Sunday, January 11, 2009

Changing the Focus

My writer friend Vicki (Victoria Gaines) posted this excellent article on her blog Windows To My Soul and she captured my sentiments perfectly. Thanks, Vicki, for your honesty!

Read on...

"One week into the New Year and already folks have gone gang-busters trying to renovate their lives.

Wears me out just thinking about it.

I was in no mood to write about resolutions, goals, and changes until several folks invited me to read their take on the subject. Honestly, there's a lot of wonderful inspiration out there. But I can't do it. I can't push myself to do better. That's why I came to Christ in the first place.

Don't get me wrong. We need to make healthier choices. And January gives us pause because we know how bad we failed the year before. The realization hits us again and again because we won't stop magnifying our frail and failing flesh. Something needs to change alright. But willpower is not the answer.

Some have a lot of willpower; some do not. Many of my writerly friends run circles around me with their bookish productivity. It used to make me feel bad until I realized He's accomplishing things in my life that can't possibly be compared to theirs. I'll keep trusting Him.

But sometimes we catch ourselves praying the Lord will help us do more. What? Help our flesh? If our (human) righteousness is like filthy rags, like the bible says, then the Lord is not in the business of strengthening our flesh. Whether we have weak flesh, strong flesh - doesn't matter - nothing we do apart from Him will last. So it doesn't matter if we have an impressive "go-get-'em" temperament that seemingly accomplishes so much. What happens when our goals are blocked by circumstances or people? Who do we turn to then?

Ah, but dear folk who struggle like me - read on. We know our temperaments and willpower can't be trusted. We need Christ's enablement, not just day by day, but moment by moment. May I share with you my verse for 2009?

"Now may the God of peace—
who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
may he equip you with all you need
for doing his will.
May he produce in you,
through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
All glory to him forever and ever! Amen."
~ Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT) ~
Did you catch all that? I didn't at first. After reading this beautiful verse many times, in different translations and paraphrases, it seems to me that God wants to relieve me from the burden of resolutions. He knows I don't fare well apart from His Spirit, and He takes responsibility for equipping me. The onus is on Him, I like to say. That way, I can stop wrestling with my flesh and start trusting His Spirit. It's not about willpower and enthusiasm; it's being rooted and established in Him. Believing this truth causes me to stop pleading for His help and start resting in His life.

Now read the verse with just the words that I put in bold print:

"May God equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you every good thing that is pleasing to him."

Resolutions never get me far. It takes His life operating in me to produce what He desires. He's the One who produces every good thing in us that is pleasing to Him. He's the One whose grace inclines us towards right choices and desires. Its better that I spend time with Him, jotting down what He impresses on my heart through His Word as I confess my need, than asking Him a thousand times to bless my plans. The more I live and move and have my being in Him, the better 2009 will be.

Oh, that He would become the expectation of all our hearts! Let's look to Him, and not our many weaknesses."

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