Wednesday, November 23, 2016

From Pride to Praise

Yesterday I turned 33. I know that's not really considered a milestone age, but I couldn't help thinking that this was the age that Jesus Christ died. He lived a short life and it was a hard life in the sense of being misunderstood and rejected and carrying the weight and sorrows of the world. His life ended abruptly by betrayal, an unjust trial, severe beatings and humiliation, and crucifixion. He died that we might live. His life purchased my life and restored me to God. I can live because of Him.

I have to admit my life is not what I imagined it would be at this point. That's been hard for me to accept in many ways, which shows my arrogance in thinking that I know better than God what is best for me. I was hit with this truth during last Sunday's sermon at Renaissance. We had a guest preacher who preached from James 4:13-17, about boasting about the future. He did not sugar coat what Jesus through James is condemning us Christians for: we arrogantly think we can make our plans without regard to God and when things don't go our way, we get bent out of shape. The preacher said that God, in His grace, sometimes painfully chips away at our plans to expose and crush this arrogance so that the arrogance doesn't crush us. Ultimately, Jesus Christ died for our arrogance on the cross.

I can see this arrogance in my own life. I had a particular vision of what I wanted my life and ministry to look like. And when God started messing with my plans, then I struggled. I became confused and grumbled against the Lord's leading, and sometimes I fell into despair. I was more sold out to my own vision of the future than I was to following Jesus wherever He may lead. I had my hands clenched tightly around my plans and over these past couple of years, Jesus has been prying my fingers off those plans. And it hurt. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was missing God's will, that I had gone down the wrong path. But the truth is that I was balking against God's work in my life because it didn't fit nicely into the path I had designed for myself. There is nothing inherently wrong with the dreams I had, but there was in my heart attitude towards them. In my zeal to serve God overseas and in dreaming about ministry, I had begun to idolize and worship them instead of continually seeking God and His guidance and allowing Him to guide and shape my heart.

Although the Lord has been teaching me to surrender to Him in all areas of life, this especially hit home while listening to this sermon. My problem was not only idolizing my plans, but my problem is arrogance. I thought I was wiser than God when it came to knowing how to best use my life. I wanted Him to bow down to my plans and make them successful like He was some genie who was at my bidding. This realization was hard and heavy. But God is so very kind to reveal these heart attitudes to me, so that I could repent and begin living in the freedom He has called me to in Christ.

I have continued to think about these things over the past few days. And yesterday it hit me: although my life isn't what I envisioned, God has blessed me with so many good things. I do like what He is doing in my life. I am thankful I am where I am. And with that realization comes so much freedom. I don't have to worry or wonder whether my life looks a certain way. Jesus only requires me to be faithful to Him and that means heeding His Word and following Him. He is not as concerned about the destination (career, ministry, etc) as I am; He is more concerned with the process of me getting there (knowing Him deeper, growing in Christlikeness and in community, being faithful, dying to myself). So, yes, I am not in Asia; I am not in full-time ministry; I have no idea if the dreams I am surrendering to God will ever be fulfilled; BUT God has blessed me with everything I need in Christ Jesus. He has been teaching me about living in His grace and living life in community. He has blessed me with a very sweet marriage to a godly man and we have a baby boy on the way. He gives me constant opportunities to minister to others in a variety of ways. He is good and does good (Psalm 119:68). I have so much to be thankful for.

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