“Embracing what God does for us is the best thing we can do for him”
My local newspaper used to have a column called The Vent, which aired one-liners, petty grievances and jokes from readers. One day somebody wrote, “So far today I haven’t gossiped, lost my temper, been nasty to anybody or failed at anything. But in a few minutes, I’m going to get out of bed.”
That vent made me think of all the times I planned to have a productive, positive day, then had to get out of bed and face my peace and joy stealers.
We want our ordinary lives transformed into something extraordinary, yet as soon as we’ve planted our feet on the floor and finished that first cup of coffee, ordinary life has a way of sneaking in. Obstacles and challenges lead us right back into the same old grooves.
One of my favorite scripture passages gives me perfect advice for each day, if only I can remember to follow it:
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life; your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life, and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” (Romans 12:1–2)
This says to me that God can turn ordinary into extraordinary if I get on board with his plans. But first, I have to relinquish my own plans and embrace what he has for me.
A cure for the common life
Several years ago I was asked to speak at a Christian women’s retreat. The theme of the retreat, How to Live Your Life With Purpose, was based on bestselling author Max Lucado’s book Cure for The Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot.
The premise of the book was that we’re all created for an outstanding life, made possible once we discover the point at which our personal strengths and successes converge with glorifying God in everyday life.
We can get sidetracked when we develop mistaken ideas about what constitutes an outstanding life. Maybe success seems forever beyond our reach, or when we do succeed, the temporary high is quickly erased by questions such as:
Can I do this again?
Can I sustain this momentum?
The applause and adulation are receding. How can I recapture them?
There’s nothing wrong with making money, achieving goals, and yearning for success. These are good things and can provide a tremendous amount of satisfaction. But the joy isn’t sustainable unless it’s grounded in something that goes beyond reaching our goals. Our achievements alone don’t make us extraordinary.
The woman who lost it all
When I worked for a nonprofit, a woman in her mid-forties came to the register of our thrift store with a stack of brand-name clothes. The store was in an affluent area, so we received some high-quality donations.
“You found some great stuff,” I commented as I rung up her sale.
“Yes, I did. And I’m buying them all to give away. I’m going to be a blessing to other people because other people have been a blessing to me.”
The woman went on to say, “I’m driving a car I didn’t pay for, I’m wearing clothes I didn’t buy, I’ve eaten food I didn’t pay for and I’ve lived in an apartment when the rent was paid for me. I wasn’t always like this. I used to have it all. I had the husband, the important job, the big income, the big house, the fine car, the expensive clothes, and it was all about me, me, me.
“Then I lost the husband. I lost the job, I lost the income, the big house, the fine car and everything else. I was a broken woman. And that’s when I found out it isn’t about me. It’s about blessing other people just like other people blessed me during the hard times I went through.
“I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I had so much to give away before and kept it all to myself.”
This woman had experienced extraordinary success, but she only became extraordinary when she lost everything.
I admit I don’t want to lose everything to become extraordinary! I also admit that unless I relinquish my plans to God and embrace the work he is doing in my life, I’ll never be everything I can be.
Accessing the spiritual power within
But how can we embrace God’s plan, or even know what it is? It’s easy to hop out of bed and say “I want this day to be an offering to God.” Easy until our feet hit the floor and reality sets in. Then we find ourselves carrying around the same old baggage and falling into the same old patterns.
Yet we have spiritual power available to us.
“God can do anything, you know; far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” (Ephesians 3:20–21)
This verse indicates that God does the work of transforming us from ordinary to extraordinary. We don’t have to rely on our own flawed nature. But we need to be open to spiritual guidance.
The first step to accessing spiritual power is prayer. Through prayer and meditation, we bring our thoughts, feelings, desires, longings, praises, hopes and dreams to God, putting him at the center of our thoughts.
There is no condemnation when we pray. God doesn’t play favorites, and he welcomes us all. He knows what we’ve been through, what we’re going through, and what we suffer. Why he allows us to suffer is something that vexes people and sometimes strains faith, but we were warned 2,000 years ago to expect trouble, and this still holds true today.
“In this world you will have trouble; but take heart. I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
When we pray, we’re not asking to be released from all the troubles in the world. We’re asking for God’s presence so we can learn, grow, blossom and experience peace through our troubles. We’re asking for extraordinary grace and the ability to turn setbacks into success.
Motivational speaker and author David Ring was born with cerebral palsy. When he asked his mother why God would allow this, she said “You’re asking the wrong question. Don’t ask why. Ask what? What can I do to glorify God through this situation?”
The second step in accessing spiritual power is to listen for God’s answers. Listening requires us to quiet restless thoughts and remain open to different ways of hearing. Answers can come through scripture passages and other things we read, through other people, through nature, but most often through the gentle inner nudgings of our spirit.
Is my spirit nudging me to do something differently?
Is there someone I need to forgive?
Have I been dishonest or negligent, either with myself or someone else?
Have I been prideful or ambitious at the expense of other people?
Is there a negative habit or attitude I need to relinquish?
After we’ve opened ourselves to these answers; to the internal nudges of our spirit, the final step is obedience. If we don’t follow spiritual nudges, the internal voice grows fainter. Conscience fades when we ignore it too often.
Maybe we are being nudged to do something so small it seems insignificant. We decide it’s not important enough to pursue.
Send a card to a sick friend? I don’t have time.
Make amends with someone I’m on the outs with? Too much trouble.
Give up an addiction or an area of slothfulness? It’s not really hurting anybody.
But obedience in small matters means God can trust us with bigger things. Sometimes we need to start with baby steps instead of giant steps. God doesn’t give us a blueprint for our future. He guides us day by day.
If our access to God seems blocked or if the door seems closed, if we don’t feel his spiritual power, we might want to ask, Is there an area of my life where I am not listening? In what ways am I not being obedient to the voice of the spirit?
Many things can block the flow of God’s spirit in our lives: unforgiveness, gossip, a resentful attitude, envy or hypocrisy. On the positive side, when we are made aware of something like envy or resentment, we are nudged in the direction of spiritual growth.
We don’t have to dread the day or mourn our failures when we take our everyday life and place it before God as an offering. We can rest in the faith that he is working things out for good while we focus on the journey. Challenges and setbacks no longer steal our peace and joy because they are only temporary stumbling blocks. The spirit can work through them.
Do we believe by relinquishing control and following the nudges of the spirit we can move from ordinary to extraordinary? Do we believe we can tap into a power higher than ourselves? Are we willing to risk it?
We’ve got nothing to lose by trying, but we’ve got everything to gain.
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