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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What's holding YOU back?

This past weekend, I attended a seminar that featured Elizabeth George as the primary speaker.  She spoke on loving God with all of our mind, and used one of my favorite verses as her reference - Philippians 4:8.  “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”

How much of my life would be different if I allowed my thoughts to be held in check against this verse!!!

I have a hard time making solid decisions (ones that I don’t unmake 15 minutes later) in some areas of my life.  If it’s a financial concern - I can make that decision.  If it’s a moral concern - I can make that decision.  When it comes to matters of ministry - I can be a mess.  It takes a Perfect Storm for me to have the confidence to take a stand, make a change, make a move, or put my walking shoes to go somewhere else.

Why am I so afraid?  I took a quiz in Oprah’s magazine this morning.  (Don’t judge me - you know those magazine quizzes are quite enticing!)  It was entitled “What is holding you back?” and it was part of an entire section dedicated to discovering and acting on the discovery of what your purpose is in life.

I had to take the quiz twice.  The first time I had nothing holding me back, but the questions were geared toward career changes - promotions, business start up, ambition.  Easy peasy questions.  Then I substituted ministry situations, as well as a recent acceptance that God wants me to use written or spoken words.  (I hope someday to complete that sentence.  It should say “use written or spoken words to…” and then a result or intended goal.  However, all I know to do today is use the words - God hasn’t filled me in as to what they are supposed to actually DO.)  What a mess I made of that quiz!  Of course, the quiz designer assumed a person was held back by a consistently recurring fear - of success OR of failure OR of disapproval.  I had them all.  My biggest fear of all wasn’t in the results, though.  I’m most afraid of ME.

Too much confidence outside a secular or practical situation is terrifying to me.  I know the downfalls of pride, arrogance, misplaced confidence, ego, incorrect conclusions, or mistaking a circumstance as a sign.  I’ve made every one of those mistakes in one area of my life or another.  I’d rather do nothing than mess up a situation with higher consequences than an angry teenager or a reluctantly cooperative vendor.  I’ll do background support instead of fully using my abilities so that the liability isn’t mine.  “Just following orders, here.”

Do your fears paralyze your drive?  Do your worries stop you in your tracks?  Does your chewing gum lose it’s flavor… oops - occasionally my mind goes on a side trip.  Do you find that by the time you’ve thought through all the variables, possibilities, methods and madness of something - you’ve become bored with the subject and you walk away - believing it’s not for you, or you wouldn’t have lost interest?  Are you looking for a reason to sit on the bench so you don't have to face the uncertainty of the game?

Is God able to use you, or do you believe rational lies  rationalize your way out of each and every opportunity that comes your way.  Fess up! 

Here is how my own trip to the bench sounds in my head. 

“I don’t want to get my ego involved or look like a difficult person, so I will just adjust to changes that I really feel are detrimental to the ministry I’m involved in.  I’m just me, what will they think if I start interjecting my opinions with confidence?  I’ll just be quiet.  I don’t want to seem arrogant or prideful, so I won’t refer to myself as a writer.  There have been centuries, no, millennia of compositions produced by people with amazing lives and important revelations - am I deluded with sinful self-importance to think I could say something that hasn’t already been said - maybe I should just point at other people’s writings.

“This is probably a waste of time to write about so publicly, because there is no usefulness to the tedious and boring sorting out of my psychological, emotional and spiritual baggage.  One day I’ll get blindsided with the revelation that I‘m foolishly diving into a writing pool that I‘m not qualified to swim in.  Am I boring God with my subject material?  Should I write something different?”

It is Satan that accuses the brethren.  He is called the accuser in Revelation 12, but his work is seen many places in the Bible. Elizabeth George shared that when her first manuscript was sent to the publisher - a publisher that requested she write the book in the first place (this wasn’t something she’d pursued out of the blue) it was turned down in a blaze without glory.  She went for a walk that afternoon and in her head, this thought started, “Who did you think you were… to write a book… who do you think you are to think they’d publish it…”  I could hear that accusation in my own head in a multitude of situations and circumstances.

God has an opposing view to Satan‘s accusation that you are mistaken to believe you have something to offer - Psalm 139.  If you want to know exactly what God knows about you - read that chapter.  He’s not only “in the loop” on who you are - he owns the loop.  Verse 14 says - “I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works.”  Are you thankful for how God made you?  This is the chapter of the Bible God brought to Elizabeth’s mind to remind her that she was his wondrous work - fearfully and wonderfully made.  She had the talents he wanted her to have she didn’t have the ones he intended that she didn’t have. 

Not trusting our own discernment when it comes to our aspirations and heart’s desire is normal.  Gideon was visited by an Angel of the Lord and told that he was selected to deliver Israel from the Midianites.  Gideon balked, “Who, me?  Don’t you know that my family is the least in Manasseh, and I’m the BABY of the family!”

God assured Gideon that he would go with him, and yet Gideon had a hard time believing that he, of all the people God had to choose from, was selected by God to do this important thing.  He proceeded to make the angel wait while he prepared an offering.  Gideon didn’t just go out to the barnyard and bring in a lamb - he made bread, put the meat in a basket, put the broth into a pot and brought all of this out to the angel.  The angel touched the offering with his staff and it burst into fire.   Gideon was astonished! 

The angel commanded that Gideon pull down the altar his father built for Baal and present a burnt offering there.  Gideon was too afraid to do so in broad daylight, so he did it under the cover of night.  The community was outraged and when they found out who did this, they requested Gideon’s dad to present Gideon so they could put him to death for what he’d done.

Gideon‘s dad said, “If Baal is mad, let him defend himself.  If he’s a god, surely he can do something about this himself.” 

Gideon was still plagued by the doubt that God had this special thing for him to do.  He told God about it.  Time and again he pleaded for God to not be angry with him, but to provide additional evidence that He truly wanted Gideon to deliver the Israelites.  (I can relate to Gideon’s mistrust of his own senses, can you?)  Not only did God provide reassurance and signs for Gideon, but he whittled away the army Gideon started with from 22,000 to 300.  There would be no doubt at the end of this campaign that God had a plan that no rational general would use as his strategy.

James 1:5 encourages us to take our lacking selves to God directly… “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

So, when you find that you don’t have the wisdom to discern whether or not God wants to use you, whether or not you can accomplish his tasks, whether or not he has a plan for you - because of whatever roadblocks from your own past or background make you unfit for duty - take it to him.  Ask for wisdom, and he will give it - without reproach. 

He already knows what you’re feeling and thinking, so if you think you’re going to surprise him with an unknown failing in your character that will shock him…. You are no different than the 5 year old with chocolate all over his face believing that his mother doesn’t know chocolate is one of the desires of his heart - remember Psalm 139 where it says “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, Though dost know it ALL.”

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are God’s works and you are one of them.  Only Satan benefits from making you believe that you are a useless mistake.  Only Satan benefits from accusing you of being sinful in acknowledging that God’s word is true and he can not only use someone like you, but he can and wants to use YOU.  It isn’t because you are perfect, because who exactly could you relate to if you were?  Jesus doesn’t need you to minister to him.  He‘s already aware of his own superspectacularness.  It’s when your broken humanity is changed by God into something new and surprising (not surprising to God, but to those that are NOT omniscient) that the miracle occurs.

He gives you the talents he wants you to have.  You possess what he wants you to possess to start his work.  While you may doubt your abilities in relation to others that you believe are better qualified, the truth is this isn’t a job interview, where God will pick just one - it’s a call to action.  If God is for us, who can be against us?  You already know who - don’t be his accomplice.