Monday, March 5, 2012

I Can

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."  Philippians 4:13 (KJV)

I think quite possibly I have heard today's verse quoted more than any other throughout life.  I have quoted it many times to others as a means of trying to encourage them and give them hope that through Christ nothing is impossible.  It is amazing how easy it is to tell others what they need to do, how much they need to believe and trust, and the answer to every problem.  Yet, when it comes to me, my own situations, my feelings of inadequacy and my own inequality to the tasks in front of me, I fail to take my own advice.

There is something God has been calling me to do.  Actually, it is a quest that I have been dreading for quite some time.  I have felt Him nudge me, ever so slightly and gently, and I have felt my inward spirit respond to His prompt with thoughts like "Yes, Lord, I know", only to dismiss His wooing, hoping He will be patient with me for a little while longer.

During a recent time alone with Him in prayer, He made it crystal clear to me that it is time.  I have put it off long enough, and to postpone it longer will be a direct rebellion to His will for me at this moment in time.  As I prayed, I saw the path before me open up and it couldn't have been more plain.  Knowing what He wanted, I made up my mind to just do be obedient.  One thing I have learned throughout life and on my Christian journey is matter how difficult the feat in front of me, it is definitely easier to just be obedient and do the right thing.  To try to find an easier path, to run from it, or to put if off, only makes things harder.

Remember, Jonah?  He had the call of God on his life.  He couldn't deny it, couldn't wish it away, couldn't go back in time to before God called him.  God had a job, and Jonah was the man for it.  God clearly told him to go to Ninevah, a place where wickedness abounded, and warn them that if they didn't straighten up in 40 days, He would destroy them.

Jonah had other plans.  He didn't particularly want to go to Ninevah.  So, he decided he would head off to Tarshish instead.  He paid his fare, got on a ship, and began the life of a fugitive...from God.  Ever been one? It just, plain isn't worth it, as Jonah soon found out.

Here's a song I heard years ago and recently found a beautiful, a cappella version of...

    Jonah thought he was doing a great job hiding out, running from God, fleeing God's call upon His life.  He even got so comfortable that he fell asleep on the ship.  I guess he thought he had really pulled it off and he had outsmarted God.

Not so.  God knew where he was...the whole, entire time.  He sent a horrible storm so strong that the captain and those on board were fearful the ship would be broken to bits.  They threw their cargo overboard to lighten the load, and every one of them were frightened for their lives.  The shipmaster came along and found Jonah...sound asleep in the sides of the ship...seemingly without a care in the world.  He woke him up, scolded him, and told him to start praying to his God.

Back in those days, if they wanted to find a guilty party, they would cast lots.  Whoever the lot fell upon, was the culprit.  When the mariners cast lots, who do you think the lot fell upon?  You guessed it!  Jonah was as guilty as he could be, and now everyone knew it.  All of his pretenses melted away, and he knew God was still on his trail.  He hadn't outrun him.  Now, He had to face Him and the impending punishment he knew would follow.

We've all heard the story.  The men threw Jonah overboard, a large fish swallowed him, he spent three days in its belly, out of its belly he prayed earnestly for one more chance, and God, in His great mercy granted it to him.  The fish vomited Jonah on to dry ground, and this time, he was ready to mind God.  He did what he should have done in the first place.  It would have saved him a heap of trouble and the others on the ship, too.

How many times have each one of us recoiled from something God was asking us to do?  How often has He borne with us, ever-so-patiently, only to see us walk away in the opposite direction, as far as possible from the dreaded thing He was asking of us?  The process of bringing us back, reeling us in, returning our feet to the right track is not an easy one....on us.  We ultimately pay the price for disobedience...every, single time.  Isn't it just easier to do the right thing?

The thing He is requiring of me right now involves a great deal of self-denial and sacrifice and, to be honest, it isn't an easy thing at all.  I know, in the long run, it will be good for me...God means everything for our good.  I know the end result will be one of a better, improved me.  As I prayed the other night and the reality of what God was asking sunk in, I finally surrendered.  I waved the white flag, and I made up my mind that it just isn't worth the energy and exertion to fight against Him.  Has anyone ever fought against Him and won?  Job 9:4 (KJV) says, "He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength:  who hath hardened himself against Him, and hath prospered?"  The one who opposes God always loses....always.  I decided in prayer that I would not put myself through the disobedience, the guilt that would follow, the cloud of condemnation that would absolutely hang over me, and the chastening that would inevitably ensue.  I resolved myself and made a consecration that I will mind God.

Today, I stood looking into our bathroom mirror, and I looked myself square in the eye...for a long time.  I don't like mirrors.  They are a stark reminder of every discrepancy and physical shortcoming I have, and frankly, I avoid them at all costs...most of the time.  Not today.  I not only looked into my own eyes, but I was brutally honest with myself...and I told myself that I am worth this....this sacrifice God is asking of me.  If He didn't love me, if He didn't care so much, maybe I could use my age-old argument that I am not worth any amount of sacrifice.

But, today I reminded myself that Jesus died for me...for ME.  For me???  Why?  How could He?  I am undone, unworthy, sinful, vile, and so far below the bar of His holiness.  But, He did it for me just the same.  So, if He loves me that much, I can look myself in the eye, and I can say that I am worthy of what it is that He is asking me to do.  And I can mean it from the bottom of my heart.

Today, I started my quest...this path God is asking me to take.  I hope I make it.  I hope I don't fall short halfway into it.  I hope I don't crumble because it is hard.  Because if I stick it out...if I don't crack and give in to an easier path....this will be so good for me.  It will be hard on the flesh...the denial, yes, but mostly the spiritual and emotional process that will take place within me.

It isn't easy to face ourselves.  To have God come along with His pruning shears and begin to cut off and trim the things that He wants us to let go of.  He has shown me that this process will cleanse and purge some undesirable things away....physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  The process has begun, and I have cried today.... a lot.  But, it is all good, and I am determined to follow Him to this place.

He is with me...every step...and I can do this...through His strength.

What do you need to do?

What is your Shepherd asking of you?

What do you desire to accomplish?

Does it look impossible and seem insurmountable?

Put your mission here:  I can ______________________ through Christ which strengtheneth me.

You can do it, my friend.

One of my dear friends gave me a plaque.  She had spotted it one day in a store and called to read it to me over the phone.  She bought it and surprised me with it this past Christmas.  It is sitting in our kitchen so I can see it and read if often throughout the day.

It says, "The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you."

I have a little sticky note that my dear husband gave me a couple of years ago...I put it in our checkbook, so I see it every time I record something in the register.

It says, "If God brings you to it, He'll bring you through it."

Wonderful words...and even sweeter because the reminder is in Kevin's handwriting.

So, place your frightened, trembling hand in His, and feel His strength flowing through you.  Allow Him to shoulder the load.  We can do nothing without Him.  We've all proven that, time after time.  But, when we admit that, when we own up to our own frailty and inadequacy, when we allow Him to lead, anything is possible.  He wouldn't ask it of you, if He didn't have the grace you need to accomplish it.

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