Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Battle of "Wills"

Every Sunday, I used to come home from church service and immediately blog what was preached. I did this because not only do I love to write, but I often feel overwhelmingly compelled to share absolutely everything. Even though it’s good to blog the things that I learn, sometimes it puts more pressure on myself. I overwhelm my mind when I feel that I am “responsible” for putting everything out there; feeling that I am screwing up or making Him unhappy if I don‘t do His “will“ for me by writing every time I have the notion. I was scared that I was being wasteful of my gift; burying it in the sand like the wicked servant. 

I am well aware of the fact that I struggle with being “all or nothing”. Therefore, I have been a little “low-key” for a while. I still blog, but not as much as I used to. It’s taken a load off my shoulders as I’ve learned to just “be” a little more and blog when I’m overwhelming moved to do so; instead of blogging overwhelmingly because I feel that I always have to move! ;) Having balance and “going gray” is a good thing! Unless it’s a clear cut and absolute “thou shalt not” that God has laid out in His Word, you don’t have to be stressed about every little thing being right and wrong. Sometimes, things really aren’t that black and white. 

This is why I’m blogging the sermon today. I truly felt the undeniable nudge to share this time because David Shepherd’s sermon was about this very concept.  He talked about the fact that we get so caught up in God’s “will” that we stress out about everything and become so indecisive. I can totally relate to that! In fact, that was closely tied into my legalism/perfectionism problem that I was in heavy bondage to for many years. Every now and then, that kind of thinking still creeps up on me and I have to renew my mind (Romans 12:2) and remind myself that I don’t have to do everything “right”. David reminded us that our life and our outlook is directly determined by the kind of thoughts we think (I highly recommend “Battlefield of the Mind” , by Joyce Meyer. It’s a big help in dealing with transforming your mind and learning to have positive and Christ-like thinking. I read it in High School and am now reading it again). 

We put way too much stress on ourselves by over-thinking or thinking negatively. Our lives are the product of our thoughts. Most things are fairly basic and trivial decisions that don’t have to be agonized over, but we get so worried about correctness (or beating ourselves up over the “wrong” things) that we get too caught up in deciding rather than just living and being. That’s how it becomes all about “us” and we truly miss out on the fellowship and relationship we are meant to have with God. It becomes all about “law” and not grace. It’s like a sermon I once heard about being human beings rather than human doings. As David said, God didn’t say to seek His will, He said to seek HIM: 

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. - Matthew 6:33 (KJV)

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. - Matthew 22:37-40 (KJV)

Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. - John 6:29 (KJV)

When I was living in “right” world, I was stressed, fearful, and miserable because I was consumed with doing everything correctly and was scared that God would disapprove and be disappointed in me if I didn’t do exactly what I thought He wanted me to do. I totally missed the fact that He is a loving Father and not a stern dictator with a yardstick in His hand; ready to slap my wrist every time I screw up. The previous verses had been quoted to me many times before by people who cared about me and saw that I was exhausting myself with my legalism. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times people would pray over me and tell me “you are trying too hard” and I couldn’t understand what they meant because I thought I was supposed to give my all to please God and figure out His “will“ for me. Though, the simple truth is exactly what Jesus said: Love God; love others. Believe in the One He sent. Simple faith. Or, as I read in the book “Walking With Arthur”, just find the good that lies nearest and do it (It‘s an EXCELLENT book! Click here to read the review I posted a few years ago). If you’re so consumed with God’s “will” and your ultimate destiny, you will totally miss the “right now”. After all, each moment you live in the present is a stepping stone to where you will be in the future. It’s like a little card I have that says that God isn’t “I was” or “will be”. He is “I AM” for a reason.

As simple as it may seem, it took me a long time before any of this truly stuck. I lived in a persistent state of  perfectionism and condemnation for many years. In fact, it took me 3-4 years for this particular verse, that someone spoke over me, to truly sink in: 

To whom he said, "This is the resting place, let the weary rest"; and, "This is the place of repose"—but they would not listen. So then, the word of the LORD to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there—so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured. - Isaiah 28:12-13 (NIV)

By doing and doing, I was falling backward rather than moving forward. I was doing more harm than good to myself and being held captive in my own prison. How miserably exhausting! I didn’t realize that I was trying to live without grace and that it was for freedom that Christ had set me free so that I would never again be in bondage to another yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). Without realizing it, I was trying to earn my right to be saved when in all actuality, it had NOTHING to do with me and EVERYTHING to do with Christ and the price He already paid! 

So, what is “God’s Will” and what does it really mean to us anyways? David said it’s pretty simple. There’s His Will of decree; which are the things that are ordained, absolute, and cannot be changed. It cannot be undone and it is what it is. That is, His creation of the world, the plan of salvation, the fact that He is holy and just, etc. Then, there’s His Will of desire; which are the commands that He gives us. He gives us His Word and His Holy Spirit to show us how to live, but our own free-will can obey or disregard it. Then, there’s God’s Will of direction. It’s the character of our lives, His plan and purpose for us (which is usually pretty general; we don’t always know the specific details at every given moment), and who we truly are. Who we are and what we are meant to be isn’t narrowed down by our location, occupation, education, etc. The essence of who we are is hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3) and depends on the character that the Holy Spirit cultivates in us (Romans 5:3-5, Galatians 5:22-23). Money, status, and stuff doesn’t define you or give you character. Furthermore, you don’t have to be wealthy in order to be rich. True riches are in wisdom (Job 18:18, Proverbs 8:11). James 1:5 says that God will freely and generously give wisdom to those that ask. Though, as David pointed out, we truly need to have prayers of faith because the next two verses of James say that we won’t receive if we don’t believe. As David said, “We need to stop pleading with God to show us the future and start living like we understand that He holds the future.” Amen to that! It’s like a poster I once seen that said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” 

The bottom line is, quit worrying and start living! Trust and believe in the One God sent! Love God and love others. When you do that, you are truly doing the Will of God and abiding in Him (John 15:5)! There’s no need to “hyper-spiritualize”, as David put it. Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Stay connected to Christ on a daily basis by renewing your mind with His Word and keeping the prayer flow going! Then, you will make good decisions (more often than not) that are in agreement with the Holy Spirit, as you live moment to moment. Live in the “now” and trust that He holds your tomorrows! Each day is a gift; which is why it is called the “present”. Don’t miss out on the good you can do TODAY because you are wondering about your ultimate purpose. Those little things make up the bigger picture. Don’t waste those “little” opportunities to make a difference because sometimes, those are the ones that matter the most!

Grace and peace to all of you!! God bless you!! 


Shane Gilreath said...

I relate to this a lot - the desire for perfection, not so much from a religion perspective, but from a familiar and societal one. It is crippling! If you think I'm "posh" now, you should have met me a few years ago! lol! We have to find balance in our own lives, and know the lines to and not to cross. I know people right now who are struggling so much, just rebelling in all the wrong ways.

Good blog!

Melissa said...

Posher than you already are? Oh my gosh! LOL!! Yeah, ditto! I doubt we would have stood a chance as friend if we had met several years ago! I had no idea how judgmental I was as a Christian! A big chunk of it came from what I learned know.....and then the kind of community I grew up in. Living in a "religious" community has some drawbacks because sometimes, there are those that do wield their own righteousness over others (whether intentionally or unintentionally). You're right, there has got to be balance! It's something I have forever been working on.

2007 was the year where I really had a big breakthrough and finally had that light bulb come on regarding grace. Before that, I was very critical of myself, and others. I had no idea either! It wasn't until I went through a 40 day devotional type thing through our prayer team at church that I truly did some deep heart-work through that time with God. I struggled with praying and He said that it was because I was concerned with doing it "right". It finally made sense. I also had gotten a study Bible and I read through Ephesians where Paul talked about the law versus grace and it blew it wide open for me! I finally got it and I was SO RELIEVED!!

Furthermore, I embraced my identity in Christ after reading the Narnia series in that same time period. I never expected to be so blessed by those books or to be so moved! My understanding, as well as degree of intimacy, was much improved. I would very much like to read through the books again! I could really use it! Oh, and reading those John Eldredge books this past year gave me a lot of great understanding into how we work as male and female and I really enjoyed both books! I'm always learning something! All the more reason why I should be reading a LOT more!