Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Human Will Power is Not Enough

Today there was a wonderful convergence between the lectionary readings and my own circumstances. In ministry one of the most useful character traits is stubbornness and resolve, the ability to keep doing what is right regardless of the opposition or discouragement. It doesn't really matter how talented you are or enthusiastic if you will give up when the going gets tough. The pastors that make a real difference are more than a flash in the pan, they go the long haul and take the licks. But simply being stubborn, or even optimistic is not enough.

Isaiah 9:8-12

The Lord has sent a message against Jacob;
    it will fall on Israel.
All the people will know it—
    Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—
who say with pride
    and arrogance of heart,
10 “The bricks have fallen down,
    but we will rebuild with dressed stone;
the fig trees have been felled,
    but we will replace them with cedars.”
11 But the Lord has strengthened Rezin’s foes against them
    and has spurred their enemies on.
12 Arameans from the east and Philistines from the west
    have devoured Israel with open mouth.
Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,
    his hand is still upraised.

Simply deciding, "I can do this" or "I will not be beaten" is not the solution because it is an expression of self sufficiency and pride. It is no better than quitting because in this attitude what should be God's work has become your work and so it is doomed to futility.

John 3:19-21

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done through God.

Our greatest hope as servants of God, is not that we will survive or succeed but that our work is really God's work. That when our deeds are exposed in the light they are found not to have been human ideas and ingenuity but the result of divine grace operating in our lives. Does my resilience come from sheer force of personality or does it come from my humble dependence upon and faith in God to use me? James 4:10 and 1 Peter 5:6 put it best, "humble yourselves . . . that he may lift you up."

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