Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Through the Strength of Christ We Can Do All Things

Having talked in last week's blog about God's slow-and-steady approach to our spiritual growth, I feel it only fair to give some attention to our own role in the process. There are more than a few Christians who use "waiting on the Lord" as an excuse for ignoring His proddings. ("How can I be sure this impulse is from God? I won't move until He shows me an unmistakable sign--something like a burning bush." "If God wants me to confront this situation, let Him give me the courage first; I won't even start until my last trace of apprehension vanishes.") Instead of being willing to grow through doing, we claim to be no more intelligent than computers, incapable of action until the full software is installed.

That said, we often act less like real-world computers than like science-fiction ones who develop minds of their own and decide their programmers should be the ones taking orders. We pull "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phil. 4:13, NIV) out of its original context (which refers primarily to the strength to experience supernatural joy), and twist it to mean "I can accomplish anything I want if I just ask God to bless my plans." If those plans don't happen to coincide with God's, we sulk or whine or quit speaking to Him. How many chances to grow in Christ have been wasted because the person to whom the opportunity was offered wouldn't look past his or her own immediate wants?

It's true that God wants to do great things in us--and through us. And it's true that He gives us many of our dreams. But often we become so enamored of those dreams that we forget the God Who knows how and when the reality is best accomplished. Even the most spectacular, apparently-God-honoring work may leave God's will and blessing in the dust by becoming an end rather than a means. "Success" can actually be more dangerous than failure, because it's easy to take worldly success as the sole sign of God's approval--and then convince ourselves that as long as prosperity continues, anything we do is all right with God.

Perhaps that's why He allows relatively few of us to experience exceptional wealth and prominence. Better to do holy work quietly in the background than to found a major ministry that comes crashing down in scandal.

Through the strength of Christ we can do all things--
So the holy Scriptures assure us--
But our peace of mind quickly takes to wings
Unless He chooses "all things" for us.
For it's not for sake of our foolish pride
That God gives us strength for the battle,
But for the great Name of our Heavenly Guide,
Whom no earthly distress can rattle.

Through our faith in God we can haul great loads,
If our work is indeed at His giving,
But our feet will fail on the smoothest roads
Unless we stay on His track for living.
And it's not the fact that we see a need
That proves His wish for us to go to it,
For He alone chooses the one for each deed
And assigns to the doer to do it.

If you seek Christ's strength to accomplish much,
But demand the full privilege of choosing;
If you plead for the Spirit's holy touch,
But as only a thing for your using;
If you plan alone what you'd have God bless--
Then your work will fail all the faster.
So when you in prayer future dreams address,
Don't forget Who is always the Master!

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