God's power or our power?
Do you know how to row or sail?
Growing up my family (Sky) owned a lake cabin. In the middle of that lake was an island, and that island was the home of adventure. My cousins and I would take excursions out to the island with the hopes of finding treasure and usually come back with frogs, sticks and unusual rocks that we thought would suffice. All we had was a row boat, and at the age of 10 it took rowing shifts from three of us to make it to the island. Rowing is hard work. I learned to put my weight into it, lengthen my arms fully, get a good grip, hold tight, evenly balance the pressure, and try to go straight (which hardly ever happened). Then one day, on the way back from the island, we took a break from rowing, exhausted, and just sat there in the wind, and we were amazed how fast we were moving without rowing. In fact, it took us half the time to return to home and we only rowed half the time. Why had I worked so hard to row? If I had known how to ride the wind, the journey would have been easier. If we live in the will God, with the Spirit of God at our back, then the journey is not only less exhausting, but more fulfilling.
In your Christian life, are you in a rowboat or a sailboat? In the rowboat, you are the propulsion. You are providing the strength and power to move the boat. In the Christian life, you can try to go through life on your own. You can do all the right things and work hard to make sure you follow all the rules, but it can be exhausting! Trying to do all the right things at the right time because we believe that by this, we get to where we’re going faster. We believe that we’re accepted by God and given success because we work hard, but that’s not true. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”
When it comes to rowing hard in the Christian life, trying to achieve an acceptance and a closeness to God on our own, we are missing the mark. Eugene Petersen translates this verse in Galatians 3:3 pretty well I think. “Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?”
We trust the grace of God for our salvation. Why don't we trust God's grace for every day of the rest of our lives? There is never a day when we can stand before God on our own two feet of performance and be worthy enough to deserve His blessing. However, we can easily fall into thinking Jesus will love us and bless us if we do the right things. Then if we do the right things, but don’t get blessed, we feel shorted. Then we start feeling he owes us . And it's not long before we decide He's let us down. At this point we stop rowing and look around. We drift along and wonder, “how did we ever get here?” This is not what we had in mind when we were working our tails off trying to do the "right thing", whatever that was.
God has a different plan for our lives. In the Greek, the word for wind is "pneuma". It has the same root as "Holy Spirit". God wants the Holy Spirit to be the "wind in our sails". He wants us to come to Him for the strength we need to get through another day. Grace is God acting in your life to accomplish what you cannot accomplish on your own. Grace is not opposed to effort. It's opposed to earning. (Effort is action, earning is an attitude). We can never achieve God's grace, we can only receive it. We don’t have to row to receive God’s grace. When we fix our eyes on Jesus and the grace he gives we can live in the power of the Spirit allowing his wind to bring the power rather than our own rowing.
Ask yourself the questions:
· Do I feel like I’m rowing or sailing in life? Why?
· God, where do I need to stop rowing and start sailing?
written by Dan Sieh & Sky Cady