As a horse riding instructor I get several calls from people inquiring about lessons. Some calls result in a new consistent student, other people take a lesson or two and may occasionally come back for infrequent help, while still others list a whole bunch of reasons why they are not ready for lessons right now, but maybe when they can get to a better place with their horse, then they will feel ready. These initial reactions from the callers sound very similar to the way we approach a relationship with God. You can infer the resemblance when it comes to church attendance but this can also apply to those of us who are consistent attendees, church members, and professed believers. I always tell these lesson tire-kickers that it’s in the ugly times in the training with your horse that you need instruction. Don’t wait until you think you have it together. And even so it’s also in the good times that instruction is beneficial or there will be no growth. Are you facing a trial in your life right now? Or does everything seem to be going well? Either way we all struggle with humbling ourselves, giving up control of every aspect of our lives- the good and the bad- and to finally admit that we need Jesus.
Christ came for the sinners. He dined with the tax collectors, healed the infirm and possessed, conversed with a Samaritan woman, and literally overturned the old traditions of the religious leaders. You see, the Pharisees thought that they had it all together and didn’t need Jesus, while the messy people had a greater understanding of their need for the Messiah. The truth is they both needed Christ. If you wait until you have yourself in a good place you will never reach out to God. There is a song we sometimes sing at church titled “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” with a verse that reads:
Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
As fallen human beings we do not have the ability to perfectly follow the law and earn ourselves salvation. As fallen human beings we cannot make ourselves righteous before God. As fallen human beings we have become slaves to sin. We are not able to pull ourselves out of our miserable state by our own bootstraps. We need Jesus. Jesus fully kept and fulfilled the law. Jesus is completely righteous and blameless. Jesus has set us free from the bonds of sin. By Him living the holy life and taking the punishment for our sin, we are gifted salvation by faith.
But what is involved in this faith? What do I have to do to receive this salvation? That’s just it. It’s not about what you have to do, but about relinquishing everything to Christ. Surrender your life to the Spirit and He will transform your life. Surrender your life to the Spirit and He will bring you wisdom and discernment. Surrender your life to the Spirit and He will sanctify you and cause you to grow. Do not underestimate the power of God but come to the reality of your own.
My pastor just gave a sermon on Zechariah the priest and his response when he received the news of his coming son from the angel Gabriel in Luke chapter 1. He and his wife were described as walking blamelessly in all the commandments of God. His wife was barren and they had been praying for children, yet now they were old and beyond child bearing years. Yet when Gabriel reveals to him that his wife will bear a son, Zechariah is overwhelmed with unbelief. This man who seemingly had it all together with God doubted when presented with God’s promise. Because of this unbelief he was struck mute for the duration of his wife’s pregnancy while the Lord fully brought about His promise. You see, we need to stop denying the truths laid down in His word, “shut up,” and let God do His work. Give up control of every aspect of your life to Him and simply follow.
As I was blowing the multitude of leaves in my yard one day and dwelling upon these things I came up with an acronym for faith:
You are not the one calling the shots. You are not the creator and king of the world. Follow the One who is and stay attentive to His word. Follow attentively in the hope of His promises. Follow attentively in the hope of His grace. Follow attentively in the hope of His power, and His love, and His resurrection, and His kingdom, and His sovereignty.
In training horses, sometimes the greatest moments of the ride come immediately after the ugliest. The ugly moments are caused by the horse trying to take over and do what he wants. Sound familiar? The horse attempts to evade going straight or forward as the rider stays consistent with the aids asking him to do so. As the horse tries different ways to achieve his own desires he is faced with persistent corrections from the rider. As soon as he succumbs his will to that of the rider, the ugly is gone and he is rewarded with softness. The entire ride becomes harmonious when the horse willingly follows the direction of the rider from start to finish. Are you in an ugly moment right now? Or even a good one? Are you following attentively in the hope provided by His direction? I’m not saying it will be an easy ride. The horse still has to push through the discomfort that comes from building up strength. He has to be stretched and contracted in order to advance in his training. He has to learn to trust through new and confusing situations. We are not promised an easy life, but we are called to trust in the Lord. Give the reins over to God. Through every time and every season, the ups and the downs, follow attentively in His hope.