Sufficiency… January 27, 2012

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From Miami, Florida

 “There’s nothing you can do.”
 
To the human, there are no words more chilling than these. If you heard them from your doctor concerning your diagnosis, you would be frantic–pleading for alternatives. Probably the same sensation if the phrase came off the lips of your mechanic. It is not the natural state of mortals–to be abandoned without alternative. It is not clever; it is not meaningful. It is not submissive and it certainly is not spiritual.
 
When you remove the ability to affect one’s own life from the equation, then liberties are taken by that same person to affect life in SOME way. So religious people, who believe in grace and consider themselves to be at the mercy of God, will take their theology and decide who goes to heaven, who gets communion, who gets considered righteous and who gets included on the registry of the faithful. Of course, those jobs really aren’t their business and are in the hands of the Almighty, but when you remove possibility from people’s lives and replace it with hopeless, hapless and helpless, they will initially become lethargic, and then end up vindictive.
 
This could not possibly have been the plan of a Creator who understands the emotional, spiritual, mental and physical make-up of His creation.
 
What we’re actually trying to eliminate is worry. Of course, everyone knows that worry has nothing to do with being involved or participating in solving your problem. Worry is what we do when we stop believing in grace–and grace is what people select when they’re trying to escape worry and mask it with the smirk of faith.
 
What IS the right thing to do when we are presented with the day-to-day difficulties which sometimes seem to overwhelm us? Because removing your own personal responsibility and involvement in your life does not promote mental health. It allows for deception, frustration and laziness to co-exist with each other, creating an atmosphere of desperation. Here’s the truth, friends. I have never seen anyone succeed who is desperate. Certainly we all believe that God’s grace is sufficient for us–but when does God’s grace kick in, when am I supposed to be involved and when does the combination of the two create the necessary energy for resolution?
 
Let me give you a quick four-step process that I hope will help you and certainly does help me in discovering the balance between “doing” and “trusting.”  When any problem or situation arises:
 
1. Understand it. I mean really understand it. Not what you fear it is or what you think it is. And if you’re too close to the situation, get a second and third opinion. Don’t lean to your own understanding when your butt’s on the line. Make sure you comprehend what your dilemma truly is instead of what you might perceive it to be, or even sometimes how it’s presented to you. This is the first step, often ignored because we think our quandary is obvious and does not require us to reflect on the elements of the problem. If the doctor has given me a diagnosis, I need to leave the doctor’s office and go read up on what he has told me. It’s not that I think he’s stupid–it’s that I know he is human and limited by his own education on any given subject. Understand. If you get a bill in the mail from the electric company and it seems large, don’t immediately leap to figuring out how to pay it. Make some calls. Find out why it’s so large. Track down the elements and understand them before you proceed any further. Understanding is like an ointment on a sore wound. It gives you time to escape the pain, to allow healing to begin.
 
2. Evaluate. What are we evaluating? We are taking what we now understand and cross-secting it over to what we know we presently have. Jesus referred to it as “counting the cost.” It is the step necessary in order for human beings to maintain sanity in the midst of adversity. If you receive a charge on your credit card for $500 and you look in your checking account and you see $210, you no longer have a $500 need. You have a $290 need. Subtracting what you are able to do from the problem that you now understand is also part of the healing process for your emotions–which gives you the energy and willingness to pursue. For I will tell you, it is impossible to be successful in life without calming yourself down enough to receive the healing information that “everything’s going to be all right.”
 
3. Provide. Isn’t it interesting that sometimes, after we understand what the problem truly is, and we have evaluated what we have for any given proposition, we sometimes fail to have the energy to provide and give it up? What would have happened if the disciples had not brought the five loaves and two fishes for the five thousand hungry people? What if they had decided on their own that it was completely insufficient, so why even bring it up in conversation? Or what if they concluded that five loaves and two fishes would at least give the twelve of them a little snack? I’ll tell you what would happen. Nothing. And that’s what happens in each of our lives when we fail to provide what we have, convinced that it’s useless–or selfishly trying to save it just in case everything falls apart. There is no feeding of the five thousand without the five loaves and two fishes. God is not going to move without people moving first. You must provide. It’s where faith comes in. Faith is when we take the last cup of what we have and pour it into the bucket of need, giving us a sensation of participation and also leaving plenty of room for God’s contribution.
 
4. And finally–relax. If you truly understand what the situation is, you’ve evaluated your own resources and you’ve provided them into the chasm in front of you by faith, then you can relax–that God’s grace is sufficient to you. For the Bible says that God “will supply all of our NEED.” It does not say NEEDS. It is the singular of the word. We only have one need–and that is the deficit that’s left in our particular piece of difficulty that is still hanging around after we understand, evaluate and provide.
 
The word “covenant” means to be joined together in a common cause. I cannot be in covenant with God and refuse to understand, evaluate and provide. Nor can God be in covenant with me if He does not see my faithfulness and step in to foot the balance of the responsibility. It is a beautiful system if it’s handled correctly. But grace is not believing that we are depraved, desperate and helpless. Grace is when we believe that God has given us the ability to understand, the capacity to evaluate, the desire to provide and then–having done all that–the opportunity to relax in His mercy.
 
You will find many theologians who will disagree with my formula. But dare I say that they have raised up congregations filled with insecure, flinching, judgmental people who are so exasperated by their lack of input in life that they’ve begun to turn the sword of frustration on the world around them. God is smart enough to know how we work. Actually, you and I are smart enough to know to some degree how we function.
 
So take a moment. Understand your true situation. Evaluate the inventory of your potentials. Joyfully provide what you have into the equation, and then relax–knowing that you’re in covenant with a God who can supply your need–that gap between your  provision and your solution.
 
It’s a wonderful system. And in all cases it WILL provide sufficiency, because grace is when we accept what we have, give it over to God and believe that the combination will work.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. ‘It’s a wonderful system. And in all cases it WILL provide sufficiency, because grace is when we accept what we have, give it over to God and believe that the combination will work.’

    I really appreciation the summation of today’s Jonathots — a lesson to live by!

    Thank you!

    Like


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