|A251 : by Tony Garland |
We won't ever have as much peace as we could unless we get to a place of deeper trust and understanding concerning the division between the things we can (and should) concern ourselves with (to bring about desired change) vs. those things that are outside of our influence (and certainly outside of our control).
Scripture reveals that many of the things we worry about are actually better left in God's hands (Mat. 6:25-34; Luke 12:22-31), even though we sometimes try to take things out of His hands and “manage them our way.” When we find ourselves striving over such things, it really indicates that we lack faith (trust) that God can manage situations without us. Sometimes, when things don't go optimally, we aren't necessarily willing to accept that God is still in control and that He is using the less-than-ideal path for our ultimate good-even though it may be painful now (Rom. 8:28-31 comes to mind).
It has been my experience, both personally and serving as a pastor, that many Christians are familiar with various passages and verses, like those I've mentioned, touching on the subject of God's provision, sovereignty, and the peace to be found in Christ, but the problem seems to be transforming what we read into our actual day-to-day experience. This is to be expected based on numerous teachings concerning our need to abide in what God says and renew our mind to actually believe what He says about who we are, Who He is, and how we should live. For example:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.1
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”2
We may be familiar with various teachings in the Scripture, but often haven't reached the stage where our mind has been renewed—getting away from our previous thought and response patterns and coming to a conviction about God's promises and His sovereignty such that we can “rest” in the midst of unsettled situations we previously tried to manage, usually resulting in anxiety.
To bridge the gap from familiarity to renewal, we have to move from a place of knowledge to application which requires that we truly develop trust: both in God and that the Bible is His Word and can be trusted in place of patterns we've tried to rely upon in the past. This can be scary because we have to learn to let go of approaches we've relied upon in the past that we thought would bring us peace (and control) and learn to trust that we will still survive, even find greater peace, by letting go and leaving the results up to God.
As I'm fond of saying, “God doesn't call us to be successful or to produce results, he calls us merely to trust in Him and to be faithful.” Of course, this is easy to say, but much more difficult to do. I think of it somewhat like the old Greyhound Bus jingle: “Go Greyhound, and leave the driving to us!” Only in this case, it would be something more like: “Walk biblically, and leave the results to God!” That doesn't guarantee the results will meet our expectations. Rather we learn to rest knowing that God's will won't be thwarted in our lives. Besides, most of the stuff we thought we could control or influence really turns out to have been otherwise.
I also find it helpful to reflect on this verse from the Old Testament:
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.3
I find this verse to be particularly helpful because it draws a clear line between “secret things” which God alone knows, and things which God has revealed, which we are responsible for knowing and following. It sets forth an approach to living the Christian life that could be described as “flying by instruments.” When an airplane pilot is caught in heavy clouds or fog, and can't see ahead to navigate, he has to trust his instruments in the cockpit. Aside from the indicators on the dials, he is essentially flying blind. It isn't a comfortable place to be, yet he really has no choice.
In the Christian walk, the “instruments” are the biblical principles which God sets forth for us: “walk this way.” If we are honest, we will admit that much of life is really a fog for us: there are many secret things (especially concerning the future) which only God knows and is under no obligation to reveal to us. We must learn to “fly” according to what He has revealed and holds us responsible for. We must also come to believe that is all we can do! Then, we must leave the flight and eventual destination in His hands knowing we've done our (small, but not that easy) part. This is the essence of applying faith beyond our initial salvation: learning to trust God to handle what we can't really manage anyway. So long as we are diligent to stay in fellowship, the scriptures, and grow in our understanding and application of what we learn in His Word, our ability to trust God for the results and experience greater peace should follow.
Sometimes believers are not willing to leave the secret things to God: they insist on trying to push beyond the “things which are revealed.” When believers seek to know the secret things, their zeal may be genuine and they may sincerely believe they are being deeply spiritual. But God is under no obligation to reveal the “secret things” (that's why they are said to be secret)! In day-to-day practice, this resembles a form of “Christian divination” and usually results in turmoil through misidentification of hunches, dreams, and other coincidences as being God's direct, personal revelation. Yet He hasn't spoken! The end result is an ever-changing interpretation of “what God wants me to do” which inevitably leads to confusion and personal inconsistency (contra 1Cor. 14:33). Part of maturing faith involves learning where the line is between our responsibilities (applying Christian principles to daily living, growing in spiritual maturity) and what God promises to manage: things we can't control anyway.
Although there can be some helpful resourcesa written by other Christians, ultimately, it is the Scriptures which will bring us to a place of greater trust and peace. This is essentially what Jesus is saying in John 8—it is His word we must abide in to know the truth and become free. The simple practice of following a daily bible reading schedule to work through the entire Bible on a regular basis can be very helpful. (I follow the schedule available as the One Year Bibleb on our website, which also can be printedc for offline used with your own Bible.)
As we continually work through His Word, we encounter many historical situations and principles which demonstrate God's sovereignty and build our trust in His character, diminishing our own need to try and take things into our own hands.
As I'm sure you know, there is no easy answer. But continual growth in His Word and meditating on what we find there will draw us along, inch-by-inch, toward a place where we “shall know the truth and the truth shall make [us] free.”4
|1.||NKJV, Romans 12:1-3|
|2.||NKJV, John 8:31-32|
|3.||NKJV, Deuteronomy 29:29|
|4.||Notice that Jesus was speaking to “Jews who believed in Him” (John 8:31). The principle of abiding in order to come to know the truth—resulting in freedom—is something which applies to ongoing sanctification: beyond the initial trust required for salvation itself.|
|NKJV||Unless indicated otherwise, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.|