2020-04-27 If You First Don’t Succeed…

“When he calls to me, I will answer him;”
Psalm 91:15a

I don’t know about you, but I have spiritual cycles. I’ll have times that I’m really clicking with God and then suddenly find myself struggling along. Up and down. Down and up.

This can be discouraging because the downs are usually frustrating, especially considering where I was. One week, I’m rocking it and sharing the gospel with lots of people, and the next I’m hardly sharing it at all. It’s the down times that I usually find myself in trouble with food, too.

It seems I spent too much effort on my efforts this past week. I had a deadline to hit and a TON of work to get done for it. So, I buckled down and bulled my way through it. On my strength. My will. My power. And, as you might imagine, with problems. Oh, I had my warning signs. First, my appetite started to show up. More and more. And more. Then there was my temper. The printer doesn’t work right, so what do I do? Lean back and pray? Nope. Get mad and cuss. That’s how I do things when I’m in control.

I share all this because I thought things over last night and spent some time in prayer. You see, I can spend a great deal of time kicking myself for my behavior and try all the harder to keep from sin. Truth be told, the harder I try, the worse it gets. Trying harder isn’t the answer.

While I was praying, this verse kept coming back over and over:

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

There certainly is a component of my will in this transformation, but I am of the opinion that God is the one who is transforming me, not me transforming myself. The degree to which I cooperate or not will make little difference in the end because God has determined that I will one day be like Jesus.

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Don’t get me wrong, I can cooperate, or I can work against the program. Either way, he will accomplish what he has purposed to do. And, by trying harder to please him, I find myself ultimately running into problems. Why? Because I am seeking his approval in what I do. That’s a big error and one God won’t allow to fester. In fact, God will frustrate my efforts to earn his blessings. Polishing the apple is NOT what he’s looking for.

This is all quite complicated and difficult to grasp. Yes, on one hand, things go better when I cooperate with God. And, yes, on the other, they go worse when I don’t. There is reward for walking in the Spirit, but I find that I am still learning how to do that. I end up taking a wrong turn and not realizing it until I’m wandering on my own. My efforts to please lead me to places I’m not meant to go at that time.

What IS of comfort is the knowledge that God is using my mistakes to correct me. Even though I seem to be wandering, he will be guiding me and accomplishing what he already determined – that I shall be just like Jesus. God is making me into perfection. I’m not there yet, but one day I will be. It will be because of his efforts, not mine. Yes, again, there is an element of my will, but God will do what he has purposed to do. I am being “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

This realization is quite liberating! It takes the pressure off and gets me back to one of my favorite verses in the bible.

John 6:29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

When I find myself getting more and more frustrated when I’m trying harder and harder, this verse brings me back to the place I need to be. What does God want of me? To believe in Jesus. That’s it. It is that simple. God will work out the details. I don’t need to fret and worry or try harder and harder. Yes, I can enjoy the fruit he provides, but I can’t manufacture ANY on my own.

That’s why he commands us to rest. Let’s wrap this up by finishing the passage of the verse we opened with. It, too, is one of my favorites. I think you’ll see why.

Psalm 91:14-16 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Father, thank you. Amen.

Copyright © 2020 Scott Powers

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