An Important distinction

One of the things we learn very early in life is there are physical laws that govern our lives.  We can ignore them if we choose but to do so often results in unpleasant, and sometimes life changing, consequences.  You can for example ignore the law of gravity but if you walk off the roof of your house you will fall to the ground.  Depending on how far you fall you will either be very sore the next day or maybe end up with some broken bones.  In a similar way there are spiritual laws that govern our lives.  When we live in accordance with them life goes well for us and when we ignore them we experience the consequences, which hinder our experience of the abundant life that Jesus died to give us.  Take for example the law of sowing and reaping.  The law is inviolable and you will reap what you sow.  Sow to the flesh and you will reap from the flesh, sow to the spirit and you will reap from the spirit. (Galatians 6:8)

I was reminded the other day of another truth that shapes our experience of the abundant life that is both simple to understand and yet more challenging to apply.  The truth I am thinking of is a more specific application of the paradoxical reality that is expressed in the tension between God’s sovereignty and our responsibility.  Said in a different way there are certain things that remain exclusively within God’s domain, such as salvation, healing, sanctification and the ordering of world events.  We cannot save anyone, heal anyone, or control the unfolding of human history.  God has declared this is His domain and He doesn’t take kindly to us trying to usurp His authority.  The temptation to be like God is what got Lucifer and then Adam and Eve into trouble, and subsequently pushed all of humanity into the mess we are in.  I would argue it is a temptation that plagues us as well.  The other side of all this is God has charged us with the responsibility to grow in maturity and to become more like Jesus.  He has commanded that we practice certain spiritual disciplines, adopt a particular set of beliefs and values and walk in obedience to His commands.  The terms of the covenant relationship that we have with God promise that as we do our part God will be faithful to do His part.

How this plays out, and how we many times end up in trouble or frustrated, is we don’t always discern properly what is God’s domain and what He has made our responsibility.  If for example, we are praying for a loved one to be saved or a friend to be healed, we can drift into the belief that if we pray hard enough, long enough, with enough fervency and faith, with the right kind of prayers that we can convince God to do what we ask.  The underlying assumption is that we know what is right and maybe even know better than God what is the best outcome for this particular situation.  In other words, we try and take God’s place in deciding who should be saved and who should be healed, decisions He has clearly reserved for Himself.  Desiring, or assuming, this level of control is both futile and exhausting.

Maturity on the other hand, growing up to be Christ like men and women, is clearly our responsibility.  Often we pray that God will change other people and our circumstances to make the frustration or pain go away.  But what God desires, and the reason for which we are experiencing the circumstances in the first place, is that we grow in maturity and fruitfulness to the point that we can actually love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).  When we are in this position we are asking, sometimes begging, God to do something He is never going to do because He expects us to grow in maturity.

If you find yourself frustrated, tired or even angry about your relationship with God you may want to ask yourself, “is this issue God’s domain or my responsibility?”  When we try and take God’s place we will find that we have God as our opposition rather than our advocate.  And when we shirk our responsibility for growth in maturity we will find that circumstances are slow to change.  God desires that we live the abundant life, where we experience the blessing and resultant joy that comes when He moves sovereignly with authority and power in our lives.  But He won’t do it at the expense of our growing in maturity and fruitfulness for our benefit and the advancement of His kingdom.  Realign yourself with this important truth and you will grow in your experience of the abundant life Jesus promised and died to give us.