”In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.” Philippians 1:4-6
Most of my friends are crazy creative—they’re singers or graphic designers— or they’re crazy empathetic—doctors, teachers, nurses—but either way, they’ve made a career out of their passion, instead of having it as a side project. And I love that about my friends, love that they dream with their hearts, but obviously, I’m the opposite of that, and therefore the exception to the rule. So, when I meet someone who’s in business, it’s borderline embarrassing how excited I get to talk about the more technical aspects of our work, because my other friends just don’t deal with mundane (or, again, the friends in medicine who are a different strain of genius, and therefore way over my head). All this to say, I was chatting with a friend the other night, and the topic of responsibility/management came up—what, managerial styles don’t just surface in casual conversation?
In my defense, it was in the span of a conversation that covered a plethora of different topics, some of which were related to America. Some of which were also related to personality tests. And…the mafia. I digress.
We both were saying how easy it is for us to commandeer a situation. That whatever self-worth we have has been, for so long, tied to our ability to perform. We equate success with production of results, with efficiency, and that serves us well in a business setting, but every now and then we feel it seep into our church lives.
Like in meetings, classes/discussion, or even in small groups, the pressure we feel to ‘add value’. And, conversely, the temptation to take over when we feel our standards aren’t being met. Personally, I know my strengths—I’m a good administrator, moderator, and big-picture-seer—and I sometimes have a hard time when whoever is leading out isn’t those things. I have these skills, I want to say, let me put them to use for good.
The problem with that is that it becomes me helping God. My strengths are mine, instead of gifts; hubris clouds my vision. I get so wrapped up in what I can do, what I can change, how my capabilities can enhance whatever we’re doing. And the worst of it is that I can do all of that in good conscience.
So I joined the a capella choir at my church and one of the songs we’re singing is called ‘Nothing I Hold On To’. The actual lyrics are pretty simple, but I’d been so focused on keeping my harmonies straight that I didn’t listen to them until we talked about it in a devotional.
I lean not on my own understanding; my life is in the hands of the Maker of heaven. I give it all to you, God, trusting that you’ll make something beautiful out of me. And I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open–there’s nothing I hold on to.
So hearing those words, like for the first time, was humbling and challenging, because I was singing them and absolutely not meaning them. We talk about surrendering our hearts and wills to God, but then so often we leave that talk in pews and go about our days and weeks without that mentality.
Am I giving everything to God— or just the things I can’t handle? Is there nothing I hold on to— or do I keep some pet projects, reluctant to relinquish them? Are my hands wide open— or do I clutch a couple of things tightly while asking for blessings? Do I trust that He can make something beautiful out of me— or do I wait to see the mess I make before asking Him to polish me?
Trust isn’t trust if it’s the last resort.
Will God be patient, wait for us and rescue us when we ask? Absolutely. But how much more faith do we demonstrate when we don’t trust out of necessity?
Philippians 1 is (aptly) called the Thanksgiving prayer; Paul reflects with gratitude on how the church at Philippi has been striving for the gospel alongside him. In verse 6, he says this phrase “that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus“, and the key point here is, again, who’s active. it’s not that Christ magnifies our good works, or that we can put in some effort and He can bless it. It’s that all the good in us, it’s not us. It’s Him. He has begun the work, and He will finish it. He will complete it, in His time, by His hands, with His grace.
I’m not really a part of that equation.
Is that fear of relinquishing control still there? Ohhh yes. And when I stop to think about that, of course God can do a better job of my life than I can. But not if I keep my fists clenched tight around it. When I let go, trust, climb the mountain with open hands, then God can begin to make something beautiful out of me.