So I realize that I have not been the most consistent blogger this semester and I am sorry for that. I have a lot of things running through my head right now that I would love to write out eventually. Hopefully I can find time for them before this semester is over. Omaha was a success last week. We were able to drive there and back safely and everyone involved in the trip seemed to have a great time of learning about their relationship with the Lord. For me, the trip was somewhat difficult. We pulled into town on Saturday the 13th around midnight. The next morning was Coram Deo’s church service and our group had to be there at 9am. Because of the driving and unpacking and settling into the hotel rooms, we didn’t get to bed until almost 1am. Then, thanks to daylight savings, we lost an hour of sleep during the night. All in all, we were lucky if we got five hours of sleep. Sunday was completely exhausting, but it had joyful moments. I was asked to give a call to worship in both services and that was great. And it was so wonderful getting to see everyone I had come to call my friends this past summer.
The next day is when things started getting difficult. I woke up Monday morning feeling somewhat nauseous and with a terrible headache. I knew I wasn’t off to a good start, but I decided to try and push through the day, especially since I was one of the leaders on the trip. I barely made it to 3pm that afternoon and I had to be taken back to the hotel room where I laid in bed (when I wasn’t hugging the toilet) until the following night. When it hit, it hit hard. I still am not quite sure what I had. It must have been some type of brief stomach virus, but it left me completely weak and exhausted for the remainder of our stay in Omaha. I didn’t understand why it was happening or what I was supposed to be learning during that time. The whole sickness actually made me worry about the team as I was the only male leader on the trip.
In hindsight, God impressed upon me something He has been whispering to me all semester long – He doesn’t need me to accomplish His Plan. My heart screams so loudly sometimes while I worry about performing a task well in order to glorify the Lord that I miss the whispers of His voice. I have nothing to offer God that He does not already have. He is not in need of my rogue efforts because when it comes to my heart, His power is made perfect in my weakness. A few days before we left for Omaha, I listened to a sermon that convicted me of how often I push this Truth to the side in order to do things my way and then I get upset with the Lord when He does not come through for me. I also sensed this conviction when I felt terrified to get up in front of my classes to talk about 10 For Haiti. My mind wanted to chalk this up to being simply my personality type (“I’m just an introvert”) or clothe a vice in a virtue (“I’m just being modest and trying not to brag”), but the honest truth is that my heart has a deep desire for the glory of man. And I have been unwilling to admit that because it is a weakness. Then, while in Omaha, I feared that the trip would not go well while I was recovering in my hotel room and the last day of our stay, we ended up having a men’s devotional with one of the pastors of Coram Deo and our topic of discussion was 1 Corinthians 12:1-10. If you don’t know it, read it and it will make sense.
In all of these situations, God waited for a quiet moment when my heart was vulnerable, and He whispered.
I don’t need you. I want you to need Me.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to a sermon by Mark Driscoll and he was preaching over the baptism of Jesus in Luke 3. In it, he made an observation that nearly floored me because I have read over this text countless times and never picked up on the significance he underlined. Verses 21-22 of chapter 3 say,
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'”
Maybe you are not like me, but when I consider this moment and think about the audible voice of God breaking through the clouds proclaiming His pleasure in Jesus, His Son, my mind immediately concludes this as being a response to the great works of His ministry. Christ turned water to wine, He raised Lazarus from the dead, He cast out demons from people, and He proclaimed God’s Word fearlessly. Of course His Father is pleased with Him. The problem with my conclusion is the verse that follows:
“Jesus, when he began his ministry…”
When God spoke those words over His Son, Jesus had not accomplished any miracles, He had not raised anyone from the dead, and He had not exorcised any demons. For the thirty years leading up to that point, He had worked as a carpenter under his father’s supervision, grown in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). God was pleased with His Son and all He had been doing is hammering nails into wood and reading the Old Testament. When I realized that, it was like a slap to the face. God was not pleased with His Son because of all of His works, He was pleased with Him because of His faithfulness. Isaiah 64:6 says that “our righteous acts are like filthy rags” before the Lord. He is not pleased with our efforts to succeed, He is pleased with our faithfulness.
The world gets us so caught up in this idea of building something for ourselves, but God works on a different system. Those who exalt themselves are humbled and those who humble themselves are exalted. His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. The first are last and the last are first. These seem counter-intuitive, but that’s because God does not play according to our rules. The only reason our rules are different in the first place is because we have lost sight of the Truth. I think about the prophet Jeremiah and how he spent his entire life doing exactly what God asked him to do. He warned the Israelites of the impending destructive consequences of their sins over and over and they never listened to him. They mocked him. They rebuked him. They threw him in jail. And eventually, they were all carried away as prisoners to Babylon after Jerusalem was destroyed. But I believe confidently that when he reached the gates of heaven and stood at the feet of Jesus, he was told, “well done my good and faithful servant.”
It is a difficult thing for me to embrace that there is nothing I can do to impress God. My grades will never be good enough. I will never have enough money. I can never fully achieve unselfishness. I will never be faultless. And that’s okay because when God looks down on me, He does not see me according to my successes and failures. Rather, He sees Christ. When that really sinks into my heart, it is truly freeing. I am free to live and fail knowing that I have a God who already approves of me. I am free to stumble when running forward to Him because I know that He favors my pursuit. I am free to know that I am loved by Him even though there is nothing I can do to deserve that.
I am free to be faithful and not successful because God defines success differently. And believing that is a foundation of deep and abiding joy.
“Christianity is the anti-religion in that we believe that we will be judged through the blood of Christ and be found spotless and blameless, not because of behavioral modification, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”