Are You Willing to Submit Your Will to God?

Continued from here.

I have shared this several times, but it’s worth repeating. In his book Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Henry Blackaby says that two words never go together: “No, Lord.” If God is your Lord, then you will always say yes to His will. If you say no, then He is not your Lord. In other words, you are not His disciple.

Most of us want to straddle the fence. We want the blessings of being a disciple of God without having to the pay the cost, but it doesn’t work that way. We love to quote the scripture about not worrying because God will provide all of our needs, but we don’t “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). In the legal world, this is called a condition precedent. To activate “all these things will be given to you as well,” we must first prioritize God’s kingdom and righteousness. We accuse God of not being faithful in providing for us when we did not first do our own part of chasing Him rather than chasing what we want.

Another example is that we love the Bible verse promising that God will give us the desires of our heart. Who doesn’t want this, right? But the condition precedent is that we must first “take delight in the LORD.” James tells us that the reason we don’t receive the desires of our heart is that we are not delighting ourselves in the LORD but instead…

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)

James’ very next words are, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?” Why are they adulterous? Because they delight themselves in their own pleasures rather than in the LORD. We rail at God for not giving us what we want when what we SHOULD want is HIM, and He gives Himself to us freely.

So, are you willing to submit your will to God? If you are, you must do all that He tells you to do. That being said, it’s not about doing the right thing so much as it is about obeying Him to express your love for Him. God isn’t looking for people who do the right thing – He is looking for people who love Him enough to do the right thing. There’s a big difference, and it all comes out of our motivation. Do you love Him enough to submit your will wholly to God? If you say yes and actually do it, you will be blessed beyond measure.

[Graphic: Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Courtesy Amazon.]


Submitting Your Will to God Simplifies Your Life

snakeContinued from here.

Since I began submitting my will to God in 2013, my life has become much simpler – harder, but simpler. The reason is that I no longer put forth the mental energy of trying to figure out how to get out of obeying God so I can do what I want to do.

For example, as a young adult, I did not want to tithe, so I put forth much mental energy to figure out a loophole to get out of it that went something like this: “Back when tithing was commanded, people didn’t have to pay taxes at a rate like we have to pay today. God could not possibly expect me to pay this much in taxes and then, on top of that, 10% of my income to the church. And even if He did, how do I know how much to tithe? Is the 10% based on my gross earnings or my net earnings? And what about rebates or monetary gifts? Does God really expect me to tithe out of those? This all sounds too complicated to actually do.” Today, I simply give to my local church 10% of whatever hits my bank account, and I also give as the Lord leads me to give, so I wind up giving much more than 10% of what I earn. It’s simple – just not easy when I don’t feel like giving.

Satan’s way is complex, but God’s is simple. God says, “Don’t eat the fruit.” Satan says,

Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” … “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” ~ Excerpts from Gen. 3:1-6

See how simple God’s command is versus Satan’s mental twisting to turn God’s no into a yes? Either we trust God, or we do not. If we trust Him, we will do what He says to do, which is quite simple … it’s just not easy.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a snake coiled around her. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Choosing Obedience over Feelings

how_you_feelingContinued from here.

It’s easy to follow God when things are going well. When I have just received a blessing from God, it’s easy for me to praise Him with all that I have within me and shout His goodness from the rooftops. It’s a different story when His will requires me to suffer, such as when my son faced major back surgery a few years ago. It wasn’t easy to focus on God’s goodness as my son faced having two titanium rods screwed into his spine to correct his scoliosis. I did not easily praise God during this season, and yet I did praise Him – not because I felt like it but because it’s His will that I do.

One of my greatest obstacles – and this is likely true for you as well – is that I often don’t feel like obeying God. If I let my feelings drive my choices, I would only do what God tells me to do whenever it’s convenient or feels good. However, God’s ways are rarely convenient. He commands me to pray for and show kindness to the people I want to yell at or complain about. He tells me to drive the speed limit when I’ll be late for an appointment if I do. He leads me to extend grace and love to people who make my life difficult, whether it’s an incompetent waiter or a grumbling relative. If I let my feelings drive my choices, I would never do what God tells me to do. In other words, I would never be a disciple of Christ.

In my quiet time this morning, I read the passage about an exhausted Jesus sleeping through a storm that terrified his disciples. I found it interesting that Mark notes that when Jesus said, “Let’s go over to the other side,” Mark says,

Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.” ~ Mark 4:36

Note that they took Jesus “just as he was.” When I think of taking someone “just as he was,” it generally means not all cleaned up but in a state that the only someone who loves you would receive. As an example, one of my dear friends is going through a rough time and keeps apologizing for being “just as she was,” which is in emotional distress. I receive her “just as she was” because I love her. She’s not in a state that she would like to be, but she’s too overwhelmed with what’s going on in her life to “clean up good.” I wonder if that’s the point that Mark was making about Jesus – that he was in a state of exhaustion and too tired to cope, hence his ability to sleep through a raging storm. One does not get that way by taking the easy way. I suspect Jesus had to choose obedience over his feelings and that he was so exhausted because doing so took a heavy toll on him.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting on a chair and asking, “How ya feelin’?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Not My Will, but Yours be Done

painContinued from here.

I shared an example of what it looks like to submit your will to God in my last blog entry, but let’s take a deeper look. God gave us free will, so we are free to use it as we desire. We are free to use it to be selfish, to try to manipulate other people to our will, and to do evil – God won’t stop us from exercising our free will in vile ways that do much harm to ourselves and others. However, if we use our will in any way other than in submission to God, we are not Jesus’ disciple. That’s a tough pill to swallow, isn’t it? But it’s the truth. Jesus said that we cannot be his disciple unless we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. That means we must follow Jesus’ example of saying, “yet not my will, but yours be done.” Are you willing to submit your will to God as Jesus did?

Jesus said those words before going to the cross, which he certainly did not want to do. He did not spend the night praying and sweating blood because he wanted to be mutilated and killed. Yet he submitted his will to God. He had free will, just as we do, but he chose to submit that will to the Father, even when it came at the ultimate cost of being mutilated, killed, and separated from God as he carried all of our sins as he died. While we know the glorious end to the story, I wonder whether Jesus did in the dark of night as he prayed his anguished, earnest prayers as his disciples slept. I wonder if he simply knew that God’s will was for him to suffer and whether he simply loved God more than he didn’t want to go to the cross.

Regardless of what Jesus did or did not know on that fateful night, we generally have no idea what the end of our story is going to be. We face the crossroads of seeing that God’s way will bring us inconvenience or suffering while we could easily exercise our own free will to take the easier path. Which will we choose?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lying on the floor in pain. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Cost of Discipleship: Submitting Your Will to God

need_a_rideJesus advised us to consider the cost of discipleship before committing to follow him. One of those costs that I have been pondering lately is the cost of my will. The closer I grow in my relationship with God, the more I appreciate the degree to which I no longer have my own will because I have submitted it to God. I submit my will to God each time I drive the speed limit when I am running late as cars are whizzing impatiently past me. I submit my will to Him each time someone aggravates me and I chose to extend grace rather than express anger. I submit my will when I fill out my tax forms and provide an honest assessment of the value of my charitable donations when I could so easily inflate it. Submitting my will to God certainly comes with a cost.

I’ll share a cost that will likely amuse you but is nonetheless a price I pay to be a disciple of Christ. I live in a state that requires a minor to drive 60 hours using a learner’s permit before he can apply for his driver’s license after holding the learner’s permit for a year. That year ends for my son this week, but he has not yet reached the 60 hours required by law to apply for his driver’s license. I have been my son’s chauffeur for over 17 years, and I am ready to retire my chauffeur’s hat. But as of last week, he still had 10 hours of driving to go.

My son’s solution was for me to simply lie on the form. He says that all of his friends’ parents lied on it. Nobody will ever know the difference. One simple lie can release me from the responsibility of having to drive my son to school, sports, and other destinations. I can’t say it’s not tempting. However, as a disciple of Christ, I have submitted my will to God, who says that I am to submit to governing authorities, and I see no footnote excusing me from this command simply because I don’t like the law or because it is inconvenient.

Because I submit my will to God, I spent four hours on Friday night riding in the car as my son drove to a city two hours away and back, solely for the purpose of logging in the required hours. And I’ll do the same thing again on Saturday night – not because I have oodles of free time but because this is required of the governing authorities for my son to apply for his driver’s license. I submit to the law because I submit my will to God.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace driving a car and asking, “Need a ride?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Disciples Only Say, “Yes, Lord”

Continued from here.

Henry Blackaby says in his book, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God , that a disciple’s response to a command from God is always and only “Yes, Lord.” Hear his wise words:

…begin by saying with all your heart, ‘Lord, whatever I know to be Your will, I will do it. Regardless of the cost and regardless of the adjustment, I commit myself ahead of time to follow your will. Lord, no matter what that will looks like, I will do it!’

If you cannot say that when you begin to seek God’s will, you do not mean ‘Thy will be done’ (Matt. 6:10, KJV). Instead, you mean ‘Thy will be done as long as it does not conflict with my will.’ Two words in a Christian’s language cannot go together: ‘No, Lord.’ If you say no to God, He is not your Lord. If He really is your Lord, your answer must always be yes, Lord.”

I was guilty of saying “No, Lord” for most of my Christian life, which means I was not a disciple of Christ for most of my life. God’s way is simple:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” ~ Matt. 16:24

I complicated matters by coming up with multiple reasons not to obey God in my particular circumstances, but it all boiled down to saying, “No, Lord,” and those two words never go together for true disciples. The reason my walk with God – and my life, by extension – radically changed in March 2013 is because I stopped saying, “No, Lord” and started saying yes … yes to forgiving my child abusers … yes to humbling myself in my marriage … yes to obeying laws that I don’t like (such as obeying the speed limit). I did not want to do any of these things, but nowhere in Matthew 16:24 does Jesus say that the disciple has veto power. If I want to be his disciple, the only option is complete and immediate obedience. Any other response reveals that I am not really Jesus’ disciple.

Does this mean I never sin? I’ll discuss that in my next blog entry.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Courtesy Amazon.]


Complicating Commandments to Get Out of Doing Them

money_flying_awayContinued from here.

I then thought about situations that I have chosen to make complicated. For example, I was in a Bible study years ago through my workplace, and nobody in the Bible study attended the same church. I was astounded to learn that they all tithe, and they were surprised to learn that I did not. Until that moment, I did not believe that anyone actually gives 10% of his or her income to their church. That seemed like a lot of money to me.

I complicated the issue in a manner worthy of a New Testament Pharisee (I do have a law degree, after all!). Am I expected to give 10% of my gross or net income? Doesn’t having to pay income taxes remove this responsibility since the tithe went toward the temple, which served a “governmental” role in some respects? Didn’t this rule “go away” in the New Testament? I’ll never forget the response that drove me to my knees and led me to obey God and tithe. One member of the Bible study, with a big grin on his face, looked me in the eye and said, “Grace, you are making this too complicated. It’s really simple. Everything you have belongs to God.”

The Bible is very clear: it says to tithe. I was not making this command complicated because it was unclear. I put a lot of energy into complicating a simple command because I did not want to obey it. I was looking for a way out of obeying God: to be able to receive the benefits of being a Christian without having to pay the cost – in this case, 10% of my income. If we are honest with ourselves, every time we put energy into complicating any command of God, what we are really doing to seeking a loophole so we can feel good about continuing to disobey God. We don’t get to have it both ways: God is not going to give us the benefits of being a Christian in the areas of our lives in which we are unwilling to submit to His authority.

Disciples of Jesus don’t have the option of complicating God’s commands to look for loopholes so we can get out of having to do what God tells us to do. Either you are obeying God, or you are not. If you are not obeying God, then you are not Jesus’ disciple. It really is that simple … again, not easy, but simple.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crying while thinking about her money flying away. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Holiness in Marriage

Continued from here.

One area of my life that has been profoundly improved through holiness is my marriage. In his book Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?, Gary Chapman explores the role of holiness in marriage. I have found that when I make holiness a priority in my marriage, I am much happier, and when I find myself discontented, I realize that I have slipped back into being self-focused instead of God-focused.

What does it mean to be holy in your marriage? In a nutshell, it’s living out 1 Cor. 13. It’s choosing to humble myself in my marriage, always asking what I can do to express love to my husband better than anyone other than God has ever expressed it before. This is not only in the big things but also in the little ones, such as getting a refill for him at a fast food restaurant when his cup is empty.

Sadly, our culture encourages a self-centered view of marriage, which is focused on the many ways my spouse should be meeting my needs. If he doesn’t meet them to my satisfaction, then it’s time to move on and find another spouse who will. What we fail to realize is that we are all imperfect people who are married to imperfect people who are incapable of meeting all of our needs. Only God can do that, and we harm our marriages when we expect our spouses to do God’s job.

I agree with Chapman that marriage provides a wonderful opportunity to practice growing in holiness and humility. Because God has joined the two people into one, what I do for my husband directly affect me. As I extend kindness to him, I extend it to myself. Conversely, if I am hostile to my spouse, I bear the weight of that hostility because we are one. So, marriage provides a unique opportunity that isn’t present in any other relationship to very directly experience the benefits of holiness or the consequences in its absence. My marriage has been a wonderful training ground for developing holiness beyond that relationship.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?. Courtesy Amazon.

What is Holiness?

questionContinued from here.

Before we can have a discussion about holiness, we need to understand what it is. I have heard it defined in different ways: righteousness … being in harmony with God … spiritual purity … refraining from sin … being set apart for a special use… My own definition of holiness is loving God so much that I want to please Him, not only in how I behave but also in how I think.

On her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer says that when we receive Jesus as our Savior, he plants a seed of righteousness inside of us, but we have to work to transition what was planted on the inside so it shows on the outside. So while God sees us as holy through Jesus, our reality is that our outside might reflect something very different, and the outside is what other people see. As an example, despite God seeing me as holy through Jesus, I was bitter toward my child abusers for many years, which is what people saw. The seed of holiness planted deep inside of me remained hidden, and I was ensnared in bitterness that made me – and thus others around me – miserable.

The only reason I chose to forgive my childhood abusers is because I love God. God placed this question heavily on my heart: “Do you love Me more than you hate them?” Honestly, it was a close call. When I chose to obey God out of love for Him, I began working that seed of holiness toward my outside. God healed my emotional pain as I repeatedly chose forgiveness (forgiveness is a process, not a moment). As I changed my thoughts and actions to align with God’s will, I became more holy in the sense that more of God’s holiness became apparent in my life.

Now, I could have chosen to stay bitter for the rest of my life, keeping God’s holiness hidden deep inside of me. If I had, not only would nobody see that holiness displayed in my life, but I also would have remained in bondage to my bitterness. By choosing to love God and obey Him, holiness worked its way from the inside to the outside, and my life got better in this area.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a question mark. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

How to Obey God When It’s Hard

will_doContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I promised to share the steps I take to stay obedient to God when I really, really, REALLY don’t want to.

Step 1 is to spend more time with God. When I am having an obedience problem, I’ll double up my time with Him. I’ll spend more time in prayer telling God all of the reasons why I don’t want to obey and then asking Him to change my “want to” to align with His. I’ll double the number of songs in my praise & worship time with an emphasis on songs that focus on praising God in the storm. And I’ll spend more time in His Word, focusing on Scripture that is applicable to my area of struggle.

Step 2 is figuring out which of the four fundamental beliefs I am struggling with the most because when I fully believe all four of them, I don’t have an obedience problem. Which am I doubting the most? God’s love? His goodness? His presence with me in this situation? Or His control over this area of my life? While I might be wrestling with more than one area, I’ll typically notice that one link is the weakest, so that’s where I’ll focus my efforts.

Step 3 is repentance. I’ll admit to God that I have been struggling with doubting His presence in this situation and ask His forgiveness. Don’t worry – He already knows! I will tell God that while my circumstances are tempting me to doubt His presence, I choose to believe His Word over my circumstances. (Yes, this is hard for me to do as well.)

Step 4 is to meditate on Scripture that builds my faith in that weak link area. For example, if I am struggling to believe that God is walking through this situation with me, I’ll meditate on Deut. 31:6 and Heb. 13:5. I’ll tell God that while I don’t feel His presence, I know He is with me because His Word says He is.

Step 5 is to obey God anyway. No matter how many doubts assail me, I’ll tell God, “I love You more. I’ve put all my eggs in Your basket, so either You will come through, or I’ll fail. I WILL obey You, no matter what I see.” This kind of faith is not easy, but it really is that simple.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace checking items off a checklist and saying, “Will do!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]