Posts Tagged ‘faith’

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Dreaming, Gospel Style

May 25, 2011

I have been thinking about contentment recently. Probably because being content is one of my biggest challenges. My wife Amy says that I have a grass is greener problem. I dream too big, too much. I need to be more realistic with what I long for. It’s hard, though, when there are so many things that I would love to have in my life! I want to go back to school and get my Master’s in Architecture. I want to work in a design firm where people are NOT treated like cattle. I want to own an architecture firm designing beautiful houses for wonderful clients. I want to wake up every morning and go to work saying, ‘I can’t believe I get paid to do this!’ All of these things are good, yet none are a reality right now. What does this tell you? I have a major work/success idol.

I have rebelled against contentment mainly because I have seen it as a requirement to take your dreams and stick them in the back of your closet, in the box with your high school yearbook and you stuffed animal from way back when. The thought of doing that makes my brain numb. Recently I have been coming to a different conclusion. In his sermon Sunday our pastor said “The worst thing that God could do to a person is give him exactly what he wants.” This struck a nerve. God wants to give us the best that he has, and that best is Himself. And he gave that to us in his Son. So how could God giving us our deepest desire be a good thing, unless that deepest desire is Him?

So I am praying for a different perspective. I want to recenter my deepest desire on the only thing that truly fulfills all I could ever need and more. In doing so, the strangest thing happens. When I let go of my dreams as being the thing that satisfies me, I GAIN the freedom to dream even bigger than before! If I long for something good, like an architecture firm, and I don’t get it, but I have God, how is that a loss? I have a God who loves me! I am now able to dream for the stars, because I already have the maker of those stars.

Now to remind myself of that daily….

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The Intersection of Grace and Effort

February 16, 2010

I don’t know if you knew this, but I sin. A lot. I have for quite some time now. And if you are anything like me, you probably do to. And if you are anything like me, there are sins in your life that you have fought for a very long time, years perhaps. Knowing that I am a new creation has somehow seemed to have little effect. My efforts to fight sin have been woefully pitiful, at best. I have seen my strength fail more times than I can count. I know that my salvation is not based on my own actions, but I how can I be a Christian and sin so much? Shouldn’t I try to not sin?

This struggle leaves us with two options. Try and fail, or don’t try and wait for God to change you. I have been alternating between these for 28 years. But there is another way.

John 10:28 says that Jesus gives his people eternal life, “and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” We are secure in Christ, apart from what we do. Yet Philippians 2:12 tells to “work our your salvation with fear and trembling.” How do these work together? The often stated doctrine of ‘once saved, always saved’ does NOT mean that we are free from a requirement of constant effort in order to be saved (even though this is true). We are called to constant effort, after all. What it means is that that effort is guaranteed to succeed! How? Because Philippians 2 doesn’t stop there. The next verse says that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”. God is the initiator of the desire and the ability to ‘try’! He is also the sustainer of that very same effort.

Those of us familiar with Reformed theology have no problem acknowledging that when God initiates salvation, he gives us a new nature and a new will, so that we can choose to cry out to him in faith and repentance. We understand that this is an act of God as well as a real choice on our part, both at the same time. Similarly, God working in us, turning our hearts away from sin and giving us strength to resist temptation, does not negate the fact that it is a real effort on our part! It is simply an effort that is backed and secured by the perfect effort of Jesus Christ.

The Christian life will be a sweaty, bloody affair. We will have broken bones and healed scars. We will have fatigue and adrenaline rushes. We will cry out in our effort, straining with every fiber of our being to cling to Christ. And our efforts will succeed. If it is God doing the work in our hearts, how can it fail?