"We are all asked to do more than we can do."
These are the first words in this morning's devotional. I couldn't get past them. They stopped me dead in my tracks and hung in the air like a giant neon sign. The truth of them, the very truth of them. How they rolls around in my head.
But as I parse them, a few thoughts come to mind.
1. Our God is a God of order. Genesis 1 reveals this as clearly as any place in scripture. He created light first, divided that light into day and night, thn separated the earth into water and land...and so on. All very orderly. Likewise, he has gifted each of us in clear and certain ways. It's true that some of us may not (yet) have a strong sense of what His given gift is, but that doesn't mean He hasn't given it. Therefore, I believe that whatever He calls us to do almost always involves the gift HE gave. Yes, there are unusual moments when a person may be asked to act in contrast to what they know to be natural--"more than we can do" as these words say--but this call is for a specific moment or season, not the rule.
We've all heard people say (or something like it), "The last thing I would ever want to do is X, so it must be God," speaks from a faulty understanding of God's character, I think. God is LOVE. Such a sentence implies the opposite. They reek of fire and brimstone and God's desire to punish us by what He wants us to do for His Kingdom. He wants us to WANT to serve Him, not to go about His business with a heavy heart, clenched hands and a sense that such work is the worst of sentences. "In Him is Life and that Life is the light of men," John tells us in his prologue. "I have come to bring you Life, and not just life, but ABUNDANT life!" Jesus tells His disciples (paraphrase mine) in John 10:10. Our work for Him will bring life to us.
2. However. Sometimes we are stretched. Within our gifts. Most of us are lazy believers. At least I admit this. I have often been unwilling to allow Him to change me into more than I can be on my own. I know what He's asked of me, but fear and that laziness keep me from it. It's easier to justify what I'm already doing as proof that I'm involved in Kingdom work, than to admit that He knows (and expects) more of me. Perhaps you're different than this. But I recognize that His prompting for me to stretch is for two reasons.
First, obviously, it's to stretch the Kingdom. He invades the world through His people. That's a pretty humbling thought, isn't it? He invades the world through His people. We are His chosen instruments to change this planet. And we can. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to do just that. And with your gift and my gift and all our gifts put together, we have everything we need to broaden and deepen His word, His work, His Saving Grace to all people. WOW.
Secondly, we are stretched because of what it does for us. Also obviously, I suppose. If He's about the business of changing the world, He's also about the business of growing us up in Christ. The more we are willing to listen and obey and get outside of our comfort zones, the more this happens. Yes, just that simple. We are His children and He wants us to get beyond milk to meat so that we are His adult children.
3. It's possible to over-spiritualize what He asks of us. When things go wrong, or even when we face a choice, it's easy to look for the complicated answer. Or to be paralyzed from action because we expect something complicated from Him. One of the stories Beve often tells is being at a Bible study with a man who was supposed to take a trip across the state, but when he went out to start his car, the battery was dead. He asked the group to pray for him that he might have clarity about what God was trying to tell him. The man sitting beside Beve leaned over and whispered to Beve, "Buy a battery."
4. We are given circumstances in which we have to handle more than we thing we can. This is the world. The fallen, broken world. We might wish it otherwise, dread the truth of it, and pray that we never get what we see others facing, but none of us get out of it alive--this world, I mean. And I really believe that HE knows what we can handle. He knows far better than we do. A long time ago, when Beve and I had what might have looked like the 'perfect' life, I began to believe that there was a correlation between how much a person suffered and how much God knew a person could suffer. Does that make sense? Now that we live in a pressure cooker of pain and suffering and stress and exhaustion, I have to still trust that this is true. We have not been given more than we have the power to endure. Nor will anyone.
As I said at the beginning, God's a God of order. He will/does ask us to do more than we can do. But He asks it within our own lives. Where we live He stretches us. Who we are is who He asks to act. But He loves us. That is the rock bottom truth. He loves us and will never leave us--no matter what He asks or how hard it seems to us. And that, my friends, is the true word of the day.