Saturday, 1 March 2014

Glory to Be Helpless

For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Romans 7:18)
"Let us receive this as the first great lesson of the spiritual life: 'It is impossible for me, my God; let there be an end of the flesh and all its powers, an end of self, and let it be my glory to be helpless.'" (Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender)
I have a student - Robert, who greets me with a long list of questions every class. I love his questions, and he is eager and earnest, but he is always jumping ahead of the lesson, worrying that he doesn't understand concepts and vocabulary that I haven't taught yet. He is anxious to figure it all out and understand where the things he is learning fit in among all the things he doesn't yet know. I am always reminding him that learning is a process, and the learner is necessarily left hanging between what he knows well and what he has not yet learned. It is overwhelming, especially in the beginning, to have such a body of knowledge that is yet incomprehensible, but there is no escaping that reality. 

One of the things I struggle with the most is not knowing what God is doing, not knowing what I should be doing. I am confused about so many things. It is frustrating to feel that I am thrashing about in the dark, trying so hard and seemingly getting nowhere. It feels like my efforts are wasted and my energies misdirected, and nothing is more discouraging than feeling like I have pushed myself right to the edge of what I can handle only to realize that it wasn't necessary, or I exerted myself in the wrong direction after all. I am anxious to learn my lessons and figure out what God is teaching me, and I keep looking for the moral in all of this. But it eludes me.

It seems I am just like Robert. We both hate the feeling of helplessness that learning gives us. It is unnerving to not know.

But God allows me to be helpless, not knowing. He is the one working good in my life. It is not up to me to figure out what is right and do it. I desire His way. I long to be all that He has planned me to be - but I lack both the understanding and the ability. So often I find myself trying to love, trying to give, in my own strength. It always fails, and I am left despairing. Only God can give this power.
Jesus replied, "What is impossible with man is possible with God." (Luke 18:27)
Peter knew this problem. He was all flame and promise, but he failed when it seemed most important. It must have seemed like the end to him. He had promised to die with Jesus, but instead he pretended not to know him in order to save his own skin. Andrew Murray says:
Peter denied his Lord thrice, and then the Lord looked upon him; and that look of Jesus broke the heart of Peter, and all at once there opened up before him the terrible sin that he had committed, the terrible failure that had come, and the depth into which he had fallen, and "Peter went out and wept bitterly."
Oh! who can tell what that repentance must have been? During the following hours of that night, and the next day, when he saw Christ crucified and buried, and the next day, the Sabbath-oh, in what hopeless despair and shame he must have spent that day!
"My Lord is gone, my hope is gone, and I denied my Lord. After that life of love, after that blessed fellowship of three years, I denied my Lord. God have mercy upon me!"
I do not think we can realize into what a depth of humiliation Peter sank then. But that was the turningpoint and the change; and on the first day of the week Christ was seen of Peter, and in the evening He met him with the others. Later on at the Lake of Galilee He asked him: "Lovest thou me?" until Peter was made sad by the thought that the Lord reminded him of having denied Him thrice; and said in sorrow, but in uprightness:
"Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee."
...You know wherein Peter's failings lay. When he said to Christ, in effect: "Thou never canst suffer; it cannot be" - it showed he had not a conception of what it was to pass through death into life. Christ said: "Deny thyself," and in spite of that he denied his Lord. When Christ warned him: "Thou shalt deny me," and he insisted that he never would, Peter showed how little he understood what there was in himself. But when I read his epistle and hear him say: "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye, for the Spirit of God and of glory resteth upon you," then I say that it is not the old Peter, but that is the very Spirit of Christ breathing and speaking within him.
I read again how he says: "Hereunto ye are called, to suffer, even as Christ suffered." I understand what a change had come over Peter. Instead of denying Christ, he found joy and pleasure in having self denied and crucified and given up to the death. And therefore it is in the Acts we read that, when he was called before the Council, he could boldly say: "We must obey God rather than men," and that he could return with the other disciples and rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christs name.
You remember his self-exaltation; but now he has found out that "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is in the sight of God of great price." Again he tells us to be "subject one to another, and be clothed with humility."
Dear friend, I beseech you, look at Peter utterly changed-the self-pleasing, the self-trusting, the self-seeking Peter, full of sin, continually getting into trouble, foolish and impetuous, but now filled with the Spirit and the life of Jesus. Christ had done it for him by the Holy Ghost.
And now, what is my object in having thus very briefly pointed to the story of Peter? That story must be the history of every believer who is really to be made a blessing by God.
(Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender)
What will make this change in me? God's Spirit, through God's Word. He is teaching me. I cannot effect my own change, but as I wash myself in the truth of His words, I will be changed. Someday, to me and Robert both, it will make sense.
"Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts." (Winston Churchill)

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