Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

June 14, 2004

I continue to meander verbally around the theme of . . .

. . . spiritual poverty. The phrase itself has a certain harshness, a jarring quality. We're not used to speaking of "poverty" in any but a very negative light. Who wants to be poor, after all? Even in the material sense, though I may not consider myself a materialist, I sure am fond of having a roof over my head.

And what about the "spiritual sense"? This theme seems to overflow the Bible's pages. It is the theme of losing oneself and gaining Christ. It is the theme of weakness instead of strength. It is the theme of humility, of sorrow for sin, of understanding our fallenness, and the depths of our sinfulness and need.

In my last post on this subject, I said I wanted to think about how this kind of poverty is lived out. I'm really blogging from a place of ignorance right now, so bear with me. It is in my nature to want to explain things, to be clear and comprehensive, "teacherly" as friend Lois once said, but on this matter that all-knowing stance just won't do. And I have a feeling that this is a lesson the Father wants to be teaching me from now on, the application of this principle. I know that at least two of my readers, Susan and Ruby are definitely, like me, meandering around this same theme in their blogs, each in their own way.

Well, so here's the simple place I wanted to get to. We are, all of us who walk by faith, working out our own salvation. Jesus accomplished it and it is a done deal, yes, but the Bible also says that we "are being saved." It is proper to think of our walk of faith as a working out, a process. And this process is worked out under the sovereign hand of God. There is truly cause for humility, indeed, for fear and trembling, as we work it out, because as we do so we are very likely to mess up. Spiritual pride is the great enemy here, the temptation that has tripped up many a so-called "leader" in the body of Christ.

So how do we work it out? Here's an example from the sports world. I watched the Olympic trials in women's platform diving on TV yesterday. The winner of this event, Laura Wilkinson, was expected by everyone to win, since she was the gold-medalist at the last Olympics, but she was given a real push by a 17-year old high-schooler named Brittany Viola who was quite new to the sport and seemed to have nerves of steel. Anyway, Wilkinson was a little off on her first three dives, allowing Viola to creep very close in the points. Then, when the pressure was on, the champion stepped up. She really nailed her final two dives. Afterward, when asked how she was able to do it, she said, "I was trying to control the first three dives. But on the fourth dive I just decided to walk by faith and not by sight and dive for the glory of God."

Get it? She was trying to control the outcome on the first three. She was trying to be the boss of her circumstances. On the final two, she "gave it to God." She dove for His glory, not for points or championships. It was a different mindset altogether, and you could see it in her eyes as she stood on the platform. Though her ticket to the Olympics was on the line, she was totally relaxed, even had a little smile.

To end, here's something from Dallas Willard's Hearing God. This is about humility. Willard says there are three ingredients to "a fail-safe recipe for humility." He suggest that we should refrain from

1. pretending we are what we are not,
2. presuming a favorable position for ourselves in any respect, and
3. pushing or trying to override the will of others in our context."

Good advice, methinks.


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