Monday, January 20, 2014

Praying For God’s Help? Remember This Equation: Jesus - You = More Than Enough

Disclaimer:  Before you read this, please know that I am on a journey.  I have not arrived, nor have I fully grasped all that I’m about to share.  Honestly, this is all new territory for this “seasoned” child of God…and it’s scary.  If you somehow perceive from my ramblings that I feel as if I’ve “figured” it all out…figure again!  The following is simply my own reflections about what I feel God is trying to teach me.  If it somehow encourages or helps you…bondiggity!

 Lately, I’ve been reading a devotional by Steve McVey called “The Grace Walk”.  So far, it has really been great!  Yesterday, Steve talked about how Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises in each and every situation we face in life.  He writes,

“You don’t have to “make” anything happen. You don’t have an end to hold up.  So, just rest in what He has done and give a loud and hearty “Amen!” to Jesus.  That and that alone is what brings the highest glory to God.”

He goes on to talk about how legalism tells us we must “do our part” to get our prayers answered, but in God’s economy, we have no “part” in the matter.  Every promise we seek to be fulfilled and every answered prayer is found in the sufficiency of Christ and what He did for us on the cross.

I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years.  I’ve heard hundreds (probably thousands) of messages, read books, prayed prayers, but this message of grace plus nothing has really never gotten through my thick skull…or my frail heart.

This is especially evident when trials come.  Each and every time I immediately begin to search out where I’m “missing it”.  Somehow, somewhere along the way, my sin must have tipped the scale and God now has to step in with discipline and straighten my fanny out.  In other words, when bad things happen in life, it is a sure sign I have failed God and now He must kick my rear…in love.  This is usually followed by an endless succession of prayers of repentance.  If confession and repentance doesn’t seem to “fix” the problem, I then begin the process of begging God to show me where I went wrong and what “I” must do to make Him “okay” with me again.  Like I said, if you’re going through a rough patch it must certainly mean you did, said, or thought something that didn’t quit jive with God and it’s off to the woodshed until you learn your lesson.  By the way, it’s true that our sin can lead to “icky” consequences and there are times God will discipline, but many times it’s just life being lived out in a sick and broken world.

There are so many problems with the kind of thinking that believes we must fix ourselves and our problems, yet I ALWAYS play that game…ALWAYS!  Let’s look at some of the flaws of that kind of mindset.

1.     When the “fix” finally comes (answered prayer the way I want it), I never know which of my prayers did the trick.  I’m glad the mess is over, but I’m clueless how “I” broke through to God.

2.     If I can fix the problem, I must be able to control God or at the very least there must be some magical way for us to get what we want from Him.  Of course, I never really know what that is.

3.     This thinking negates much of what the New Testament teaches us about our position in Christ and God’s sovereignty over every aspect of our existence.  I cause all my bad stuff to happen and I must find a way to get God to fix it.  (Problem:  Not in the bible)

4.     If I must play a role in fixing the bad stuff, then I’m part of the solution.  In essence, it’s on me to “flip the switch” to “get the lights back on”.

I could go on, but you can probably think of greater flaws than I’m listing here. 

The idea that Jesus accomplished everything on the cross is huge.  The fact that we have NO and I mean NO, ZERO, NOTTA part to play in any of this, our ONLY role is to receive is even more mind-boggling.  He does EVERYTHING because Jesus has done everything.  We receive…end of story.  This my friends, is a big pill to swallow and goes against every bit of pride within me.  I say pride; because it is my pride that causes me to actually believe I must somehow help or motivate God.  Which by the way…is ridiculous!

Please get what I’m saying here.  I’m not saying that this means every prayer works out the way we think it should, or even every promise is a done deal.  I am saying I don’t have to “try” to “make” something happen here.  It’s ALL in His hands and it’s ALL because of Christ.  You and I can add nothing.

I was thinking about Steve’s line that says, “That and that alone is what brings Him the highest glory”.  For me, it means that embracing Jesus as the only basis for answered prayer means that I bring Him glory by seeing Jesus as my one and only hope.  No plan B whatsoever.  My effort plays no part.  If it does (my effort), I have found a formula for manipulating God…and IT WORKED, and that means I “helped” God.  Well, we know very well scripture teaches us that we cannot help ourselves and we certainly could never help God do anything, nor would He allow it.  He alone gets the glory and it will not be shared with little specks of dust riding through the universe on a big speck of dust.

The good news is this:  He loves each and every little speck, so much in fact that He was willing to die for us.  This also means that great love He has for me is what “fixes” the bad stuff.  Again, not my performance or lack thereof, just Jesus. 

So what’s the big lesson in this for you Ken?  Well, I think it is that while I am called to pray, and those prayers matter to God, I can rest in the sufficiency of Christ and trust that He is enough.  I don’t have to talk God into anything when Christ has paid for everything.  The pressure's off!  I have no clue how anything will work out, but I can quit looking for the right "God button" to push.  That means I can go back to enjoying Jesus and quit trying to "fix" problems.  My problems became His on the cross. 

The bible says in Psalm 34, “Many are the troubles of the righteous man, but the Lord delivers him from them all”.  Jesus said we would have trouble in this world, but “take heart, I have overcome this word”.  Notice He said “I”…not you…or me for that matter.

So what now?  What about all the “poop” (my special word for trouble) happening in your life Ken?  Well, all I know is this:  I will pray, but I will not pray thinking I’ve got to motivate God somehow to help me.  Jesus has opened every door and I can rest in that.  Every prayer has been heard and God knows, cares, and is always listening.  His motivation is and will always be His own love for me through Jesus…and that is more than anything I could ever bring to the table. 

Will my problems be “fixed”?  Good question.  All I know is that it is in His hands.  I cannot “make” anything happen.  Jesus has done it all.  My hope is in Him and Him alone.

No plan B.