God wants you to quit your job.
I am very fortunate to be able to stay at home with my daughter. I work as a church musician, but that position doesn't require the kind of routine hours that would force me to put my child in day care. So, I consider myself very lucky.
Most of the time.
But I would be lying if I didn't admit that there are some days when the idea of dropping my child off for someone else to deal with for eight hours doesn't sound all that bad. Staying at home can be exhausting—once you factor in the full-time child care, cooking, cleaning, and blog-writing. Add pregnancy on top, and recently, I’m feeling lucky to make it to the end of the day.
I’m tired. And a lot of the time, I feel just plain overworked.
I’m sure you can relate. Even if you don’t have kids (or if someone else looks after them while you work a job), you know just how busy life can be. There is a never-ending list of chores, errands, and projects to complete. There is family to visit. Friends to hang out with. Homework to finish. Books to read. Shopping to do.
It never ends.
And that’s why it’s so refreshing to know that there is one HUGE job that we don’t have to do—changing ourselves. Let’s face it, who really thinks they’re perfect? Most of us are pretty good at taking a scathing personal inventory when we look in the mirror. Most of us are more than aware of all the crud that needs to be cleaned up on the inside.
Scrubbing the kitchen floor is nothing compared to attempting an inner scrub-down.
But that’s not our job.
Let me say that again: THAT’S NOT OUR JOB.
Here’s what Paul said in today’s chapter: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (vs 3-6)
Any work that needs to be done on the inside is in the domain of one Person, and one Person alone: God. He has begun a good work in you, and He will finish that good work in you in His own time. Period.
This is one job you can quit! Aren’t you ready to celebrate?
Oddly enough, I’m not. For I don’t know about you, but it doesn't really matter how overworked I feel, I have an awfully hard time trying to leave this particular job to someone else—even God. I have a whole list of things in me that I want to see changed, and I may allow God to do it, but I’m certainly planning to tell Him when and how and how fast. And if He’s not achieving the kind of results I think He should, I’m ready in a heartbeat to take over the project.
Oh, after all these years, there is still nothing harder than trust. You see, opening yourself up to a relationship with God and allowing Him to move into your life is all about trust and nothing else. He and I may not have the same list of things that need to be changed, and I have to trust Him on that. And He and I may not see eye-to-eye on how quickly these changes should be made, and I have to trust Him on that. And He and I may disagree about what it will actually take to make the necessary changes, and I have to trust Him on that.
Even now, it’s so much easier for me to default to “working hard” than it is for me to trust.
Maybe it is for you too.
If so, I’m writing to both of us today. I’ve been working too hard for too long at this, and if you have too, then it’s time for both of us to quit this job. Lord knows there is plenty of other work to attend to in this hectic world! In any event, as between you and God, He is the only one capable of handling such a restoration project anyway.
So try to relax. Expect a stunning transformation, no matter how long it takes.
He’s quite up to the task.
God is stunning.
I had to chuckle as I wrote this blog title, because I have recently happened to see Chef Gordon Ramsey in a number of places on television, and he always seems to be using inflammatory language to describe culinary ingredients—such as stunning, gorgeous, absolutely amazing, etc. After you hear those words used in conjunction with ordinary things (really, how stunning can a cucumber be?), they tend to lose a little something.
But as I read this chapter of Philippians, there was no denying that the description of God Paul lays out here is, well, stunning. Here’s what he says:
- God doesn't use His position for His own advantage. (vs 6)
- God humbles Himself to the lowest place. (vs 7)
- God is a servant. (vs 7)
- God willingly takes on the characteristics of His creation. (vs 7)
- God values other things more highly than His own life. (vs 8)
- God is this way because He is God. (vs 6)
That takes everything we normally think of when we think of a deity—power, authority, prestige, position, etc.—and turns it upside down. What sort of a God doesn't use His position for His own advantage? What sort of a God willingly steps down to the level of His creatures? What sort of a God doesn't set the highest value on His own existence?
No God we've ever thought up. That’s for sure.
To me, this picture of God’s character is nothing short of stunning. Yet so many of us seem to so glibly talk about God as one who is arbitrary, vengeful, unforgiving, and severe. Haven’t we figured out yet that those are two diametrically opposed pictures of God? They cannot both be right.
Paul’s money appears to be on the servant-king picture of God. So much so that he suggests we get on board: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (vs 3-5)
And that mindset includes no vengefulness, no score-settling, no grudge-holding. In God, there is no grasping for power, no selfish desires. There is only a heart full of love that manifests itself in service with its every beat. There is only a willingness to use His position for our advantage.
In short, there is only beauty.
Stunning, stunning beauty.
God is priceless.
Paul leaves nothing to be questioned in this chapter regarding his full conversion from law-keeping Jew to faith-abiding Christian: “I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.” (vs 5-9)
In the midst of that discourse on law versus faith, Paul made a game-changing declaration: “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus.” What he’s saying is that being made right with God has nothing to do with what we do and everything to do with who we know.
In other words, it’s not about you. It never has been.
It’s all about God.
This makes perfect sense when you think back to the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. We usually think that what went wrong there was something Adam and Eve did—i.e., they ate the fruit. But actually, what went wrong there was about not knowing who God was—i.e., they bought into the lies about God told to them by the serpent at the tree.
The serpent told Eve that God was a liar, a manipulator, and a power-hungry authoritarian. The serpent told Eve that she could gain the upper hand on God by eating the fruit. Thus, the only reason Eve took that fruit and ate it was because she bought into those lies about God. If she had trusted God, if she had known who He really was, she never would have eaten the fruit.
There is a lot we can do to modify our behavior temporarily, it’s true. But at the end of the day, we subconsciously behave according to what we believe. That’s why, at the end of the day, God isn’t looking to change our behavior. He’s looking to change the beliefs about Him that we are holding in our hearts and minds.
That’s why Paul said that knowing Christ was priceless, infinitely valuable. If we don’t know the truth about Him, all the correct behavior we can muster won’t mean a thing. And if we do know the truth about Him, our behavior will eventually match up with those beliefs.
God is priceless, and that means that knowing Him is also priceless. If we want to live full lives, if we want to do good in the world, if we want faith that can move mountains, then the only thing we should be doing is putting every ounce of energy we have into getting to know Him better.
Think about it.
God’s got your back.
Right now, one of the most frustrating things about relating to my daughter is that she doesn't yet understand that I do everything in my power to take care of all of her needs (and most of her wants, as well). Since our communication is still quite limited, sometimes it’s difficult for her to be patient. When she doesn't perceive that I’m addressing her concerns fast enough, she gets very anxious and upset.
After reading this chapter of Philippians, I have a feeling parents don’t just experience this with their children, but God also experiences it with His: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (vs 6-7)
How quickly we lose sight of the fact that God has our backs! In fact, as I reflect on my sometimes shameful lack of spiritual patience, I wonder if I’m any better with God than my daughter is with me right now. If I sense that it’s taking too long for God to give me what I want (or, worse, if I sense that He might not give me what I want!), I can get pretty impatient pretty fast.
I think that’s why Paul’s advice is both to tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. For it may be easy to get anxious when we think that God may not give us what we want, but it’s very, very hard to continue worrying when we remember all that He has done for us in the past and choose to thank Him for it.
Thinking about all that He has done for us reminds us (1) that God really does care about us and (2) that God knows what He’s doing. Because if you’re anything like me, you've got more than one example of a time in your life when you prayed for things to work out one way, but God worked them out in a completely different (and much better!) way than you could ever have imagined or hoped for.
When we choose to remember and thank God for all He’s done, then Paul says that’s when we’ll experience the peace that is beyond our ability to describe. Even when times are tough, and even when things aren't going our way, when we rest in the knowledge that God loves us and knows what is ultimately best for us, we won’t worry about anything.
So tell God everything. Tell Him what you need. Tell Him what you want. Then trust Him to work things out in the way that He knows is best. Nobody could love you more (or want better things for you) than He does.
He’s got your back.