I have been doing an informal survey. It’s easy, you can do it too. Watch for all the times you and others around you make the following statement: “I have to figure this out…..”
Listen for it. It can be heard in nearly every conversation.
I have been on a three year repentance process of “figuring life out.” My response to so many past failings was to blurt out, “I am so sorry. I will try harder. I will figure this out and do better.”
Of figuring life out on my own, I repent. Lord have mercy!
We Can Figure Nothing Out on Our Own. Period.
Jesus really nails the jewish leaders on this one in John 6. This is the passage where he declares that he is the bread of life. 6:41-47 requires reading:
At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” [Note: they are trying to figure Jesus out!] “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.
Grumbling and disputing was a common response of the religious leaders to Jesus. They could not sort him out. Here again they are reasoning on their own. They consider Jesus’ parents (he’s human) and yet he claims some sort of divinity. They are befuddled. Trying to figure God and life out grows doubt and fear, not trust.
Jesus’ words to them are true for us. You can figure nothing out on your own. Even if we think we figured out something, God was behind the scenes shaping in ways we don’t discern. No one comes to God unless he is drawn. We must all be taught by God.
Jesus so much as repeated this truth to the 12 at the end of the chapter (6:66-70). After some of the hard teachings, many of Jesus’ followers walked away. Jesus turned to the 12 and asked if they were leaving too. Peter makes one of his amazing statements,”Where else would we go, you alone have the words of life. We have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Wow, that is a profound theological statement. Peter must be brilliant right? Not so fast. Jesus responds by saying, “Did I not choose you, the twelve?” In other words, you did not figure this out on your own. It has been revealed to you, given to you, and taught to you.
So too for us.
Repent of Self-Determination
The Evangelical world is a very heady culture. As such, we are dependent on the Spirit to grow in us some seriously developed self-awareness to see how often we rely on our own cerebral matter to sort out life. This sort of response to life is not God-dependence. It is self-dependence.
Join me in the spiritual practice of not trying to figure life, self, others, God or anything else out on our own. No matter your profession, this principle holds true. Even farmers learn how to farm from God (soak in the beautiful passage in Isaiah 28:23-29).
Many years ago, Spirit led no doubt, this prayer formed in me: “Father, I do not know how to do this (fill in the blank – pray, be a friend, you name it). Please take me by the hand and teach me. Lead me down paths I do not even know exist.” He has been wonderfully answering that Spirit-formed prayer. Everything I know I have been taught by Jesus.
Shepherds of Others: Do not lead people back to themselves. Lead them to Jesus. The questions we ask are key. If we ask, “What are you going to do about this problem” it turns their gaze back onto themselves. If we ask, “How do you sense Jesus wants to be in this with you? What does he want to speak to you about? How can you sit with Jesus in all this?” Those sorts of questions lift their gaze up to Christ and opens them up to be tended to and formed by him.
I leave you with Isaiah 2:3
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”