Tuesday, October 13, 2009

God Is Working His Way in Us

"Most Christians who need counseling have one thing in common," writes Jay E. Adams in his booklet Christ and Your Problems. "Their conversation is studded with the word 'can't.'"

Most experienced counselors, Christian or otherwise, would agree that "I can't" is frequently the lazy person's euphemism for "I don't want to bother trying; I don't want to do my share of the work." When a Christian talks this way, it also implies a lack of faith: "I don't believe God is strong enough to change me, or fair to expect me to change, or going to be much help in the process."

But there's another side to the "I can't do what God wants me to do" complaint. Many of us are willing, even eager, to change; come to the point of admitting we really can't do it unless God works in us; announce our full surrender to His will in the matter--and then, when we don't see instant and obvious perfection as a result, sink into discouragement over how often we still fall short. We even start to suspect that God is annoyed with us for not trying hard enough.

Perhaps we're trying too hard--trying to rush ahead of Him in the process. When it comes to spiritual growth, God is fond of the slow-and-steady approach; our problem is that our limited perspectives have little eye for slow progress. It's like losing weight after having been obese and sedentary for years. If the dieter chooses any reasonably healthy approach, the excess fat will come off bit by bit, ounce by ounce; and with new muscle building up at the same time, the scales may not even show much weight difference. It can be easy to conclude, "It's been nearly a month and every day I look the same as the day before; I'm not making any progress at all"--until someone we haven't seen in weeks greets us with, "I hardly recognized you; you look so much thinner!"

God does plan to make us perfect--in eternity. But why does He let us struggle so much in the here and now? Perhaps because the first sin to arise in humanity, and the last to be conquered in the individual, is pride. Like the Israelites in Dt. 8:10-18, who were prone to take personal credit for God's physical blessings, we might easily be tempted to start considering ourselves fully responsible for leaps-and-bounds progress--and slide into the same trap that caught the Pharisees, who in trying their best to "be good" turned themselves into the lowest of sinners.

The only proper approach to changing for the better is full submission to God at all times--and that includes willingly accepting His chosen pace.

God is working His way in us
By paths that we cannot see;
God is using each circumstance
To make us all we can be:
Nearer and nearer comes the day
When He’ll bring us His full, true light,
And our hearts will be pure for endless days
As we worship the Lord of might.

God is working His way in us:
Though struggles seem hard to bear,
God is building our lasting strength:
Doubt never that He does care.
Nearer and nearer comes the day
When He’ll call us up to His side,
And our hearts will be pure for endless days
As we rest in our holy Guide.

God is working His way in us
To purge us from love of sin;
God is cleaning our minds and souls
To wash out all taint within:
Nearer and nearer comes the day
When He shall bring us home at last,
And our hearts will be pure for endless days,
With the hardships of life all past.

God is working His way in us:
So let us fulfill each task
That He gives us to do for Him:
He sends all the strength we ask.
Nearer and nearer comes the day
When He’ll send out His final call,
And our hearts will be pure for endless days,
And our Lord will be All in All!

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