Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let Go and Let God?

Reading:  Joshua 23  
Sorry for the corny title, but whatever the form, how often have you or people you know struggled trying to comprehend how to not “work in the flesh,” but to “let God do it”? People often seem perplexed by the idea somehow we have to do things in life, but we aren't to do it in our own strength, but “in the strength that God provides” (1 Peter 4:11). At the end of the day many try to find the “mystical middle” between the two extremes, while it ever seems to elude us. Every so often in this discussion someone comes along and offers the old cliché, “let go and let God,” and we are confused again about whether we should be doing anything, and if we do, if that some hinders God.
This morning as I read in Joshua, I was reminded of another passage in Philippians. These two verses may help us get our arms around this issue. In the first text, Joshua is speaking to Israel after they have gone into the promised land, driven out the inhabitants of the land, and taken their inheritance.
The LORD has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the LORD your God. (Joshua 23:9-11)
Why was Israel successful in taking the promise land? Well, if you looked merely on the external issues you might say, “because they got up and went and fought.” There is something they did. Of course, if you read the book of Joshua you realize that when the Lord wasn't fighting for them, they failed miserably (reference the story of Achan in chapter 6). But when they weren't in active rebellion against the Lord, they got up and did what they needed to do each day and the Lord was behind the scenes, invisible, fighting for them. They fought, but one routed a thousand. This was faith: walking in the knowledge that God would do what He promised.
As I read this, I was reminded of a familiar verse.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)
How do I obey God, but not in my own strength? How do I pray, but not in my own strength? How do I serve my brothers and sisters in Christ, but not in my own strength? How do I prepare a sermon, but not in my own strength? Does that mean that I simply pray and trust the Lord to lead me as I preach, but don't spend hours breaking down the text, looking up background information, and don't bring any written notes with me into the pulpit? Of course I need to do all those things, but I need to do them realizing that it is God who will open the text up to me, according to his good purpose, as I study hard. Even more importantly, realizing that I am dependent on God to open the hearts of the hearers in order for the message to have effect. And of course I pray and serve others, but I don't do this thinking that I have the strength myself, or discouraged at what at times appears to be the pathetic results, but knowing that God is working through my weakness to accomplish His glorious good.
At the end of a day or two of study, I often feel like I've accomplished nothing. At the end of prayer, I often feel that nothing has happened. When serving others, I usually feel like I've done nothing... the least I could do (literally). I can imagine that an Israelite going up against a thousand felt insignificant and useless. But it was God who worked (fought) in them. But, fight they did; and pray, or study, or serve, you will. Yet, God has promised to work in you. Don't be discouraged with the appearance of things. Don't go prayerless into things, but go knowing God has promised to answer your prayer and will strengthen you in what you do. This is walking by faith: walking in the knowledge that God will do just what He promised. “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.”
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel