My idealized life story:
- Graduate with a degree in Biblical studies
- Do something ‘grand and glorious’ for God, and see tangible change
- Marry man of my dreams (strict qualifications, of course)
- Have amazing children
- Die with an extraordinary legacy
Now, I’m an expert manipulator, as are you. Like it or not, we use, and oftentimes subconsciously use, manipulation to get to where we want to be in life– and to get what we want out of people. We do it to those around us, and we even try to do it to God. Even in wonderful, God-honoring plans of our own devising, we can try to manipulate our own fingerprint onto our lives.
In the list above, it would seem, there is nothing dishonoring to God. These are great dreams and goals. But, since these are my own dream and goals, I have become aware that, deep down, they partly exist to manipulate God into loving me and giving me what I need from him by what I give Him and do for Him. I’ll explain:
- If I work hard to ‘know’ a lot about the Bible and God, then I will grow closer to Him and He will be pleased with me.
- If I spend my whole life serving God and others, and laying my life down selflessly for Him, then He will love me more.
- If I marry a ‘Jim Elliot’, he will serve to help me get to numbers 1. and 2.
- If I have children that love God, then God will see me as successful.
- If I leave an ‘Apostle Paul’ type legacy, then God will see me as valuable and special.
At the root, these desires aren’t wrong. To desire to want God to be pleased with me, to love me, to see me as fruitful, and to see me as special is not wrong. It’s what I do to meet those desires that make it wrong.
As Christians, each and every individual has God’s full attention. There is nothing I can do to make Him any more pleased with me than He already is. There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more than He already does. God already views my life as a success, and He already sees me as a prized, special vessel–even if I never do anything to attain these things. Why? Because Christ is that for me, and He is worthy for me. He is everything for me and to me. Though I fail and fall, God will not love me less, because Christ is in me; and if Christ be in me, I am blameless–brilliant.
In conclusion, It is His work, not mine. There is nothing I could give Him to manipulate my standing with Him. I have nothing to give, and He gives everything. Honestly, this is pretty revolutionary for me. What is revolutionary is the ‘receiving’ aspect about walking in relationship with Christ. Actually, to be perfectly honest, what’s revolutionary about being in relationship with Christ is that it’s all receiving. We really have nothing to give, which sounds edgy to some because we so badly want to bring something to the table; but we waste our time, for the table has already been set–the Lamb has already been slain. Similar to the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, we try to work hard to get what we want–what we really desire; we try to impress God when He is already knocked out by us. He says to us, “Sons and daughters, I am always with you, and all that I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31).
It is so hard for us to accept this truth: that we are the recipients of everything we desire in Christ, grace upon grace–gift upon gift. We don’t need to work for love; we must simply receive.