Moving Forward

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
-Marianne Williamson

Nearly anyone would answer “Yes” to the question “Do you want to be independent?” However, many people’s private definition of “independent” is “I can do anything I want–but someone else remains on call to fix my problems/fill my wallet/keep trouble out of my way.” That’s the way a lot of “name it and claim it” Christians regard freedom in Christ: God is a cosmic fairy godmother who grants our wishes and smooths out the road ahead, and our only responsibility is to stay reasonably well-behaved and say the right prayers at the right time.

Not that I claim any right to cast stones. Looking at my current position in life–transitioning into a new stage of full-time freelance writing and praying near-desperately that this time I won’t let self-doubt freeze me when results are slow, nor ask for any more money from family except as an absolute last resort backed up by an audible command from Heaven–I feel some empathy with those who want to believe life is invariably clear-cut. If you’re a good, moral person by human standards, you’ll be protected from all trouble. If life gets bad, you have only yourself to blame. If you pray in faith, you’ll get exactly what you’re asking for.

How comfortingly simple. How solidly predictable. How appealing to the fleshly nature–and how unlike the way the world actually works.

The worst part is that the clear-cut-system hypothesis has a lot of general truth in it. Confident people are more likely to succeed. Blatant sin does get people into trouble more often than not. It’s when we try to make “God prospers the faithful” a rule equally universal to “If you drop something, it falls down” that we run into trouble–as Job’s friends did when they got fixated on the idea that the only possible reason for his problems was that he had done something terribly wrong.

But even if the hypothesis were universally true–or if God personally and unmistakably said to any of us, “Would you like a guaranteed high income and good health for life?”–would we accept the gift as eagerly as we think? Especially if He reminded us of His own words in Luke 12:48: “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” Talking about universal laws, everyone knows deep down that life’s demands on us are directly proportional to our health and wealth. It’s the vigorous person, not the bedridden, who is asked to clean up after himself. It’s the person with the high-paying job who is expected to show regular evidence of her value to the company. And if you’re rich enough to hire others to take basic chores off your hands–guess who has to interview them, negotiate fair salaries, keep track of the situation’s evolving needs, pay more complicated taxes, and bear responsibility for what employees do under your authority?

Honestly, if God offered me the opportunity to become a bestselling novelist or make a million dollars this year, I doubt I could avoid doing a “Moses at the burning bush”: “But, Lord, I don’t understand finances at all. … no one ever listens to me. … I get a frozen spine just thinking about being the topic of an Opinions column. … You must know lots of people who could do the job better.” While it may be fleshly laziness that leads us to dream of having everything we want with no responsibility, it’s more likely fear that keeps us from embracing responsibility when we have the chance. Deep down, we are well aware of our imperfections–and we doubt God can do anything with us as long as we have them.

No doubt, as He did Moses, He finds us annoying at times. He tells us, “I made you for this job,” and we reply, “There’s no way I can do it,” which is akin to saying, “You couldn’t have made me as well as You think” or “I know You’re just going to toss me into deep water and walk away while I drown.” What an insult, implying that the Creator of all is incompetent and fickle! We don’t need to argue over whether God will give us a million dollars if we pray for it. We need to be praying for wisdom and courage to accept responsibility, so He can trust us with much more than whatever we have now.

And let us also pray for confidence to believe in our most “impossible” dreams, as coming from the One Who (Ephesians 3:20) “is able [even eager], through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

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  1. janetanncollins

     /  April 15, 2016

    I’m glad God doesn’t work like one of those machines where you put in a coin and the thing you want drops out. I once knew some people who was into that health and wealth theology. They thought God always gave good Christians whatever they prayed for. When they got into a bad economic situation and lost their expensive home they lost all faith in God. That’s so wrong!

  2. Jo Swank

     /  April 17, 2016

    “Wisdom and courage to accept responsibility,” and “confidence to believe”……..bravo!
    Go for it! Amen. : )


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