When we pray, “Give me clarity, Lord,” we are actually saying, “Let me see clearly where I’m going before I get there.” If God answered that prayer, simple faith would become unnecessary.
Last year, I read a true story about a young man who asked Mother Teresa to pray that he would have clarity—but she refused. “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of,” she said. “I have never had clarity. . . . What I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”
Since reading this anecdote, I’ve never again prayed for clarity. I am desperate to trust Jesus more, which means I must resist the temptation to mentally jump into the future and figure out every detail of life. Now, my prayer is that the Lord would teach me to simply follow. Jesus said, “Follow Me,” which means that He leads, while we go after. It means we walk in the assurance and confidence that He knows where we’re going, and that’s all that matters.
Most of us lean toward one side of the fence or the other: we’re quick to be offended at others’ criticism while accepting their praise—or, mindful of the sin of pride, we reject their praise while putting too much stake in their condemning words. But when we have eyes for only Jesus, we’re immune to both the negativity and the praise of others. Neither one can get a rise out of a “dead” man, i.e., a believer who has been crucified with Christ.
When we have eyes only for Jesus, we stop striving to be noticed—through good behavior or bad. (Sometimes we get a kick out of shaking things up and eliciting the disapproval of others because the end result—drawing attention to ourselves—is still pleasing.)
Perhaps the most difficult thing of all is to stop being our own audience. Sometimes we assume that it’s okay to assess ourselves as long as we’re being critical, but this still requires self-observation. Have you every prayed and thought, “Gee, that was quite powerful!” or “Gosh, what a lame prayer.” Neither observation is possible when we focus on Jesus—not those around us, not ourselves— but only Him.
The American concept of “enough” is so warped that we equate being horribly in debt with success. We do not own our houses; they own us. Even the most affluent among us is often just a paycheck or two away from disaster. But the writer of Proverbs 30 prayed, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” In heaven’s economy, having only one’s daily bread is not considered poverty. According to the Word, having provisions for today’s needs—no more and no less—is enough. What a far cry from the American way.
Debt lays claim to not just our money but our thoughts, our time, our energy—while having a minimal amount of “stuff” frees us from being too attached to the earth. Our possessions are meant to serve us, not enslave us. There is great freedom in simple living. But surely we shouldn’t live like vagabonds! Or should we? Maybe Jesus, who had “no place to lay his head,” was on to something.
“Be a glutton for Me,” God said during my journey out of food addiction. I discovered that the greater my appetite for God, the duller my appetite for those things that were destroying me. I began to understand that it’s simply not possible to be too fixated on the Lord. I doubt that Jesus will ever greet someone at the gates of heaven by saying, “You went a little overboard in your devotion to Me.” I think He wants to be our “addiction.” I’m not talking about the sort of Bible-thumping, Scripture-ranting fanaticism that causes people to roll their eyes and accuse us of being “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.” I’m talking about cultivating a love for God that adds to the lives of others, even as we discover that He truly satisfies.
When you’re addicted to something, it owns you. It calls the shots and gets the first and best of your time, energy—everything. Only Jesus deserves that. In fact, He deserves nothing less.
In the journey from fear to faith, you might discover that fear has become so familiar that you barely know how to function without it. You might discover that it has received far more attention than God has and, as a result, it’s felt more like a friend than He has. For many years, fear was a daily companion. My definition of “normal” included anxiety, fretting, and stress. I had moments of peace, but abiding in that peace was a foreign concept.
Fear can take up residence in your heart until your capacity for things like contentment, peace, rest, and quiet joy is “broken.” But rest assured that holy fearlessness is possible, and that peace can occupy your thoughts and fill up those moments that fear once filled.
Never forget that to truly fear God is to fear nothing else.
While overcoming an addiction (mine was compulsive eating), it’s very easy to disregard the voice of God just long enough to do what you want to do. Addicts are experts at rationalizing and selective deafness. Therefore, with a compulsive sin, you’ve got to err on the side of restraint. The only way to secure victory is to make it a rule of thumb that when you’re not sure about whether God is saying yes or no, the answer is no. That part of you that is addicted is conniving, manipulative, and indulgent, and you can’t give it the benefit of the doubt—ever. It will attempt to shout down the promptings of the Holy Spirit: “I want what I want—now!” It never, ever has your best interests at heart.
But Your Creator does. He knows when one cookie, one drink, one flirtation, or one quick look through the clearance rack will lead to one more free-fall into a pit of shame . . . remorse . . . self loathing. Overcoming addiction means allowing God to call the shots. So, in those moments when you can’t seem to hear what He’s saying, you must refrain.
Sometimes, those of us who herald the message of grace are accused of using it as a get-out-of-jail-free card to excuse all sorts of rotten behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the risk of sounding harsh, I’ve got to say that those who equate grace with the license to sin do not understand grace at all.
A lover wants nothing more than to bring delight to the object of his or her affection. Think about it: my love for my husband drives me to find out what he likes and then do it; why wouldn’t my love for God drive me to find out what pleases Him and then do it?
Living by grace doesn’t cancel out living righteously—in fact, it makes it possible in the first place. Love for grace increases one’s desire for purity because, after all, Jesus the Grace-Giver is holiness itself. I was created to be like Jesus, and thus I want to braid my soul with His; I want to look like Him. I know He loves me no matter how ugly I’m behaving at the moment, but that’s not the real me. The real me extends mercy to all, loves the broken, is full of joy, and walks in holiness. The Vicki who behaves selfishly is unfinished—totally loved by God, but incomplete and groaning for completion.
Salvation and God’s will are both played out day by day, but too often we live as though salvation were a five-minute event that happened at some point in our past, and as though God’s will is “out there” in our future somewhere. Both are disconnected from our present; we remember one and wait for the other—but in reality, we are to be actively and responsibly enjoying our salvation and walking in God’s immediate will . . right here, right now.
Day by day, I am being saved: increasing in maturity, in my love for people, in my capacity for joy, in the fruit of patience. If someone asks, “When were you saved?” I should be able to answer, “Today.” If they ask, “What is God’s will for your life?” I should be able to answer, “I am standing in it, right here, right now.”
To do so is to find deep contentment.
Most Christians would agree that God has established boundaries for His children in many areas: entertainment, sex, relationships, finances, etc. Yet how many would agree that the same is true regarding food? We American Christians seem to believe that that’s the one area in which He deserves no jurisdiction—that we have free rein to eat what we want when we want as often as we want it. For anyone to suggest that He has given us guidelines is to suggest that we are “under the law.”
We’ve become so reckless and desensitized that we’ve made a habit of engaging in gluttony together. It’s one thing to recognize a hearty meal with friends as a gift from God, but it’s another to disregard all boundaries and then brag about it (“If I eat one more bite you’re gonna have to roll me out of here”). Are we those of whom it is written, “Their god is their belly”?
God is a personal God, and He’ll draw your boundaries according to what you need. To some, sugar is poison; to others, it’s not. Some fortunate individuals need few boundaries beyond “avoid gluttony,” while those who are recovering from food compulsion need plenty of specifics.
“A moderate religion is as good as no religion at all—and more amusing.” –The Screwtape Letters