#1 Way You’re Doing It Wrong

How does a Christian grow in their faith?

We like to start by building ourselves up in the Lord when we work our praying and ministering muscles.

Another strategy is to stretch ourselves by extending our hands out to others with the love of God. We often lift our Bibles higher and higher, making them heavier and heavier as we scribble in the margins and stuff them with notes.

But the first step in the growth of Spiritual muscle takes place when the inner stuff breaks down.

The first position of the believer being strengthened is bent low on humbled knees.

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Growth in the Lord doesn’t begin by doing more or carrying weightier virtues and ministries.

Rather, spiritual growth originates in becoming less.

Becoming strong in the Lord requires the laying down of our bulky burdens at the cross to be free to train as our trainer leads.

“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” never calls us to be more or greater. In fact, “be strong” can be misleading. The words translate more directly to “be strengthened” or “be empowered.” The rest of verse makes this clear.

We have to be strengthened by the the source of our strength.

To be strengthened by the Lord, kneel before Him. Heave off the weights you aren’t meant to carry. Let your Spiritual muscles be broken down by the Lord, examined, and made stronger as true muscle, earned by submission to the trainer.

Sweet relief for the weak (all of us!):

We are strong in the Lord when we grow in His mighty power, not when we’re mustering up our own.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

In Outcomes We Trust

{The seventh installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

Glad to welcome Lois from Waxing Gibbous back to the blog today. A former journalist, Lois has a gift for telling stories while gathering facts- all leading up to the truth of Jesus Christ. So blessed to know her and share her words!

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Here’s the blunt truth. When Bethany introduced her “In ____ We Trust” series several weeks ago, I was intrigued and curious to see where she was going to go with the topic, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to apply to my daily life. I definitely have areas of spiritual struggle and plenty of room for improvement in many spots, but at the time, I was doing OK in the trust department.

Or so I thought.

In my world, one of the marks of a good blog post is when I finish reading and say to myself, “I never thought of it like that before.” With this series, that’s happened more than once.

Trusting in Google? Who would have thought? But yes, I do that. Trusting in medicine? For me, it’s more like trusting in health insurance, but yeah, check that box too. Acceptance? Let’s just skip that one, shall we? As I told Bethany in an email a few weeks back, with that post, she’s quit preaching and gone to meddling.

All kidding aside, even as I was finding much to relate to every week, I kept trying to articulate this one other thing that I often trust in besides God. Several weeks into the series, I still don’t have a catchy little title for it, but it has to do with happy endings and closure and desperately needing to know how things are going to turn out.

This is OK when it comes to reading the ends of books first (which I do, all the time) or checking the internet for spoilers when I’m taking a bathroom break during a movie (which I also do, sometimes).

In real life, though, it can be a serious problem.

There’s a certain way I feel—physically and emotionally—when I am waiting, in limbo or uncertain of an outcome. I’m more prone to irritability during those times. I’m readily anxious. My stomach sours and my sleep grows even more fitful than it normally is.

Then, when the question is answered, the wait ends or the outcome becomes evident—good or bad—calming waves of peace sweep over me. I don’t know how to explain it other than that. I just feel better.

Some of this is just part of being human, and some might be due to my personality.

But I think the lion’s share of this progression of feelings has to do with trusting in the outcome instead of the God of the outcome.

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Thankfully, I’m not powerless to stop it, and neither are you if you recognize this tendency in yourself.

There is a divine antidote that never fails to change my perspective and calm my anxious heart when I’m waiting for closure, and it is as familiar as it is life-changing.

Simply put, it involves praying the way Jesus prayed in the Garden the night before He was crucified. As you may recall, He asked God three times for another way, but He followed each request with that amazing statement of submission, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42)

My husband and I learned the power of this prayer a couple of decades ago when we were struggling with infertility. We regularly told God of our desire for a child, but we always followed it with Jesus’ words, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

I’m not going to lie—this is a difficult way to pray. But back then, it was the only concrete way I found to relinquish my dreams and desires to God. It helped me loosen my grip on my desire to have a biological child AND vocalize my trust that my sovereign heavenly Father truly did know what was best for me.

As it turned out, God’s will in this situation was NOT what I desired originally. We never did conceive; instead, we adopted our two daughters from China.

And that entire experience—including the wonderful eventual outcome—paved the way for an increasing reliance on this prayer in many other areas of my life. From unexpected job losses and homes that took way too long to sell to concerns about aging parents and difficult medical issues, it’s been the only sure way I know to replace my anxiety about an uncertain outcome with quiet trust in God.

Not my will, but yours be done.

I don’t always think to do this right off the bat. Sometimes it takes me days—even weeks—to get there. But when I finally remember and start meditating on this prayer, something amazing happens.

My heart relaxes. The sourness leaves my stomach. Honestly, I’m just nicer to be around.

I still hate waiting. I still read the ends of books first. But, more and more, I’m learning to place my hope and trust in the Author of the ending instead of the ending itself.

God is sovereign. He is good. He loves me and knows what I need. Praying this prayer helps me remember that.

Not my will, but yours be done.

For the next few weeks, guests will be writing each Monday on something (or someone) we tend to trust in besides God. 

What about you? How do you fill in the blank: In ______ I Trust?

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Thoughts on Being Profound

I’ve almost written this post three times. Ironically, I chicken out when I find that it just doesn’t sound…sufficient, impressive, eloquent, or relevant. I even deleted my notes. But I think it is an important concept to consider in light of the truth of the Lord, so I’m going to try.

 

People don’t seem to like to be considered shallow. We don’t really enjoy thinking of ourselves as valuing unimportant things, or wasting our time on trivial tasks. Feelings of emptiness, of doubt, or of meaninglessness creep in enough as it is. We find we don’t need to validate these feelings by doing things that seem mundane or sound.

So, we push and dig to get to the very depths of our souls and burrow into the trenches of relationship with Christ. We push and dig through conversations trying to find purpose in them. In the things that we do, we seek out meaning and justification. And to make these things more secure in our souls, we seek recognition of our purposes and depth. Our lives, as we then live them, are made to be one of two things: meaningless or profound.

But we miss the point. To live meekly in Christ is incredibly difficult because we have to give up dreams and expectations of spiritual grandeur, like being known for how righteous we are. We have to live like Christ lived, with our eyes ever fixed on God and not on the steps we think we must take to “get to Him.”

As Oswald Chambers pointed out in his November 22nd “My Utmost for His Highest” devotion, Jesus came to us as a baby. A baby! He lived as a carpenter’s son. He traveled and ate and drank with companions like other people did. The miracles and signs he performed he often followed with a request of secrecy (“go and tell no one” -Luke 8, Matthew 16, Mark 9, etc.) When he died, it was between two criminals who suffered crucifixion as well.  Then, when He rose again, Jesus didn’t run around telling all the haters how wrong they were and striking them dead in vengeance. He went to those He loved and spent His days among them, teaching them truth.

Christ’s life was not rich, it was not attractive, he was hated by many, and he had all the needs we did….that’s how He was fully man and able to tempted as we are tempted.

What was different, then? What made His life profound and eternally significant when he never made a big deal out of Himself? What kept Him from being shallow when He lived so simply?

That Jesus was the Lord. That Jesus humbly obeyed, even in what He ate and drank and who He spent time with. Nothing human about life on earth was below the Lord. And the only “thing” above Him was the Father.

Consider Matthew 6. Notice the number of instances in which Christ reminds us not to do things in the sight of this world for the rewards of this world. Being profound and earning a reputation of depth, when done to appease a sense of meaninglessness in ourselves -as is the case when we seek to find purpose in how others see us- is seeking wrongly.

While usually the verse is quoted about worrying, I think perhaps Christ said it in relation to the rest of what He was saying, especially in Matthew 6, not just worrying….

“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

-Matthew 6:32+33

It’s a simple point. It isn’t deep or incredibly shocking or profound or anything new and cool. We must fix our eyes on the Lord and seek Him only….and that includes not seeking meaning and purpose and depth to appease that which only He can fill.