For the past eleven months, I have been reading Oswald Chambers’ life-changing book entitled My Utmost for His Highest. The first time I picked up his book, I was skeptical. As soon as I saw that there was a verse and short block of text for each day of the year, I wrote it off, thinking it was a feel-good devotional devoid of substance. It took me a long time (maybe even a year or so) to return to the book and boy, has it changed my perspective on God and on life. The passages are far from “feel-good” stories – each day I have been incredibly challenged by Chambers’ insight and have been pushed in my faith.
This evening I read something that was a bit of a slap in the face. So naturally, I wanted to share it. I started this book last September but instead of starting in the middle of the book, I started at the beginning of the book with January 1. That said, the passage I will be quoting from is found on the page for November 10th and is entitled “Fellowship in the Gospel.”
Slap in the Face #1:
As long as you maintain your own personal interests and ambitions, you cannot be completely aligned or identified with God’s interests.
Well shoot, man. “How do I get rid of my own interests? Didn’t God give me these ambitions?” I am dying to have a conversation with Oswald in the flesh (who has long since passed, by the way) and ask him these questions. But I think I know the answer. It says as long as I “maintain” these interests I cannot be fully aligned with God’s interests. I am pretty sure it means if I am holding onto my own desires and dreams then I am not allowing room for the Spirit of God to move in me and prompt me to act on His behalf, for His purposes, with His interests at heart.
In the next couple of lines, Chambers affirms the conclusion I came to in my split-second reaction to the previous statement.
This can only be accomplished by giving up all of your personal plans once and for all, and by allowing God to take you directly into His purpose for the world. Your understanding of your ways must also be surrendered, because they are now the ways of the Lord.
Okay, God. You got me there. I mean, Oswald – you definitely got me – but God really got a hold of me through you. I definitely have a desire to understand God’s purpose for me in the world. The more I discover about God’s nature, the more I am amazed. He is the king of all creatives – His imagination is limitless. His purposes are grand and bold and way more ambitious than any of my own. I want to know those plans at some point because I want to know how I should be living and if I am walking in accordance with God’s will for me. However, too often I get tripped up on questions like “what’s the plan?” and “how will I fulfill these purposes?” and I forget to ALLOW God to lead me into His purposes. I fail to SURRENDER. I try to play mind games with God, somehow thinking that my own understanding will dictate His actions. But that way of thinking comes from a totally skewed life perspective. I have no idea what circumstances God will use to answer my prayers. I cannot out-imagine God and I will never understand His ways fully. I pray that by the grace of God I will be able to recognize His ways, but I do not expect to understand them always.
Slap in the Face #2:
I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me.
Ouch. Can we revisit that one and rephrase it for dramatic effect?
I have a lot to learn if I think that I am here to serve myself. God did not breathe life into this body so I could entertain myself and roam this wide world in pursuit of my own satisfaction. No, the One who gave me life is in control of my life and is the authority over my life. I am not my own.
So basically, this means that I need to get over my serious pride issue so that I may learn to submit myself to Christ daily. Believe me, that kind of surrender does not come naturally.
So how do I do that? How does God transform me?
The Sobering Truth:
When I stop telling God what I want, He can freely work His will in me without any hindrance. He can crush me, exalt me, or do anything else He chooses. He simply asks me to have absolute faith in Him and His goodness.
He can crush me. That is totally His right as my Creator. He made me, He can destroy me. It’s that simple. He built me, He can tear me down and work with my fragmented pieces to restore me. That is completely up to Him. I have a really hard time admitting and accepting that because I am oozing pride like a poison. (And it is poison.) But how about that? When I dictate to God what I want, I am hindering Him from freely working within me to accomplish His purposes on the basis of His will. That’s big. I can’t afford to hinder God’s purposes. I’m too fragile, helpless, and misguided, when left to myself.
So here’s the crux…if my heart’s desire is to see God glorified and I truly care about living for God and fulfilling His purposes and following His plans for my life, then I have to stop focusing on what I want and begin to focus on Who God is, what His heart is, and how I can live in a way that reflects His heart. As I live surrendered, I will live filled because the God of my salvation promises to fill every thing in every way (check out Ephesians 1).
This means praying to be relieved of my insecurities and pride so that I neither wallow in my hurt and pain nor pretend these things do not exist. This means discovering what God wants and praying for the heart to want the same things. This means living not out of my own strength, but out of His perfect power and strength. This means loving God more than myself and being content to live sacrificially – laying down every self-satisfying desire in order to love and please God.
Less of me, oh Lord. More of you. Please align my interests with Your own and please grant me a heart for people like You have. Work freely in me, I pray.