G5 Day 4

G5 Day 4

God’s To-Do-Through-You-List (excerpt from A Woman Overwhelmed)

Confession time. 

One time, okay, maybe two, I got mad at my nine-year-old because she didn’t want to pray before bed. I was trying to teach her about a life of faith, but she wasn’t interested, and that just ticked me off, so I mocked her, told her I was done putting her to bed and stormed out of the room. Take that you little heathen! Maybe next time you’ll have the decency to glorify God and pray with me! Grrr!

More times than I care to mention, I’ve been late for church and got stuck behind someone going ten miles under the speed limit, so I’ve tailgated them until they finally got out of my way, then I’ve sped past them in driving disgust. 

Repeatedly, I’ve had projects due and been so overwhelmed with the size of them and my lack of time that I stressed myself into inaction. I literally didn’t know where to start and so I didn’t. Worry got the better of me as I was too stressed to write my bible study on the fruit of the Spirit. Ironic?

Do I need to go on or do you get the picture? I have a plan of action, a to-do-list, and somehow it goes all wrong, which is usually someone else’s fault, someone who is thwarting my plans, and getting in my way of getting things done. And this demands action on my part, which too many times to count has been anger, frustration, resentment and stress. 

In fact, when things don’t go my way that’s pretty much my natural response 100% of the time. Like say I can’t get a knob to turn on an appliance, I might just put a little extra force into out of spite. Prove to it who’s boss, and end up breaking the thing in a form of irrational retaliation. Not that I would ever tell my husband that. 

As I’ve said before, and to overwhelm the Apostle Paul’s confession found in Romans 7-8, what I want to do (be faithful) I do not do, but what I do (retaliate) I hate. And if I do what I do not want to do, (stress out) I agree that the law (don’t be anxious about anything) is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it (so don’t get mad at me), but it is sin living in me (because of my parents). For I know that good itself does not dwell in me (perfection), that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good (be the best), but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do (be patient and kind), but the evil I do not want to do (act on my anger)—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do (act like a heathen), it is no longer I who do it (so get off my back), but it is sin living in me that does it (hate the sin, not the sinner).

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good (produce the fruit of the Spirit), evil is right there with me (my flesh). For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched woman I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (See Romans 7 – 8:1)

So in my attempt to be faithful, to teach my child about God, to go to church, to write my books, I’ve managed to use sin as my method of regaining control. 

Nice. Way to go Hayley! Way to make what you want to do more important than what God wants you to do!

Can you relate? Have you ever looked at your day and said, “Well that was a big fail!” I think that if you are honest you will say yes. When the to-do-list doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, it’s easy to get so overwhelmed that faithfulness and love is gone, and you know that’s not how things are supposed to go, but you can feel powerless to change it. 

Can you recall a time when you blew your witness with your overwhelming emotions? 

What is your normal reaction to interruption, failure, rejection and inconvenience? 

Which of these reactions do you consider acceptable when things don’t go the way you want them to go?

Anger.   Frustration.   Bitterness.  Resentment.  Gluttony.   Sadness.   Impatience.  Harshness.   Argument.   

The truth is that most of us fall back on these emotions when we get overwhelmed by life. They promise to get things done, to get things moving, and so we accept them in order to stop the overwhelming feeling of being out of control. But in the end we know that’s not how we want to live, we just can’t find a way out. And that’s the case as long as we live by our to-do-list instead of God’s to-do-through-you list. What’s on his list? It’s simple really, just one thing: love. All God has for you today, and everyday, is to love. That’s the sum of all of His commands, to love Him with everything, and to love your neighbor as yourself. If you do that, you’ve done all that he has asked you to do. But how do you do that when you have a list of your own that has to get done? That’s a good question. The answer is this: if you can’t do something on your list in love, then it’s time to surrender the mission of me to the mission of God. That means that if there is something you cannot do in love you will either delete it form your list or ask God to help you to do it in the power of His Holy Spirit, that is the only way that you can truly love difficult, trying and stubborn people in troubling, challenging and hopeless situations, through His Holy Spirit. 

If you wake up tomorrow dead set on the mission of God, resolved that love is the Instagram filter of your life determining that you won’t do anything without that being job one, then tomorrow will be less overwhelming then today. And if you keep His mission as your goal for the rest of your life you will find yourself less overwhelmed by life and more overwhelmed by your God. When love takes priority, God gets the glory and what gets done isn’t necessarily what you had in mind, but what ultimately gives God the glory as you go about His mission over your own.  

Only faith working through love

This week we are looking at Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” In this verse Paul tell us that obeying the law doesn’t count for anything, but only faith working through love. 

According to theses words, how many things count for anything? 

The only thing that counts for anything is faith. So what does it mean when it says “faith working through love?”  

Yes, the only thing that counts is faith working through love. It isn’t faith and love, but it is faith with the natural outpouring of love that follows faith. 

So, according to this verse what is the source of love? 

What other sources do we look for most often to produce love? 

John Piper says, “Being a loving person is absolutely essential to being saved, because the faith which saves by its very essence works through love.” 

What people do you have the hardest time loving? Strangers, enemies, friends, family, other drivers, co-workers, foreigners, etc.?

What does loving look like? 

Sometimes the best way to know what a word is, is to look at its antonym. So what would you say is the opposite of love? Most people would say hate, some might say, indifference. Those are both valid antonyms to love, but I think the word that covers all the opposite notions of love best is simply selfishness. You cannot truly love another while you are being selfish. Selfishness puts your needs, wants and desires first, which in turns puts everyone else’s under yours. We are by nature selfish, born thinking only of ourselves. No one has to teach a child to think about themselves or to scream the word “mine!” when someone touches their stuff. Nature requires selfishness for survival, that’s why in the animal kingdom we talk about the survival of the fittest, that is to say the one who protects himself the most. But in the life of faith self-protection isn’t the goal, glorifying God is the goal. That means that God’s will is more important than our own, and God’s will is that we love above all else. When Jesus was asked what is the most important commandment He responded like this: 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” (Matthew 22:37–40)

Jesus didn’t have to command us to love ourselves. We do that naturally. But all of the Old Testament law was put in place so that God’s people would love Him and one another. Love was always the goal. It is only because we failed at this goal, we failed to love, that we needed a Savior. We all know that it was our sin that gave us the need for a Savior, but consider that these words from Christ prove that all sin rests on the idea of failing to love. Pride, the love of self, is the foundation of all sin. It is the root of all of our problems. If your life were like an onion and each layer of sin that you peel off revealed another layer of sin, and it does, the very center of that onion would be pride. Every sin ever committed, when stripped down reveals nothing other than our selfishness. This is why God commands us to love. 

Love is at its heart humble, forsaking self for the good of others. Love is sacrificial, pride is self-protecting. Love is selfless, pride is selfish. As long as we are being selfish we are not loving anyone but ourselves. It is only when we are selfless that we love. That means that in any area where self is the focus, love is left out. So if the only thing that counts is faith working through love, it’s important that we take these words to heart. 

Consider your life, relationships, actions, is there any selfishness in you?

If you don’t know for sure, let me answer that for you, yes. I can say that with confidence because God tells us that there is no one who is righteous, not one. Remember, we are waiting for our righteous perfection. That means that we all struggle with selfishness, that’s the universal, but it is being content with selfishness that is the problem. Contentment with our selfishness means that we are simply unwilling to identify the selfish acts in our lives and to reject them. We are unwilling to agree with God and to identify those areas in our lives where we are selfish. But without opening our eyes and agreeing with God what we end up with is contentment with our unrighteousness, contentment with selfishness, and our lack of love. 

But identifying our selfishness is the first step to recovery. It’s the thing that comes before confession and therefore healing. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. When we agree with God and say we are truly selfish, then his grace soothes us. But there is another way of healing, and that is confessing to one another. Take a look at James 5:16, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you might be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful.” 

Who does this say we are to confess to? 

What is the result of this confession? 

What are the parameters on the kind of person we are to confess to? 

This idea of confessing to a righteous person means that we are to confess to someone who knows God’s Word and will speak it to us, agree with us but offer us His grace. This is someone who will not gossip about our confession, make fun of, or judge us, but who will also agree with us that we have sinned against God, speak God’s forgiveness to us, and pray with us. 

This confession isn’t something that’s one and done. It is a daily process. It never stops for any of us. But when we refuse to assess our lives for acts of selfishness, we are no longer living by faith working through love. Since we all could use some help with having eyes to see the opposite of love in our lives, here is some places to look.

Acts of selfishness:  

Complaining    Discontentment   Lack of self-control   Impatience  Harshness   Boasting

Extreme physical challenges         Fighting      Pride      Shouting      Angry outburst 

Immorality      Coveting     Jealousy   Drunkenness   Attention getting    Immodesty 

Obsession        Irritability   Resentment    Bitterness   Rudeness    Control  Judgmentalism 

As I look at this list, it feels like I’ve failed tremendously because I have a problem with a lot of these, but thanks be to God, not that I can keep acting like this, but that He’s brought these things to my attention and given me the eyes to see where I’ve failed to love. Knowing is the first step to recovery. Now that we know the areas where we are failing to love, we can turn to the Spirit and ask for His help in learning to love more faithfully. 

In what areas of your life are you willing to practice faith working through love? 

This week it is my prayer for us all that we seek the Lord with all of our hearts and find the blessing that is the work of His Holy Spirit in our lives. Will you pray these verses along with me?

Dear Lord, help me to humble myself (Matthew 23:12). May I not seek my own glory, but Yours (John 8:50). Help me to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and to make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Romans 13:14). May I be strong and bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please myself. Help me to please others for their good, to build them up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me”” (Romans 15:1–3). 

Father, I want to be content to suffer wrong and to be defrauded (1 Corinthians 6:7), rather than to complain and to fight (Philippians 2:14-15). Please help me to be a servant to all, that I might win more of them (1 Corinthians 9:19). For I have died, and my life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).

Help me to put on as Your chosen one, holy and beloved, a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, may I bear with others and, if someone has a complaint against me, forgiving them; as you have forgiven me, so I will also forgive. And above all these may I put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:12–14). May I deny myself and take up my cross and follow Jesus everyday of my life (Matthew 16:24).

Amen