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Thankfully, it is a stressful season in my career. Work is currently plentiful and deadlines are looming. I am grateful because it has been a tough economic climate so it is good to be busy. I hate to admit it but the majority of the stress is of my own doing. The tasks before me are in line with my skills. The opportunities are ones we have worked toward for years. The deadlines, though challenging, are attainable. The difficulty comes from my propensity to be self-sufficient. I act like it is up to me rather than remember it is actually a partnership with God. I operate as if human wisdom and ingenuity are the only resources to rely upon.
Men have been falling into this trap for a long time. I know because I saw it in Matthew 16. As was their practice, Jesus and his disciples got in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. The Savior took advantage of the opportunity to teach the disciples an extremely important lesson in life, “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (v. 6) The yeast of these leaders was a subtle and futile attempt to be self-righteous. They developed an intricate system that appeared to be spiritual and disciplined when, in fact, it was self-effort disguised as religious devotion. It was unrealistic, unattainable and unattached to the real issue of human nature.
Jesus made it painfully clear, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:6) When it comes to eternal salvation, standing justified before God and accomplishing His will on earth, human effort is worthless. When it comes to defeating the sinful nature and finding the resources to live free from condemnation, human effort is worthless. Only grace and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit can address these needs.
Human effort can imitate these pursuits, however. We can look religious, disciplined, sincere, and committed to righteous living without any help from God. It looks good for a while but it is not sustainable. It is like driving a car with no engine. It will go downhill just fine but then it must be pushed up the next hill before it can pick up momentum again. It is exhausting most of the time with moments of exhilaration.
The disciples thought at first that Jesus was pointing out their mistake of not bringing bread for the trip. They fell right into the self-effort trap. Even though Jesus had fed thousands with a couple of lunches more than once, the disciples were locked into the mindset that it was up to them. I hate to admit that I am no better. When my schedule loads up, I tend to think, “If I don’t push myself harder than ever, this will never get done.” I wish my first thought was, “God is trusting me with a new level of partnership with Him. He has big plans and He just invited me into one of His ideas. It should be interesting to see how He pulls the resources together to make this happen.” Since it wasn’t my first thought, I have decided to let it be my second thought and to let it stick!
Jesus, thank you for the new opportunities ahead for this year and for the reminder that life is a partnership of grace.

One Response

  1. I also know the trap of being self-sufficient. When I get cocky and think “…I’m all that…” (from my granddaughter Lily who is 7 but really 15), God has a way of pulling me up short. He yanks on the tether. Good thoughts for this and every day.

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