27.9.15

Steadfast

When Elisabeth Elliot died a couple of months ago, I ran to the library and checked out a stack of her books.  Many of them I've read before, but like all of the really great books, there's something new to learn at different ages and stages of my life.  As I read and re-read those words of hers, the legacy that she is leaving with me is her obedience apart from feeling.  It's quite a new revelation to me, seeking obedience to God more than my own personal happiness.  I think I grew up a little when I figured out the difference.  Because when I really thought about it, I realized how much of my thoughts and actions - basically everything - was decided by how I happened to feel at any given moment.  The Bible says this about the Israelites during the time of the Judges: "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."  I can't read those lines without a giant *sigh* because I know that would be a pretty good description of me, too.

But what would have happened if Noah hadn't liked God's instructions to build the ark?  What if Esther had been overcome by her fear of facing the king?  And think of what would have been had Jesus not felt like dying that day?  There wouldn't be any story to tell without each of their deliberate insistence on obedience.  No one whose first concern is feeling good can be a disciple, writes Elisabeth.  The world tells me to do whatever I feel like, so when obedience is the standard by which I live my life, everything changes.  It means saying yes when I want to say no, and saying no when I want to say yes.  It means not keeping score in relationships.  It means praying instead of worrying.  Obedience means choosing contentment, no matter what my circumstances.  Today it meant taking a nap (and obedience felt great!).    Some acts of obedience require giant leaps of faith, but most of the time it consists of quiet day-to-day acts of faith - what Elisabeth calls "doing the next thing".  The latter is the most challenging for me to live out.  Obedience in some things gets easier over time.  But the cost of obedience keeps changing because in every new season it's different.   I guess it's God's way of keeping us on our toes!

The long push toward obedience is made up of a million small choices.   I can obey joyfully, leaning into the Giver.  I can obey begrudgingly, counting the cost at every turn and and tapping my foot in impatient waiting.  Or I can disobey and bear the consequences that inevitably follow.  Breaking life down into the small choices that I make here and there makes life seem more manageable. I've found it helpful lately to ask myself the question, what would obedience look like in this situation?  Or as is more likely my case, after I've already messed it up,  I can ask, What would it have looked like?  I love Elisabeth Elliot's question she asked herself when faced with a choice: "Which way to God's Kingdom?"  It's not always an easy answer, but the more I get to know God, His character, and His Word, the easier the answers come.  I'm learning that it isn't about knowing all the answers - it's knowing who to ask.  I don't need to be afraid of what I don't know. 



And so my prayer comes from Psalm 51: "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me".  Steadfast is firm, stable, established.  It's not so much the condition of my heart or mood as much as what I place my hope in.   God never changes, and the One I am obedient to won't ever say "I don't feel like it."  Thank God he's not like me!   I've been trying to come up with a list of the things that I can really be sure of.  The list is very, very short.  It has nothing to do with anything I can see and everything to do with God.  "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." -Luke 21:33.   

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

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