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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Gauntlet of Fire”

I may not have much in common with a fire-breathing dragon, but I think something that all of us have in common with Ember in this episode is a desire to set ourselves apart from our parents at some point in our lives. Maybe we were unfortunate enough to not have the best, or even “nominal”, parents in the world and we want to rise above our background. Or maybe we had great parents…ones so great they left a legacy hard to live up to…and we want to make a story and name for ourselves. Or maybe we’re like most people and at some point we want to be apart from our parents and do things for ourselves. Ultimately all of these came from the same reason: independence.

Asserting independence is part of everyone’s development. Most of the time it takes the form of breaking out in teenage years and starting a period of disobedience or rebellion so we can make our own decisions, however minor at first. But even if it’s more gradual and later in years, eventually one gets a desire to do things for oneself and to make one’s own choices. It’s a necessary part of becoming a mature, healthy individual…even if at the time it’s plagued with catastrophe and false starts.

Which is why the majority of churches tend to confuse me in regards to the issue.

There was an infamous slogan years ago that was placed on bumper stickers nationwide: “God is my co-pilot”. However, as the years went on, most churches had a backlash to that with the following slogan: “If God is your co-pilot, switch seats”. The idea, of course, was that God isn’t there to be solicited for advice or to be asked for directions as we’re moving along in our lives, or even to walk hand-in-hand and side-by-side with us, but rather God is supposed to be in control of everything. We are supposed to surrender everything to him. In most churches in America, the emphasis nowadays is complete surrender and dependence on God for every action, no matter what or where. There are praise and worship songs all about giving up everything to God and not directing our own ways in the slightest, and even a lyric “we won’t move without you”.

While I can understand the point most people are trying to make with this, in my opinion that’s taking things not only a bit to the extreme, but might actually be counter-productive.

It’s undeniably true that in the Bible a lot went wrong because people didn’t bother to consult the Lord first. From the mishaps in the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 9)  and the times of the Judges (Judges 19-21) to Saul’s impatience to wait for Samuel to arrive (1 Samuel 13:1-15) to David’s insistence on conducting a census (2 Samuel 24) to the various corrupt kings of both Judah and Israel (1 Kings 12:25-33, 16:29-34, 2 Kings 16), there are a lot of people who suffered for going their own way. Enough, one might reason, to conclude that everything needs to be waited for a decree from God for. However, if one looks closer at those individuals in these cases, that might be an oversimplification. In each of those situations, the people knew already what God wanted of them. They just didn’t listen. God was neither a co-pilot nor a pilot in these cases; rather it was a situation where the “driver” went the wrong way and only later went back to God and asked him to declare it “right” even after he told them it was the wrong way all along.

But those instances aside, Lord Jesus wanted us to be complete and perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48). He wanted us to be mature, responsible individuals. And as already said, part of growing into maturity is not just asserting our independence but showing we can be responsible with it. We are, after all, free-thinking individuals with the ability to choose, which is why our good is virtue and our evil is sin; and we have a responsibility to ourselves and to God to uphold.

For example, we are to trust the Lord to take us through all difficulties. While I believe in that, if I had a difficult chemistry test back in college and I didn’t study, instead deciding to pray and rely on God to get me through it with an A, that would not only be foolish of me but irresponsible of God. It’s my own responsibility to study and learn if I want to improve myself, and to do what is required to get what is rightfully due to me. And I won’t learn to be diligent or self-sacrifical by letting God handle that part for me.

The same with health habits. I can’t pound away cheesecake and pizza all the time and pray to God to keep me thin and from getting diabetes. I have to take ownership of my own health and weight. It’s my duty to maintain the “temple” God has given me custody of.

And while I believe God does help us in instances of financial distress, I also don’t believe in just sitting around and expecting checks to appear out of thin air because I pray for them; not actually getting up and working or trying to make things happen to overcome the difficulty. Part of the power of God’s miracles is that he acts only after we are rendered totally helpless and unable to save ourselves from a situation, which thereby manifests his power as there is no other way out of that instance except through the power of God. Simply waiting for God to fix everything without lifting a finger to do anything ourselves…not so much. Paul even warned against this sort of behavior. “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

Still another example is in callings. Yes, God may call us to do something great or to fulfill a destined ministry. However, odds are more than likely that I’m not going to get that sort of calling if I just sit around at home waiting for it. If I’m wanting to hear the call of God, it’s probably best that I try to go “where phones are”, in the proverbial sense. There’s not much chance of me finding what I’m best suited to if I just hope it comes to me in a vision. And I won’t likely run into anyone I need to lead to Christ if I never go around to places where I can run into people, let alone connect with them.And if I want to try a mission trip or some sort of ministry, it’s probably best to start looking for one in my local church or other local churches rather than just hope one gets put on my doorstep, to say nothing of preparing myself for the ministry.

Sometimes I fear that waiting for the call of God can be used as an excuse for inaction. There are many small things everywhere we can do for God each and every day, and many opportunities to be like Christ to others. I don’t want to discount those by saying “I haven’t heard a call from God to do that” when he might be waiting for me to take the first step.

A pastor I once listened to put it eloquently. The Bible says that God takes care of all the sparrows…it didn’t say he dumps food in their nests. While we want God to direct our lives and to follow his direction day to day, remember that there are some things that we have to do for ourselves for no other reason than to prove ourselves mature and responsible enough for greater things; both in this world and from God.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that your guidance and direction is always available whenever I desire to look for it. I commit my life and trust to you today. Please use me however you see fit and direct me to help build the Kingdom of God. And if there are any tasks today that I need to do for myself, please confront me with them so that I can use them to grow in maturity and responsibility. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”