(And It’s Not You!)
SYNOPSIS: The battle for what we might call “godship” is more prevalent than we care to admit. You see, when we fret and worry over matters we can’t control, when we meddle and manipulate to get our plans fulfilled, when we come to God after the fact for help, when we pray as a last rather than a first resort, when we cut corners in our financial stewardship because we can’t afford to give to the Lord’s work, and when we put our hope in government (or anything else) at the expense of our trust in God, in effect, we have removed God from his rightful throne. There is only One who is God—and that is neither you nor me. In light of that, have you told the Lord lately that you have no God but him? Maybe you should do it now!
Moments With God // Psalm 131:1
My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
There is only One who is God—and that’s not you! Basically, that is what King David is saying of himself in this brief song of ascent. The Message translates verse one this way:
God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,
I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
I haven’t meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.
Yet this business of godship is more prevalent than we care to admit. You see, when we fret and worry over matters we can’t control, when we meddle and manipulate to get our plans fulfilled, when we come to God after the fact for help, when we pray as a last rather than a first resort, when we cut corners in our financial stewardship because we can’t afford to give to the Lord’s work, and when we put our hope in government (or anything else) at the expense of our trust in God, in effect, we have removed God from his rightful throne.
There is room for only one God in your life, so let God be God. He has a great track record in that role, you know, and you don’t.
And by the way, when you allow God to be God, good things happen for you:
- You become the recipient of greater grace. Recognizing God’s rightful role takes true humility (the opposite of pride and haughtiness), as David describes, “My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty”—Psalm 131:1a. Of course, the Bible repeatedly tells us this is always the catalyst for greater grace. (Prov 3:34)
- You become the recipient of greater security. You put things that are above your pay grade back into the hands of the only One wise enough to handle them—what David calls “great matters or things too wonderful for me” —Psalm 131:1b (See how Paul describes them in Rom 11:33-36)
- You become the recipient of greater confidence. Someone else is running the universe, which means you don’t carry that great weight upon your shoulders. David says, “But I have stilled and quieted my soul” —Psalm 131:2a … which is possible only when you first walk with the Shepherd who leads you beside quiet waters and restores your soul.
- You become the recipient of greater contentment. David describes it, “like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content” —Psalm 131:2b (MSG) Paul says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Tim 6:6)
- You become the recipient of greater hope. “O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore”—Psalm 131:3. It is by Biblical hope, as Paul teaches, “we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” (Rom 8:24) “Hope” as Paul says in Romans 5:5, “does not disappoint us…”
Hmmm…grace, security, confidence, contentment, hope. I think I’ll let God be God!
Take A Moment
: Have you told the Lord lately that you have no God but him? Maybe you should do it now!
What You CAN Take With You
SYNOPSIS: In our culture, we get caught up in the chase for the temporal—fame, fortune, pleasure, and possessions—far too easily. God’s Word constantly reminds us that those things will do us no good the second we step from time into eternity. And if we fail to recalibrate our instruments, at some point, maybe in this life, but for sure, in the next, we will come in for a very rough landing. No, you can’t take it with you, but you can take your experience of pursuing what God’s wisdom calls us to prioritize: your experience of knowing God and internalizing the wisdom that comes from him, then living what you know and what you’ve embraced in your moment-by-moment life on earth!
Moments With God // Proverbs 3:15
Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.
“You can’t take it with you!” You have heard that saying, haven’t you? No matter what you amass in this life—wealth, possession, power, and fame—it will all stay outside the box on the day they lower that box containing your cold, clammy body six feet under. I have conducted dozens and dozens of funerals in my time as a minister, and I have yet to see a hearse pulling a U-Haul behind it. And it will always be that way. Why? Simply because of this one unalterable truth: You can’t take it with you!
I spoke with a friend a while back who experienced a pretty rough three-year stretch—and when I say rough, just imagine the worst. Yet he was doing well spiritually and emotionally. I asked him since God promises to bring good out of what causes us grief, what good had he seen in his Job-like experience. Without hesitation, he said his challenges had brought him closer to the Lord and had driven him to God’s Word, which he now loves passionately. He spoke of a new commitment to Christian community and closeness with brothers and sisters in Christ like never before. He shared about all that his journey through difficulties taught him, including the realization that the loss of his six-figure salary had no effect whatsoever on God’s track record of providing for his daily bread. In this most difficult journey, he had discovered “the wisdom that is from above,” as James 3:17 calls it—and nothing he had previously held dear could come close to that!
That man had found true wisdom, which God’s Word says is more precious than rubies, and nothing we desire can compare with her.
In our culture, we so easily get caught up in the chase for the temporal—fame, fortune, pleasure, and possessions. If that might be the case for you, I would challenge you to read Proverbs 3:13-20 and let the Word of God recalibrate your instruments, or at some point, you will come in for a really rough landing.
Let this proverb, and the two verses that precede it, remind you: “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Prov 3:13-14)
No, you can’t take fame and fortune, pleasure and possessions with you when you leave this life, but you can take your experience of knowing God and internalizing the wisdom that comes from him, then living what you know and what you’ve embraced in your moment-by-moment life on earth!
Take A Moment: Read Proverbs 3:13-20, then on a piece of paper, write down in one column the benefits of pursuing and attaining wisdom. After you have done that, write down in another column the benefits of pursuing and attaining money, pleasure, power, and things. The answer will be obvious, but it serves as a good reminder: Five minutes after your death, which column of benefits will matter then?
A Bad Regulator but a Powerful Spring
SYNOPSIS: Famously, Simon Peter was a bumbler. But let’s give him some credit: he may not have been perfect—by a long shot—but he sure was passionate! I suspect God prefers the passionate over the perfect. (Just a little hint: there are no perfect people, only those who think they are.) The Gospel writers included Peter’s gaffes with regularity to remind us that God uses imperfect people like you and me, especially the passionate ones!
Moments With God // John 18:25
Meanwhile, as Simon Peter was standing by the fire warming himself, they asked him again, “You’re not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “No, I am not.”
Peter usually takes a beating when evaluated alongside the eleven disciples. He gets labeled as the stumbling, bumbling, think-before-you-speak, foot-in-the mouth, inconsistent goofball from Galilee, whom Jesus, for reasons God only knows, selected to be one of his first disciples. Good old Peter—the first-century version of Gomer Pyle in the Lord’s little band of foot soldiers.
But let’s give Peter some credit. He may not have been perfect—by a long shot—but he sure was passionate! And he was there when the Jewish leaders arrested Jesus—at least give Peter credit for that. John 18 says when all the disciples but John fled and Peter, none other than Peter figured prominently in this scene. He was like a bull in a china shop—passionate, yes; perfect, no—but at least he was there:
- He whacked off the ear of one who came to arrest Jesus. (John 18:10-11, NLT) Passionate—but misguided!
- He surreptitiously followed as the High Priest’s SWAT team took Jesus to jail. (John 18:15-17, NLT) Passionate—but fearful!
- He stood among the soldiers as they warmed themselves by the fire. (John 18:18, NLT) Passionate—but silent!
- He denied knowing Jesus when questioned, but at least he was there to be questioned. (John 18:25, NLT) Passionate—but weak!
- He doubled down on his denial when questioned again. (John 18:26-27, NLT) Passionate—but fundamentally flawed!
Yes, Peter bears guilt for all the things we have said—misguided, fearful, silent, weak, flawed, no doubt about it—but passionate? You bet! Imperfect, but passionate to the core! Perhaps that is why Jesus gave Peter so much public attention and placed him so prominently on his leadership team. Like the very flawed King David, Peter had a heart after God.
God can use people like that. In fact, I suspect God prefers them over the perfect. Oh, and just a little hint: There are no perfect people, only those who think they are. Of course, I am not excusing Peter’s imperfection; only explaining it. But I think the reason the Gospel writers included Peter’s gaffes with regularity was not to put him down as the dunderhead we often think he is, but to remind us that God uses imperfect people, especially the passionate ones! He certainly used Peter; he became the leading apostle of the early church, influenced Mark in writing the gospel, and author two very rich epistles.
If you see yourself as imperfect, but still carry that passion for Christ, partner with the Holy Spirit to work on your flaws, but stay in the game. God will use you.
Take A Moment:
Ask God to give you greater passion. Pray for self-control and wisdom, too—but if you are like me, you probably need more passion than the other two.
Learn to T.H.I.N.K. Before You Decide, Speak, or Act
SYNOPSIS: How many lives have crashed and burned by a lack of discretion? How many careers have been ruined by an absence of understanding? How many marriages have failed and families imploded because of poor judgment? How much potential evaporated because someone did not make wise choices? Here’s a sobering exercise: Go back to your high school yearbook and take note of the wreckage of far too many people who squandered one opportunity after another simply by failing to exert discretion. Here’s the deal: God has given you a wonderful gift—the ability to choose wisely. Simply exercising discretion today will keep you from disaster tomorrow. I trust that you will use that gift to its fullest potential.
Moments With God // Proverbs 2:11
Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.
Harry Emerson Fosdick, the well-known preacher of a hundred years ago, wrote, “He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the end.” The ability to choose the right road is what discretion is all about.
The dictionary defines discretion as sound judgment and the power to decide rightly. It is the ability to judge right from wrong and choose what is wholesome from what is harmful. Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived, tells us that discretion—the power to choose plus the decision to choose wisely—is one of the main ingredients to wisely navigating the sometimes rocky and often dangerous course on the journey of life.
How many lives have crashed and burned by a lack of discretion? How many careers have been ruined by an absence of understanding? How many marriages have failed and families imploded because of poor judgment? How much potential evaporated because someone did not make wise choices? Here’s a sobering exercise: Go back to your high school yearbook ten, twenty, or thirty years after your graduation, and chances are you will see the wreckage of far too many people who squandered one opportunity after another simply by failing to exert discretion.
As noted, the practice of discretion, or the lack thereof, tells much about who we are and the places we will go in life. Listen carefully to the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words. It is expressed in the choices one makes.” She goes on, as does Solomon in Proverbs 2, to place the responsibility of exerting discretion and making wise choices squarely at our feet: “And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” (Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway, 143)
God has given you a wonderful gift—the ability to choose wisely. Simply exercising discretion today will keep you from disaster tomorrow. I trust that you will use that gift to its fullest potential. The choice is yours!
Now, the question you likely want to ask me is, “How can I nurture discretion in my life?” Or, “how can I help my child learn to use discretion as they grow into their teen and young adult years?” Well, I would say, first of all, that prayer never hurts. Ask God for it. James 1:5 exhorts, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
Beyond that, I think the THINK method ought to be a mental checklist we use and teach our children to use throughout the day. I am not sure who came up with this simple formula, but it is good. Before you decide, speak, and act, first THINK:
- T – true: ask, “Is this true?”
- H – helpful: ask, “Will this help me and others?”
- I – inspiring: ask, “Will this inspire people to greater heights?”
- N – necessary: ask, “Is it necessary for me to do this?”
- K – kind: ask, “Will those around me receive this as kindness?”
Train yourself—and your children—to THINK first, and your family will be known for its discretion.
Take A Moment:
Ask someone who knows you well and has observed you over the years to evaluate your life in the areas of wisdom and discretion. Ask for their honest opinion and be ready to hear their answers. Be even more prepared to take immediate action if changes are appropriate. Additionally, interview someone known for discretion, and ask them to share their formula.
The Greatest, Safest, Most Satisfying Place in the World
SYNOPSIS: Where is the greatest, safest, most satisfying place in the world? In the very center of God’s will, that’s where! So why not move there — ASAP. And here is a prayer that is a great first step in making the move in that direction: “Father, not my will, but yours be done!” Have you come to that place where you can surrender what you prefer to what God wills? When you can so entrust your life to the Father’s perfect plan — no matter what that means for you — you will have discovered, as Jesus did, the Divine eye in the midst of every Satanic storm. And that is the greatest, safest, most satisfying place in the world!
Moments With God // Matthew 26:39
Jesus went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Where is the greatest, safest, most satisfying place in the world for you and me? In the very center of God’s will, that is where! That is why praying, “Father, not my will, but your will be done.”
When we can learn to not only pray but earnestly desire God’s will for our lives—unpleasant and undesired circumstances notwithstanding—then we will have discovered what Jesus knew all along when he prayed that prayer on the very night he was betrayed: that he was in the Divine “eye” of the Satanic storm.
Jesus desired his Father’s will more than anything else—even life itself. He knew his purpose in life was to fulfill God’s plan: To redeem a lost world by his sacrificial death. He entrusted his own personal preferences to the One who not only works out all things for his own glory but for the good of his children as well. (Romans 8:28) That is why Jesus, whom Hebrews 12 calls, “the author and finisher of our faith,” looked at the cross with great joy. That is why he heroically endured this ghastly assignment. That is why he even despised the shame of hanging upon that cross like a death-row inmate. For Jesus knew that the path to the crown was by way of the cross. Now, he has arrived and is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
Have you come to that place where you can surrender what you prefer to what God wills? When you can so entrust your life to the Father’s perfect plan, no matter what that means, you will have discovered, as Jesus did, the Divine eye in the midst of every Satanic storm. And that is the greatest, safest, most satisfying place in the world!
Take a moment to absorb how Hebrews 12:1-3 says it:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [Jesus and others who heroically fulfilled God’s will], let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
Are you struggling with God’s will? Does it seem a little too much to handle? Keep your eye on Jesus! Consider what he went through! For if you endure your cross now, then afterward comes the crown!
Before he was martyred by the Naizis, German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in a letter from prison, “Much that worries us beforehand can afterwards, quite unexpectedly, have a happy and simple solution… Things really are in a better hand than ours.”
Did you catch that? Things are in Better Hands!
That’s why Jesus’ prayer, “Father, not my will, but yours be done,” is a really good prayer for you to pray. Your life—unpleasant and undesired circumstances notwithstanding—is in better hands than yours.
And after your cross, if you endure by doing the will of the Father, comes the crown.
Take A Moment:
Why not pray this prayer over your life before you go out for the day? “Father, not my will, but yours be done!”