explanation; the title tells the truth. As much as I’d like you to believe–like I want to–that I am nothing but a thoroughly nice and compassionate person, the story of my character is just more complicated than that. I do what I don’t want to do. What I wish I did in certain situations, I don’t.
Sin is traced through my behaviors in such a way that I can’t obscure it. I can pretend it is not there, but I cannot alter reality to agree with me. So, what is my hope? I can’t erase this occasion of violence; neither can I obliterate the case it makes for my heart’s impurity. I am in need of not just forgiveness but an execution of spiritual transformation.
For that I cannot look to myself or anything that I can see or touch in my world. I need more than an intervention. I need a regenerated heart. I must be filled with a Life that is unknown to this world and its corruption. I need something that belongs only to God.
I praise God that I can have His righteousness to cover me. You may think, “But you don’t deserve it!” You’re right, I don’t. If I could deserve it, I wouldn’t need it.
That’s all there is to it. If I will trade in my unrighteous rags, Christ will transfer His majestic righteousness to me. He will not only cover me with His moral perfection, but He will daily cause the pristine quality of His character to seep into me and change me.
At the moment, I am still in the middle of experiencing the glorious process in which Christ’s character seeps into me. That process is not finished. Thus, I still have moments like the one where I used a fork in a way that injured another person. I still need mercy. I do not need excuses, but mercy is not an excuse. Rather, it is a gift that abounds toward the one who is guilty. It provides the opportunity for a new start that is not deserved. Mercy is everything about God and His glory transcending our sin.
Where does mercy fit in your life? Maybe you welcome it with open arms–rejoicing in the Savior who gives it. But, perhaps you reject it–either believing that you are not quite bad enough to warrant it or that you are so evil that mercy could never be enough.
The worries escalate, moment by moment. This is not how I wanted things to turn out. I feel a victim of my own choices, errors I can’t change. I wonder what God can do with what I’ve done.
I’m not really sure if I believe His recreating power can trump the mess I’ve made. It seems He’ll have to prove to me what He can do.
Maybe you find yourself in the same place today. You don’t know what you’re going to do with imperfections and transgressions that cloud your thinking with doom and threaten your faith with awful fantasies of condemnation.
May I encourage you that where your enemy is relentless in laser-beaming your focus on yourself, your Savior is all about lifting your gaze to Himself. He knows that you sin and make mistakes–none of that surprises Him–but His love is never trapped by the web of your misdemeanors.
Rather, He wants you to understand that He means for you to be caught up in the web of His love–a web so strong that nothing can penetrate it or cause it to let go of you. In this web you are safe, you can be still. But, what is even more wonderful than this: You can trust that the One whose love supports you is the One who presses in upon your heart, conforming it in every way into the image of Himself.
There is victory even in the bleakest of moments because victory doesn’t depend on you. All that is necessary is for you to depend on the One who holds the title deed to every victory from the cross to eternity. Will you trust Him today?
In what areas of your heart do you waver in trust? Where are you convinced that your sin is too big for God to recover the loss?
There are certain things I like to do a certain way. The normal way. But life doesn’t always provide the familiar things we’ve become dependent upon. Sometimes adjustments are necessary. Such was the case for a certain story teller I heard earlier. He was describing his experience with college dorm conditions that are not to be envied.
The poor guy was just trying to get ready in the morning and a narrow rectangle (more narrow than usual) was an obstacle to carrying out his familiar morning ritual. If only he had more room to work with. If only he could have stretched his elbows without hitting the sides of his awkward container. Maybe if he could just have lifted his knee to waist level without hitting his rear on the wall behind him.
But, alas, his ability to release his imagination was stymied by the inconvenient time pressure posed by the scheduled breakfast in ten minutes. There were only so many options and most of them were executed before his determination dissolved in disgust. Truly, there was just no way he could get the job done properly. The constraints on him were just too impossible. He searched his chest but was not surprised to find a particular swirling initial absent.
These kind of things required training–if a not unique wealth of genius–and that he did not have. When he arrived there had been no warning, no fine print to indicate that the facilities here were designed for an individual of high caliber intelligence.
So, it was with regret concerning his absentee sessions of gymnastic-contortions-research that he acknowledged his failure concerning the experiment. He knew not whether others could boast a better response to such an unnatural habitat, but one benefit he could console himself by. Because of his trying ordeal he would forever be grateful for the wonders of un-closeted indoor plumbing that is fully equipped to serve the average, modern human being.
If you can identify with our everyday hero in his extraordinary struggles, please share your own example of trying to figure out how to do something common a new way when the old way was made impossible.
When you try something out in God’s strength, there really are no limits to what you can accomplish. This sounds wonderful and profoundly empowering, but we must ask ourselves what is the point of having God’s power. Can we use it to accomplish whatever we want? Or does God already know what He wants to be done as a result of that strength-transfer?
In order to know what we should do with God’s strength, we should ask why God gives it and what are His intends for it. Truly, God does nothing without a purpose. By giving us His strength He is inviting us into His larger plan. Not surprisingly, what He wants to achieve is really only suited to Him, so when God invites us to step into His shoes, He must give us the power to lift that mammoth footwear to go where He would have us go!
What is an area of your life where you covet God’s strength? What do you think His purpose is for you in that?
If you call yourself a believer, let it be because you are characterized by believing the One who compels belief in all that He is, does, says and gives. Then, you will not struggle with identity crisis. Rather, your identity will be your greatest joy!
I’m sure you are aware of the special Olympics. But, have you heard of the Olympics for the spiritually-impaired? The second, unlike the first, is not an Olympics that brings any honor to the participants. Each of the events represent a personal investment of time and energy and heart that is a waste of everything the spiritual athlete is supposed to be.
This is not a show of tork and ambition that is fun to watch. If you happen to be on the sidelines, your heart aches over what should not be. But, should you be a more than a witness, should you be a contributor, your sorrow is even greater. You are failing to live up to your potential by engaging in the pursuit of goals that have no merit in the overall scheme of your life.
What am I talking about? How about the signature people-pleasing event. This is the one I consistently line up for, being guilty of trying to win the gold in every instance that there is the possibility of claiming a medal. I train with an intensity that is shameless. Yet, the goal I strain for is one of shame. Should I “win,” there is no true achievement. At least not one that is worth the effort I gave it.
How different my thirst for honor would be if I were truly to match my desire with something that is certifiably honorable. I would leave the performance of people-pleasing to dogs, cats and other pets. I would move on to pleasing God, the One who offers the best award–the only award really. I would allow myself to be challenged by the greatness of Another, even being swallowed up by it. I would become defined by moving in grace that does not emanate from me, neither is about me. Glory I would enjoy because there is glory in Him; my performance is not the crown, the One whom I perform for is.
Do you feel frustrated at the inadequacy of God’s provision for you today? You look around at your life and you do not see much that could be acquainted with the full, abundant life that you thought being God’s kid was supposed to be about. You’re not full of happiness or abounding in joy. Hope seems far away. You don’t know what went wrong. Jesus was supposed to make all these things in your life better.
It can hurt so much to be in this place. I bear the burden with you. God does not always live up to our expectations. In fact, sometimes, He does things that do nothing less than blow up our expectations. It can seem, at times like these, that God does not really care about us. He is not gently handling the tenderest parts of us and if anyone else treated us this way, we would by no means deem them as worthy of all our trust.
So why is God any different? Surely, He is not able to victimize us with His divine brutality and yet be free of guilt. We all know that trust is built on a person’s reputation and their actions make up that reputation. When God’s actions confuse or unsettle us, we can follow our perceptions to their logical conclusion and decide that God’s reputation is suddenly being revealed in it’s true light, which just happens to be quite negative.
But the truth is that our feelings cannot be treated by us as registered fact. Our emotional responses (or even our mental responses) to God’s actions do not decide the nature of God’s reputation. Our temptation is to give “what we know” preeminence over God’s Word, but we can’t. We must test the internal image we have of God against the One authority on God that does not change: Scripture’s revelation of His character.
To equate our feelings with truth about God is one of the most foolish things we could be guilty of. For, the real truth is that we cannot judge God or His actions without the presence of error in our calculations. We need to build our beliefs on the unfaltering foundation that is God’s perfect judgment of His own actions.
Before we jump to conclusions about what kind of motives He might have for doing very (to us) confusing things, we should pursue God with fresh abandon to discover not just why He does what He’s does, but how He intends to change our hearts through what He allows to take up residence in our lives.
The thing is that we either decide that God cares for us completely–all the way home–or we decide that He does not care about us at all and is working all things against our good. There is no middle ground, no common area where both definitions can be true. God does not work that way. And we would not want Him to if He could.