Updated: Mar 10, 2020
2020 has proven to be a season of great change for me. I have stepped away from a profession that I've been in for ten years and I am fortunate enough to be able to wait and see what is next for me rather than jumping into another job right away. During this time, I really wanted to dig into prayer and God's Word.
Walking away from the only profession I've ever had has it's way of dwindling my confidence. I know I'm not starting at square one, but it certainly feels like it when I'm job searching. I knew this would be a problem-- it's just my tendency to bend to the liking of someone else instead of bring my most confident self. I've committed this issue to serious prayer as I can see it creating a huge pit for me to fall into if I don't wrap these thoughts in some truth. My prayer has been--
1. I would fall in love with God's Word. Is the Bible the lamp unto my feet or is my theology? What I mean is, do I rely on what the Bible says? Not just considering my favorite verse but the backstory and the aftermath appreciating both command and consequence. Or, do I just default to what I believe about God. I speak for myself when I say there are many things I believe about God that are faulty. I allow the things I like about God to hide the other parts of Him that are absolutely true. Example: God is love. Meaning there is no love on earth that can match His love for us. In fact, we don't even understand love without the earnest seeking of God's love. But that doesn't mean He is not a God of wrath or that He doesn't feel sorrow when we turn away from Him. Pigeon-holing God into things I like to think about only distances me from the truth and I am privileged enough to live in a country where I can read the Bible at any time so there is no excuse.
2. I would see myself in the players He used to carry out His will. At first, this was meant to help me with my confidence problem, and it did! God reminded me of all the ordinary people He used to do extraordinary things. People with no confidence, skills, or training that were just willing to apply a mustard seed-sized faith to a direct command from God. When I wrote about God asking us what we have before asking what we want, I loved the discovery of how much God can do with what's in arm's reach. God told David to pick up the rock and hurl it at the giant and He would do the rest. He told Moses to walk into the sea and place his staff in the water and He would do the rest. I loved these accounts of God's work because the backstory of these characters shows that all they brought to the table was obedience as their qualifications and knowledge paled in comparison to what God asked them to do. It took the edge off of the earthly pressure to get to a certain place/title/position before I could be a doer of the Word.
In a season of unknown, so much will become known. In asking, so much has been revealed. My desire on this earth is to use my talents and resources to further God's kingdom. Nice goal, right? Volunteer, mentor, write, parent, and lead small groups and point people back to God. With that idea, I was ready to chase the world. And just like Satan does, the plan for creating a meaningful, fulfilling life was soon becoming an avenue for seeking earthly reward. As quickly as I had dreamed up a ministry, I suddenly only thought about the rewards I might receive.
If I do this... then maybe God will bless me with that... Deep down in my gut, I could tell it was wrong to think of it that way, but I looked at the people I admired and could not help but think life was... cushy because of their steadfast obedience. My gut said that was wrong too. That my wishful thinking was my flesh not my faith. My research did not prove otherwise...
"He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." Isaiah 33:6
"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." Matthew 6:20
"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” Matthew 19:21
"My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Colossians 2:2-3
And the not so subtle---
"If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain." 1 Timothy 6:3-5
Well, that answered my question. Not only was it hard to accept that obedience didn't equal earthly gain, but it was also hard to not see my current blessings as result of my great godliness. To be clear, I am extremely blessed. My husband survived an explosion that nearly killed him and is retired from the Army. We also live in a handicap-accessible home that was built for free by Homes for our Troops, we have good income, and two beautiful, healthy daughters. Through doing my best to steward these things well, I had subconsciously convinced myself that I had earned them. Thus, more good stewarding would beget more blessing.
If this thinking is wrong (and by this time I was 100% sure it was), how do I move forward? What is my motivation if suddenly I feel guilty for all the things I have? Do I even set goals for myself or should I just be content and see what falls in my lap? Should I just sell everything and move to the jungle? Jeremiah 17:9-10 says "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? 'I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.'” According to this verse, God searches through the thing we can't understand: our own hearts. The part of us that we think we control but it deceives and confuses us. God looks through our hearts like a cardiologist looking for a blockage. He sorts out how we feel and how we act by looking inward and sorting out the motive. The motive will prove to be either for God or for ourselves. The scary part is that God knows before we know and by the time we find out, we are usually pretty far away from the shore.
Trying to solve this equation took me all the way back to the Creation story. Genesis 1:26 says "Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'” What was done here?
1. God made us differently than all His other living things. If you thought for ten seconds about how different we are from plants and other animals, our ambitions, emotions, need for connection, and longing for love truly sets us apart from the rest of creation.
2. We were given the expectation and responsibility to rule over what was given to us, not to let it rule us. All the things existed before we got here. We created none of it, but were told to subdue it.
We were made differently and we were made to steward.
We were set apart and placed above all other things.
We are not only made BY God, but we are made FOR God, and so is everything else.
As Christians we muster a lot of confidence in knowing we are made by God and set apart for a plan before we were put together in our mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5), and we should! God didn't call us to live a life under the weight of fear and shame and anything else Satan will use confuse the heart. But the experiences, the things, and the relationships are not for us, they are for Him. But in what way? If I get a promotion at work, how is that for God? Rather than asking that question, we should ask "how is it not?"
If we are made for God, then all of our advancement is too. Are we ever yielding and asking God "okay, Lord, what would you have me to do with this?" If we keep asking ourselves that question, it's like we come down from the clouds and start seeing the Kingdom at the ground level. We should see people, pain, problems, and inconvenience. We need to look no further than the life of Christ. With every bit of attention Jesus got, He yielded to the Father before praise or rebuke. Christ loved His father, but also loved people. He came to bring the low to high places, but not at the expense that they forget what the blessings are for. Whether we are in a valley or on the mountaintop, everything... EVERY.THING. is meant to bring us closer to Him and for His glory. If we approach blessing that way, wouldn't we be less heart-broken when it doesn't last forever? Wouldn't we keep our feet on the ground about the fact that we can lose everything in a heartbeat? Wouldn't we appreciate it more because we understand it's brevity? Wouldn't we have ammunition against the schemes of the enemy meant to confuse and destroy us? Wouldn't we quit making idols of earthly things?
Wouldn't we be more blessed?
Yes, we would.
I close with this fact: if Christ never did another thing for us, He paid for our sins and that is more than enough. Do you believe that? Do you believe that is enough for your life? What if He never grants another request, do you still trust Him?
David’s Prayer after building his immaculate temple to the Lord:
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.
1 Chronicles 29:14-17
Think about this as you embark on this week. You are made by God, but you cannot forget you are also made FOR God. What would you do with your talents and gifts if you remembered they are for God and not yourself?