I’m not living the way I want to live. In fact, I feel fairly certain that I’m not doing whatever God put me here to do. I’m conflicted and ambivalent about my purpose and how it fits in with what I have to do. Surely, I must be slow to learn, or I missed His cue, or I am just stubborn and disobedient. Even when I focus my best efforts, it doesn’t feel like it’s good enough, and I can’t sustain the “good” long enough to accomplish something meaningful. Do you ever feel these things?
I dream of a different life. Maybe I am not intended to write, or speak, or paint, or create or give in a way that moves others. Maybe I’ll never have the authenticity and openness of a child, or the contagious love and joy of Jesus flowing uncontainably from my heart. Maybe He never intended to use me in the ways I have dreamed.
But if not, where did my deepest desires and dreams come from? Could it be true that those things that bring me to tears, those activities that swallow me up and make time stand still, those people with whom I engage and depart feeling so alive and full — are those moments the ones that matter? Are those moments reflections of the most true parts of me? Are they representative of my God-given desires, dreams and purposes — even if they feel small?
This winter day my thoughts quickly turned to harsh judgement of myself. I’m not all I had hoped. I am no closer to living with the qualities of little chidren that God says are important to inherit His kingdom. I see the lives of so many others, and they seem to make a difference, to matter. I read the words of others and they seem to know Christ and share Him so well. I hear others speak, and feel my inadequacies.
Can you relate? Am I the only one who sometimes feels like I have gotten my one shot at life all wrong?
There are a few key things I notice about my “down” thoughts.
- My down thoughts are really all about “me.” Not so much a focus on Jesus.
- My “feelings” are dominating. Not a lot about what I know to be true.
- I am harder on myself than I am on anyone else — by far.
- I feel a need to accomplish. To add to what Jesus has done in some profound way.
- If I am quiet and still, the Holy Spirit will speak God’s truth in the darkness.
The first one is easy to recognize. It’s my flesh rearing it’s ugly head. I remind myself I am entitled to nothing. Owed nothing. Not a life of significance. Not success. Not love. Not attractiveness or friends. Not even to do anything worthwhile for Jesus.
Yet I have everything! I have experienced the sufficiency of Jesus! I know experientially that He is all I need. I know His love and salvation are all grace. I know I can add nothing to what Jesus did for me on the cross. He doesn’t love me even a little bit more when I am at my best, nor does he love me an ounce less when I am the most selfish. He is perfect, and He loves me. Seeking Him, falling in love with Him more and more deeply would help cure what ails me.
Number two: Feelings are fickle and sometimes deceptive. Are they also valuable? Yes, but they can be easy to manipulate and deceive. God’s promises and God’s truths never change. God never changes. The Bible contains 66 love letters of His Truth. I need to spend some time renewing my mind in the truths of His Word, in addition to seeking His face. There’s a difference. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Number three: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) I offer grace and forgiveness to others. I don’t expect perfection from my family or friends. I tell others that the “little things” are often most important. My grandmother never travelled far from her home, spent most of her time in her gardens and kitchen, yet I call her my role model. Why, at times, am I so hard on myself? The answers are found in all the other points above.
Moving on to number four, which is a major contributor to my self-condemnation: Sometimes I feel I am supposed to do something ‘BIG’ for Jesus. What am I thinking? That I can repay Him for all He has done for me? That I can help Him with His work? Maybe that I can make Him feel a little better about me? Or that others will appreciate me? Respect me? Am I possibly being a glory hog?
The truth is Jesus doesn’t need me. Nothing any of us could ever do is “big” on the God standard. It is His world, His work. He moves others. He uses us when and how He chooses, if we are willing. He can even use our missteps for our good (Romans 8:28). Does this all lead me to despair?
No — It means it’s not up to me! Of course, I want to surrender daily. To invite God to use me for His purposes. To put His will ahead of my own desires. But what He wants is my LOVE. To keep Him number one in my life. This means the pressure to perform is off! I can’t add anything to what God is accomplishing. End results are up to Him. And if He uses me in HIs work, in a any way, I want to praise Him for the privilege and give Him all the glory, because anything “I might do” is really Him working through me.
Which brings me to number five: God gave me His Holy Spirit. He is always with me, and will guide me when I ask. Even as I was down and out with my eyes on myself, He broke into my thoughts with truth.
When the need to strive and perform, self-condemnation, or comparisons creep into my life, I am under attack. But Satan is already defeated. I need only to turn to God and His Word to be renewed and restored. On down days, fabulous days, and all those in between, I need Him. He is my sufficiency. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Apart from God, I quickly become enmeshed in the world’s ways of thinking — achieve! perform! do more! The truth of my life is all about GOD! God loves me. God is transforming me. God “made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13) God has a plan for my life. “Plans to prosper me and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11). God says I am “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
My role is to love God and His kingdom. My job is not to constantly search for my purpose and measure my accomplishments. Obeying HIm is to do what I already know He is asking of me. I don’t have all the answers I would like, but these reminders help. I feel lighter and more free. Renewal, restoration and transformation are His daily work. Mine is to love and trust HIm.
It never fails when I am at a loss, God sends answers. Todays’s relevant devotional is below. When I am most attacked, perhaps I am also most present in His will and on His path.
February 3, 2014
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.
From the outside looking in, things look bleak for believers today. We live in an era of unprecedented economic challenges, legislated immorality, and confused political leadership. Many who claim to know Christ do not actually believe He is the only way to salvation, and still others are proclaiming a watered-down version of the Truth that is not Truth at all. However, Jesus prepared us for this age by encouraging us to remain steadfast:
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:12-14).
Although darkness seems to prevail, these times are ripe for God to break through. Christ promised that, in the midst of this chaos and deception, the gospel will ultimately reign. How will the gospel reign? Resolute believers will proclaim it throughout the world. We can take heart, because the testimony of Jesus is alive today and forever.
In between now and eternity, Satan will do everything he can to distract us from God’s mission. Right when our passion for Christ is renewed, the enemy comes to thwart us with fear, discouragement, and confusion. We might experience a surge of energy to pray again or share a testimony, but then apathy comes. Do not be afraid of the enemy’s schemes. In these moments, call out to God for strength—He is stronger than our enemy.
Are you standing for Truth, no matter the cost, or have you felt yourself wavering? Have you been tempted to abandon your work for the Lord because of discouragement or spiritual lethargy? Wait on the Lord today. Ask Him to search your heart and reveal where you stand. If there is fear, discouragement, or a lack of focus in your life, allow Him to come and fill you with hope, boldness, and new vision today.
Prayer: Lord, show me where I stand in the work You have called me to do. Where I have lost sight of the task at hand, renew my strength and remind me of Your vision. Thank You for loving me and leading me.
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).