Last week as I was working out on an elliptical machine, I was listening to a sermon, and I believe God used something the pastor said to speak directly to me. The pastor posed a question that made me pause my mp3 player, take a break from my elliptical machine, and talk to God about some pretty deep frustrations and sins in my life.
The pastor was actually commenting on material supplementary to his main idea. He cited Luke 14:26. Now I have read this text numerous times, and have also heard it explained and applied. Jesus is urging his audience to radical discipleship or a willingness to hate family members, even their own life, for the sake of following him.
The pastor also framed a question in relationship to this text, and it is what really rattled me. He said that God may be asking us with a verse like Luke 14:26, “can I do whatever I want with your ____?” God instantly had me fill in the blank with my schedule or my ideas for my ministry. In essence, I knew God was asking me, “Chad, may I do what I want with your schedule?”
There are two reasons why I know God is after my sinful desire to control my own schedule. First, I like to think of myself as someone good at making plans and following through on them. I like actions plans, schedules, to-do lists, and ministry goals.
However, the second reason I knew God is after my schedule is that in the last few months, he has totally overtaken all my plans. Especially since January, almost every ministry goal I have before me has been cancelled, postponed, or interrupted by dozens of unexpected life events. Essentially there has been some pretty intense family sickness, unexpected adoption paperwork, other family crisis, team stuff, and hundreds of little surprises. Welcome to life overseas!
What this boils down to is that God is sovereign, and if he wants to interrupt, postpone, change, or flat out obliterate my schedule, he has the right to do so. My life is not my own. My plans are not my own. My career is not my own. They are all God’s. Unfortunately, if I didn’t love my own plans and aspirations for my missionary career so much, I probably wouldn’t be so pouty about these last few months. I have really been frustrated that I am behind on discipleship opportunities, Greek classes, the PhD, and just about every commitment I have.
I really have some work to do related to following after Jesus and “hating…my own life.” I am asking God to help me recognize that my life is not mine, and trust him with his plan.
Two other passages related to the topic have helped me. In Jeremiah 45:5 God spoke to Baruch, Jeremiah’s helper, as Jerusalem was being destroyed. God told Baruch, “Are you looking for great things for yourself? Do not look for such things. For I, the Lord, affirm that I am about to bring disaster on all humanity. But I will allow you to escape with your life wherever you go.” In this instance, it was God’s will that Baruch merely accept the disastrous situation before him, with no other promise than his own life. Why? Because it was God’s plan for that day and that time. It was, after all, all about God and God’s plan. It wasn’t about Baruch or his own aspirations.
James 4:13-14 is also helpful. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into this or that town and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life like? For you are a puff of smoke that appears for a short time and then vanishes.” I think part of what God is reminding me is that I am just a puff of smoke that will vanish.
I’ve placed Luke 14:26 on my computer screen to remind me how my life is not my own.