“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (NASB).
Some time ago as I questioned God about a rocky and hurtful relationship, I was reading a book which seemed to inspire my thinking on how to respond to my friend. I took copious notes. I underlined passages that fit in with my plan. I envisioned the conversation I would have with her. I knew God’s will and it included lots of boundaries and little grace. She must follow my guidelines in order to have a friendship with me.
Then, as if my eyes were opened, I saw the formula and how my formula would protect me from hurt, uncertainty, and confusion. It didn’t require me to be open to Spirit-led responses in the moment, because I would have everything mapped out. It didn’t require me to walk moment by moment in the Spirit’s power because I would store up my ammunition and have the bullets already loaded in my spiritual gun. And there were no blanks allowed.
There was nothing wrong with the book I was reading. The problem was my spiritual vision which processed an interpretation based upon my fearful heart. I will protect me and this is how. Protection was the filtering gauze through which I saw the friendship.
Until the Holy Spirit tugged at my shoulder and God tore the gauze in two, prompting, “What would it be like to trust Me moment by moment as you interact with your friend, whom I love?”
Ah, formulas. They feed sin.
Francis Chan writes, “It is easy to use the phrase ‘God’s will for my life‘ as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience. It’s much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes. It’s safer to commit to following Him someday instead of this day.
“To be honest, I believe part of the desire to ‘know God’s will for my life’ is birthed in fear and results in paralysis. We are scared to make mistakes, so we fret over figuring out God’s will. We wonder what living according to His will would actually look and feel like, and we are scared to find out. We forget that we were never promised a twenty-year plan of action; instead God promises multiple times in Scripture never to leave or forsake us.
“God wants us to listen to His Spirit on a daily basis, and even throughout the day, as difficult and stretching moments arise, and in the midst of the mundane. My hope is that instead of searching for ‘God’s will for my life,’ each of us would learn to seek hard after ‘the Spirit’s leading in my life today.’” (Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, David C. Cook, 2011).
Pastor Chan goes on to clarify that God does have purposes and plans for each of us and He does want us to seek Him to know them. But God didn’t give Abraham a map, He just said “Leave now and I’ll show you where to go.”
I do want to clarify that there are times when God directs us to set boundaries, to make plans, to have a mission statement, to have goals, and a variety of other things like that. But let’s be open to whether that is truly God’s leading or a self-protective sinful strategy.
Because living moment by moment is scary. Formulas are safe.
Living moment by moment is confusing. Formulas are clear.
Living moment by moment is ______________. Formulas are _____________.
What words would you put in there? Would you be brave enough to share them in the comment section?
Which do you depend upon the most?
Let’s confess those idols of formulas and seek moment by moment dependence upon God. I have a feeling it’ll be an exciting and adventurous ride.
(Photo found at http://www.levimage.com/image/hspw/OpenBook.jpg)