Monday, May 14, 2012

from Phoenix Preach: The Things I Think

The reason you think you’re not hearing from God is that He’s talking to you about your character, not your plans.

I'm a former Pentecostal, which is to say some people would say I'm a former enthusiast.  In that tradition it is not, to put it mildly, unexpected to anticipate or hope for specific direction from God about what to do with your life.  For a tradition so often steeped in synergistic soteriology and emphasizing the freedom of the individual it has been one of those strange paradoxes to realize that many Christians who talk so freely about free will seem obsessed with finding God's perfect will as though God had mapped out the entire alphabet for their lives and they desperately needed to make sure they got to letter K without being sidetracked by a number that turns out to lead into another alphabet.

People I have met who subscribe to monergistic soteriology, by contrast, have often had precisely the opposite practical approach, which is to say that since the Holy Spirit elects and saves you then as long as you're not going out sinning there's no particular plan God has any obligation to tell you about.  God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life in both cases but in the second case there's no point fretting about what that plan might be whereas in the first case it's paramount that you not "miss God's perfect will for your life."

But for mature and maturing Christians in either camp I have noticed, over decades, that they have concluded that seeking God desperately about "what" is never as important as seeking God about "who" or about "how".  This is, at the risk of making the wrong inference from Michael's point 3 at today's "The Things I Think" is what I have heard from other Christians over the years.  Maybe God's chief concern is less about the bullet-pointed life-plan you want coming to pass than about who you are no matter what does or doesn't happen in your life.  God the Father, Son and Spirit do not love you less or forsake you if you fail to live up to any of your dreams.

Whether or not I'm always comfortable making that observation (or anyone else in America is) is often the recurring struggle of faith for people in a country as affluent as the United States.  I wonder how often it is that you or I may consider our "fit" in "God's will" to be little more than whether or not we've realized our dreams, dreams that may or may not have anything to do with the development of our character as believers. It's awfully tempting to be defined by the "what" of accomplishments, knowledge, influence, or prestige rather than be defined by character (i.e. the fruit of the spirit).

I think the temptation for me is to consider myself a failure because of what I haven't accomplished and what I haven't accomplished is often basic stuff like having a steady job or staying in touch with friends and family because finances are tight. I also can't fit into pants I wore six years ago, which is another thing that sometimes dogs me a bit. Time and gravity will defeat us all, I have often said, but there are times when I admit I wish the inevitable victory of time and gravity felt like it was further off than the breath which a human life is.  The psalmists remind us that life is a breath.  Perhaps one of the perennial temptations for those of us in America is if you've got one breath in this life you want to hold on to it as long as possible and not just breathe that one breath like you were an ordinary person.


Michael Newnham said...

You did a very good job of "making your own application". You read me correctly...and I thank you for reading and thinking about it here.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Thanks, Michael.

Phoenix Preacher has become one of my favorites in the last few years.