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Daily maintenance is the "biggie" in Christian living; here is one of the best tools I have ever used.
-Howard Hendricks, Chairman, Center of Christian Leadership, Dallas Theological Seminary
JANUARY 1 Owning Nothing, Enjoying Everything
I will settle things with You, Lord, once and for all concerning my rights and responsibilities. To accept Jesus as my Savior means I resign all rights to justify my sin before You; Jesus does that for me. But to accept Jesus as my Lord means I resign all rights to myself—my time, my talents, my future, my all.
That is where my difficulty is—resigning myself. To surrender my rights to myself means surrendering my rights to my reputation (He "made himself of no reputation," Philippians 2:7, KJV); surrendering my rights to choose my place of service (He "set His face to go to Jerusalem," Luke 9:51); surrendering my rights to my possessions (He had "no place to lay his head," Luke 9:58, NIV); surrendering my rights to make demands (He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister," Matthew 20:28, KJV); surrendering my rights to privacy and immunity from the needs of others (He said, "They need not depart; give ... them to eat," Matthew 14:16, KJV).
When I became a Christian I thought, How wonderful to be rid of the burden of sin's responsibility! But when I became a disciple, Jesus put another burden upon me; the burden of others. The second burden took away all my rights, and a person without rights is a slave (He "took on the nature [form] of a slave," Philippians 2:7, Williams).
Most of the time when I am touchy, irritable, or peevish (if it is not physical), it is because I have reclaimed what I thought I had surrendered to Jesus, for these are the feelings of one whose claim is threatened. My job then is to re-surrender as quickly as possible and quitclaim my possessions. I rejoice that I am an "all things new" person, made so because I have become a "new creation" in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Berkeley).
"Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes" (Psalm 37:7).
JANUARY 2 The Lord of What Is to Come
Lord, I know You can save me from my sins, but can You save me from myself? God can save me from the effects of my hate, but can He save me from being hateful? Can He change me so that I am no longer stingy, suspicious, jealous, cruel, and moody? If salvation means anything, it must work where sin begins, not merely where it ends.
Lord, that is what Jesus came to do—to change people, not just their record books. He came to erase the criminal's record; but, even more, He came to erase the criminal's repeatability. He not only came to clear the criminal in court, but to keep him out of court thereafter.
"Thou art Simon ... thou shalt be called Cephas, ... a stone" (John 1:42, KJV). By that statement Jesus showed Himself to be the Lord of what is to come. Changeable men are transformed into firm, rocklike men. He did not say, "You are Simon the sinner; you shall become Simon the saint." Simon became a rock.
That is the wonderful thing about Jesus—He sees us not as we are but as what we can become. Even more, He is able to change us from what we are into what He sees us capable of becoming.
I am a planned-for-the-future man. I am destined for God's eternal drama. The eyes of the all-seeing Sculptor have scanned me and set me aside for developing. Lord, now I see what You meant when You said, "He has ... set eternity in their heart" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are being made for tomorrow, for the future, for eternity. To look within ourselves now and be discouraged is to miss it all. God, You look at us in your tomorrow and rejoice over us as one finding great spoil.
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).
JANUARY 3 Formulas Are to Be Avoided
I will avoid the pitfall of being a formula Christian. I am surrounded by literature that promises me the secret of victory, as if God can be reduced to a method. Everywhere I turn I discover "steps to this" and "steps to that." Christians who are privileged to share a new insight of God are quick to build it into a formula.
I must avoid all that. I must keep in mind Paul's expression: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33, KJV).
God will not let Himself be boxed into a recipe. How often I have discovered that when I attempted to use someone else's formula, it did not work for me. God's dealings with us are strictly personal. There are general principles, of course, but the application is ad hominem ("to the man"). That's why someone else's spiritual secret is a mystery to me.
Neither can I say with Archimedes, "I have found it!" God's timely deliverance for me today will not necessarily be His deliverance tomorrow. God is constantly trying to tell me that He will not be nailed down. Yet I find something in my nature that keeps on trying to do that very thing. Why do I feel I have to manage God? Is there a little god within me who must have his property, his domain, his castle?
God will disappoint my every effort to corner Him, for He will be servant to no man. Even those who know Him best find Him a stranger at times. That is why my warmest prayer sometimes will meet the coldest response and my deepest need will go unsatisfied. Not often, of course, but often enough to remind me that God must be God. Yet, through it all, "I will never leave thee" (Hebrews 13:5, KJV) rings loud and clear. That is because God's stake in my salvation is great.
"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Romans 11:33).
JANUARY 4 The Cult of Success
I will always allow God His sovereign right of refusal. I am sure God has promised me many things, but I also am aware that God's right to be God is greater than my claim on those blessings. When I read, "With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation" (Psalm 91:16, KJV), I am comforted. But when I read of those who were "stoned, ... sawn asunder, ... tempted, ... afflicted, tormented" (Hebrews 11:37, KJV), I am confused. Jesus Himself did not enjoy long life.
The psalmist reminds me that if I delight in the Lord and meditate on His Word, "whatsoever [I do] shall prosper" (Psalm 1:3, KJV). The "cult of success" takes a promise like this and makes it absolute. Then I have problems, because believers in God are not always the richest, healthiest, most favored people on earth. In fact, they are the opposite.
My comfort does not lie in things, even spiritual things. I cannot rejoice in a miraculous answer to prayer today and think I will always get the same kind of answers. My comfort lies in the acceptance of God's right to do as He wills with me, even though what He wills may seem contradictory to His promises.
Since I cannot fathom God, I must trust Him. I am encouraged to trust Him, not because He promises me things, but because He is good, holy, fair, and does what is right. In other words, I can trust His Word because I can trust His character. Jesus is my example, for He trusted the character of His heavenly Father implicitly, completely, and thoroughly. That is why He obeyed His Father's will so unswervingly, even though it meant a cross. Yet I must remember that my trust in God will never be betrayed, misplaced, or denied. He who magnifies His Word above His name (see Psalm 138:2, KJV) will see that it is not.
"Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth'" (Exodus 34:6).
JANUARY 5 The Eternal Adventure
I will, by God's grace and power, keep the center of my life adjusted strictly to God's will, and let God keep the periphery any way He desires.
I will seek holiness (which results in wholeness), without which no man can see the Lord, at all times. Wholeness is God-centeredness, the "one thing needful," the "one thing I desire and seek after," the "one thing I do."
I will not pray for peace, power, success, or fruit, for they are by-products of a relationship, not its conditions. They are God's responsibility, not mine.
Neither will I seek promotion, honors, recognition, or acclaim, for they also are by-products and therefore outside my sphere. Nor will I resent others to whom God gives these tokens, but I will praise God that His will has been done in them.
I will no longer strive ambitiously for ends, for God's purpose is process, not destiny. I never hope to arrive but rather to continue with God in an eternal adventure, the result of which is a continual knowing of Him who is the "end" God seeks for me.
I will accept the fact that the self-life is not only displeasing to God; it is His enemy. When self reigns, I am at war with God, and that leads to frustration, anxiety, and misery. I will therefore crucify the self-life and be at peace with God.
I will realize that when all is said and done, I owe my daily overcoming to this one, solid fact: "Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). Therefore, I can say honestly, "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).
JANUARY 6 The Shame of the Cross
I will learn to accept, and even enjoy, God's humiliating me. I must learn that God disciplines me by embarrassing me. He did that with Simon Peter. "Get behind Me, Satan!" (Matthew 16:23, italics added). If I do not shame myself, that is, if I do not sense my need to the point where I feel shame, God will do it for me. To feel shame is really to judge myself; and Paul says if I do not judge myself, God will have to do it for me (1 Corinthians 11:31–32).
To be ashamed before God is painful; to be put to shame by God is more painful; but the worst pain is to be put to shame by the world. God wants to hurt me to correct me, so the world will never be able to get a lick at me. Now I know what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 7:8–10 about godly sorrow working repentance.
God put Jesus to shame and grief (Isaiah 53:10), but not for Himself; it was for me. There was nothing in Jesus that shame could improve. His shame was my shame, in order that I might improve. The shame of the cross is constantly being worked out in me daily. If I accept it, then I enjoy Isaiah's word, "He who believes ... [on Him] ... will not be ashamed" (28:16, Amp.).
It does me good to wear sackcloth occasionally. I need to sit in the ash pile. God has no spoiled children, and He applies the rod as often as I need it to learn. If He shames me, it is because He loves me. He decrees that good will come of me, that His image will be formed in me. To that end, He shames me into sonship, but only that His eternal glory may radiate from me, for what son is there who is not disciplined by his father (Hebrews 12:7)? God is treating me as a son (v. 6). Hallelujah for the rod!
"It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?" (Hebrews 12:7).
JANUARY 7 Becoming Angry with God
I must realize that unless I get angry with God occasionally my dedication is not worth a wooden nickel. Jeremiah got so frustrated with God that he said God was like a "deceptive [changeable] brook" (Jeremiah 15:18, NIV). Further, he vowed he would not prophesy for Him any longer (20:7–9). The only person who never got angry with God was Jesus, and that was because He understood His heavenly Father so perfectly. Anger is a sign of two things: I do not understand, but I care. God would rather have me angry with Him than indifferent to Him.
I must be certain, however, that my anger is not peevishness, like Jonah's. Peevishness says, "God won't let me have my way." Concerned anger says, "I can't see the relationship between what God says He will do and what He is doing." David's frustration with God because of the death of Uzzah is a lesson to me (2 Samuel 6:6–20). David was angry because he sensed a contradiction in God, righteousness versus grace. That is the way it is with me. When God becomes angry with me, it is because of my sin and rebelliousness; when I become angry with Him, it is because of His righteousness, which I think is rigid.
God is not shocked by my occasional anger. But I must be quick to confess it. Chronic anger will lead me to cynicism, which God hates. Confessing my anger is a sign of faith. It says, "I don't understand any better, but I trust God anyhow." I must never assume that because I get angry with God I am a poor believer. On the contrary, it is a sign of a developing relationship with Him. If I am always correct with God, I do not know Him personally. When I am free to become angry, I am free to become myself. And being myself, I am free to grow toward Him. That is the key: to keep growing toward "the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13, KJV).
"Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools" (Ecclesiastes 7:9).
JANUARY 8 The De-nesting Process
I will accept God's "de-nesting" of me without remonstrance. To be de-nested by God is a sign that He feels I am reaching a level of maturity. As a new Christian I am given personal, fatherly attention by God for my growth's sake. A new convert receives the quickest, fullest answers to prayers of any Christian. Later on, God will seem to ignore my prayers. That is because He feels that now I am beyond the need for assurance; I can rely on His naked Word.
My first real shock as a Christian comes when I begin to feel the de-nesting process. I am like a child being weaned. God no longer seems close, familiar. The "joy of ... salvation" (Psalm 51:12) dims and may return only periodically. Feeling must give way to faith; dependence to independence. God begins to put me in alien hands, even Satan's (cf. Job 2:6). He calls in other teachers to perfect my growth. Even Jesus was not exempt. He was put "into the hands of men" (Matthew 17:22), not for His own sake, but for mine. His de-nesting began with the incarnation and ended with His burial. But the process for Him was nothing other than self-sacrificial. Mine is always educational.
The de-nesting process goes on throughout life. That is why I can never have absolute tranquillity here. The moment I learn my lesson in one pair of hands, God farms me out to another. The important thing is my growth; what I feel is unimportant. God looks for the image of Christ in me, not for my comfort. I may feel very upset, discomposed, fruitless, and aimless, and yet He rejoices because He finds Jesus in me. It is a mark of tremendous growth when I see God rejoicing and can rejoice with Him. It is positively thrilling to realize I can rejoice the heart of God.
"The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27).
JANUARY 9 The Success of Obedience
I must learn what Jesus learned: to be "obedient unto death" (Philippians 2:8, KJV). All true obedience is unto death. That is a reversal of the world's standard. "I will obey if" is what the world says. The if means there must be a happy ending. Anyone will meet conditions, even drastic ones, if he gets his own way in the end. But that is not the obedience of Christ. His example was, "I will obey regardless." For Him, the "regardless" was not a heavenly deliverance but a cross.
Excerpted from Daily with the King by W. Glyn Evans. Copyright © 1979 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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Posted December 15, 2011
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