Faithfully Connected

Not my will, but yours

6th March 2021

At the start of Zoom meetings you have to get through the repetitive connection conversations. “Have you clicked on video? Are you on mute? My video is off because I keep freezing when it’s on because my internet is so bad…” Virtual connections and relationships with people are tough but being a bit techy I can usually sort the IT problems that might otherwise exist at my end.

In terms of my relationship with God I am less sure that my connection is anything like what it should be. Honesty can be difficult.  

Sometimes I wish I could bear less temptation if 1 Corinthians 10:13 is true, that I won’t get more than I can bear. Life is tough. Just as I think I’m going through a better more “normal” period, bad things happen.

This week there have been more tests of my faith that negatively affect my health recovery, finances, optimism, hope and trust. I think I’m realising where the God and Me connection is a problem. It’s not an easy fix.

I’ve gone through all sorts of grief this week. Not just the anniversary of the death of my mother but continuing grief for what I see as the loss of my old life with all that it offered. And therein lies the problem.

My vision selfishly focussed on what I got out of life, rather than how God could use me. Pete Greig lists 5 stages of grief on p104 of his extremely helpful book “God on Mute.” These are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I’m jostling with stages 3-5.

It’s easy to pray at conversion, “I give my life to Christ” but do we, do it? Easy to say, incredibly demanding to do. God in Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us, true, but our love for him will be sacrificial too. That’s the truth that has really hit me this week. A life for Him can often be at the expense of our own pleasures.

It’s all too easy to pick out the scripture that fits our personal desires and avoid the other bits. We can even subconsciously interpret the bible in a way that fits our selfishness. Worse still we can be distortedly sold becoming a Christian as a route to a trouble-free life. BUT and it’s a big BUT.

If we are like apostle Paul and really want Christ, we may even want to “participate in his suffering” (Philippians 3:10) The bible has always been clear about suffering -but it’s not a good sell. (Romans 8:17) The “whole creation has been groaning” I’ve been groaning a lot myself this week.

On my internet connection I have learned how to prioritise different devices so that the time sensitive, such as TV and Telephone, get priority. In my connection with God my priorities and requests are often selfish. Is it my life, or have I made myself willing to serve?

God does have a plan for our lives. 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Do we trust that His plans for a better future are better than our own planned route. Do we trust that he does know what a better future for us might look like? Do we know the future we’d like better than Him? I’ve failed on how I have acted in relation to those questions repetitively.

I know I might be upsetting some evangelists now. They’ll have their shotgun theology ready.

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 16:23)

So you can ask for anything and you’ll get it. Like asking from Santa Clause?

In that day” and there the problem starts, what about the here and now? In the previous verse it is written, “Now is your time for grief” and the following one refers to asking, “in my name.” The grief bit I get. I am starting to see some good come from bad. Some good things have taken time to arrive in relation to the bad, but I’m starting to trust in His plan and have discovered that He has known about the future.

His route and preparation was better. I am still left with questions and doubt.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Living in Faith and putting his kingdom and righteousness first I fail at regularly. I still go my own way too often and don’t discuss much planning with the father, particularly when things have been going better for me personally.

My growing trust in God does not make the bad stuff easier. Post-accident I quickly get emotionally sucked in but can feel more at peace and have a better perspective later.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)

My wife is much better at managing current trials in the context of the future. Her, “whatever happens, we’ll work it out together” approach is amazing whist I struggle and cope far less well.

To be honest I don’t, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

My personal view currently is that if we really give our life to Christ, we should want to work with Him and for Him, because we love Him, trust Him, and want to serve Him more than ourselves. As such, and only as such, we are able to ask for things in his name.  

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”  (1 John 5:14) “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend what you request on your pleasures.” (James 4:3).

It’s a struggle, my default thinking is too selfish.

I have started asking God to help me with my selfishness. I often expect him to do all the work in this relationship. Faith is a gift not a skillset. Nonetheless it needs to be exercised.

But he wants me to want Him. I realise that He does not want to impose himself on me. I’m just too focussed on limiting myself to immediate and temporary desires. But I do realise where my connection has been failing. It’s a costly repair.

Sorting out my connection to the internet opens up a whole new world of possibilities despite the things that must be managed. I now need to work on my selfish sinful firewall and life router to get my faith priorities right. I am realising that He does want the best for me in ways I cannot understand. Jesus knew how challenging it can be living here.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Living in faith is hard. Reassuringly Jesus is active at His end.

I pray also for those who will believe in me” (John 17:20)

As I re-read my outpouring reflections, including this one, I can see there is arrogance where my thinking has moved on and I’ve criticised alternative thinking.

The testimony of others has been both humbling and inspiring. My current thinking is, no doubt, just as flawed as my past. I have not got this all sussed. I find the Bible an inexhaustible steadfast and protective teacher and I will always have more to learn.

There is also confession of failure in these reflections. I depend wholly on our Holy God and the love He provides to my undeserving self.

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