I ask you neither for health nor for sickness, for life nor for death; but that you may dispose of my health and my sickness, my life and my death, for your glory… You alone know what is expedient for me; you are the sovereign master, do with me according to your will. Give to me, or take away from me, only conform my will to yours. I know but one thing, Lord, that it is good to follow you, and bad to offend you. Apart from that, I know not what is good or bad in anything. I know not which is most profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, nor anything else in the world. That discernment is beyond the power of men or angels, and is hidden among the secrets of your providence, which I adore, but do not seek to fathom.  

-A prayer from Blaise Pascal    

 

We are the do-it-ourselfers.  We get much too much caught up in attempting to fix ourselves—Thanks God for the offer, but we’ll take it from here.  If anything, when it comes to our growth in grace—our efforts to better ourselves are off the charts (as if it were possible for a terminally ill man to provide his own cure).   Like any project gone bad—we only make our condition worse than it originally was at the onset when we take matters of our sanctification into our own hands. 

A good friend of mine who leads a Christian men’s recovery movement is fond of putting it this way—We aren’t bad people trying to get good, we are sick people getting well.  I would confer as I think the gospel message proclaims exactly the same.  And while I would agree that the human body has a remarkable capacity to heal itself, I would only add that it is God who created that same human body and that he is the one behind it’s being able to recover health and wholeness in the first place.  In other words—we can’t heal ourselves alone.  Worse than ending in mere frustration, any attempts to do so will ultimately end in failure.   

If you have ever seen a face-lift gone bad, you might understand what I am getting at. 

Our self-improvement projects are doomed from the onset and only serve our own peril, mind you—how many of them are for the wrong reasons?  Our personal holiness and righteousness initiatives are nothing more than religious ego trips—efforts to make others think of us as spiritual—more Christlike than we actually are.  Shouldn’t we want to live lives that glorify God out of love for God rather than for the love of applause?  Our insecurities and our hunger for approval and acceptance run deeper than we readily admit.  We have to ask ourselves what our motive is when we become either obsessive or compulsive about our own growth in grace—and a good indicator we are out of bounds is when we find ourselves beating up others about their own lack in such matters. 

Solomon wrote:   

 13 Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? 14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. 15 In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.           (Ecclesiastes 7:13-15, ESV)                        

God is making those of us who were nothing but crooked—straight.  We haven’t arrived yet—we are still being changed and we still have a ways to go.  We can be sort of like kids who ask on the way to the family vacation destination—Are we almost there?  

Not yet—but we’ll get there soon enough. 

We have God’s word on it.  

In the meantime–let’s trust him to drive while we attempt to relax a little and enjoy the ride—he does know where he is taking us after all. 

In moving on to another topic in our next blog I will summarize with this: Life for the Jesus-follower should be lived in the light of just what it is Jesus did on the Cross.  We ought to focus less on our piddly efforts and more on the suffering of Christ Jesus—including the priceless fruits and glorious benefits afforded to us by his doing so—today and in eternity future.  

God’s not giving us a face-lift—no, it’s much more than that—he is renovating our hearts, and as any skilled surgeon would have it, he’s doing the surgery. 

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