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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Willingness vs. Willfulness- Part 1

Will we always be willful 2-year olds, who struggle and throw tantrums when the world does not bend to our desires?


Will we willing participants in God’s grand design?

It is deeply embedded within our human nature to try to persevere, to push on through with true grit and determination. There are times when we have to be forceful to get things done. But, when the pursuit our goals start to run amok and remain unchecked by love and sanity, they can be terrible (can I say un-Godly) forces to reckon with.

Many times, this is the way we approach God, what He is doing and what He wants to accomplish in and through our lives. It is also how we frequently approach our brothers and sisters.

Jesus left us with but 2 commandments. Most of us couldn’t recite the 10 if our very existence depended on it. He said to love God and love each other. That’s all we have to remember to do, but daily, we show little evidence that we can do either effectively. We seem to have particular difficulty with the second, especially when we aren’t getting our way. You know what we say, “My way or the highway.” “I’ll just take my toys and go home.”

Today, I want to focus on God’s love. We’ll save the interpersonal issues for another day….

God is love and He wants us to love Him. Not just demonstrating it by our abstention from sin and wrong-doing; not just by being obedient and following the rules. He wants us to depend on Him, earnestly and deeply. And we already know that we cannot change our willful minds and deceitful hearts all by ourselves or in our own strength.

We can gird up our loins (whatever that means), grit our teeth and promise one more time that we will act as like good little, compliant Christians. We promise that won’t spurn God’s love by acting as if He has not given us grace, mercy and salvation freely, and of His own choosing. But, if we try to take this approach, we miss the point of God’s love.

We become the willful 2-year old self that stubbornly slogs into church week after dreadful week, when we have fallen off the wagon or wandered into our favorite sin, and ask our brethren to forgive us, so that we can work our way back into God’s grace. And, we’d like to think better of ourselves. We’d like to think that we don't actually commit sin, but rather it catches us by surprise.

Week after dreadful week...

Since the Fall of Mankind (in Genesis), God has wanted to restore and renew His connection with us. Notice, I didn’t say to us because that would be one-sided. God wants a relationship with us. And, we have responsibilities in this relationship just like we do in any other.

We must make a conscious effort to move back toward God. After all, it is not God who has moved away...it is us. We have become mired in some kind of spiritual inattentiveness and practicing a outward appearance of worship. And although we’d like to say we don’t believe in the Prosperity Gospel, we want a God who will show up when we want, do as we ask and go back into hiding until it is convenient for us to call on Him again.

The world has much to show us and offer us, enticing us into temporary satisfaction and gratification. Our attention is pulled in so many directions- all away from our Father, our “first love” (Rev 2:4).

God wants to love us and our job is to willingly accept this. We cannot make God love us, although we certainly can make ourselves a little more loveable. We cannot earn “salvation points” by doing good deeds for short periods of time.

How many of us have made New Year’s resolutions? How long have we been able to keep them? And even if we did for a short period of time, it was hard work- and usually not pleasant. Ever wonder why this is? It is because we usually choose things that go against our natural tendencies. And we labor to distraction trying to stick to diets, getting up early to go to the gym, etc; trying to make it a habit.

God’s Love is not like this.

Paul says that it should bring us unspeakable joy, and peace beyond all understanding and comprehension. (Phil 4:7) Does Paul sound like the God of our ancestors want us to suffer? Now, don’t misunderstand me, we will suffer. We will suffer loss, pain, death of loved ones, economic misfortune. We will suffer if we tithe…or don’t. We will suffer if we come to Bible study...or don’t. Matthew reminds us that it rains on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45)

But we serve a God of magnificent, overwhelming and infinite love. We serve a God who is love. Who wants to meet us…where we are. Who wants to establish a relationship with us.

What’s my point?
Since we cannot willfully force or make God love us (even though He does), make Him do things for us, or give us what we want when we want it…what if we tried to willingly let Him come into our hearts and minds to let Him give us love?

God wants to take up residence in every atom of our being, every dark corner of our living, and every moment of our existence.

Will you let Him?

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