Last week I talked about an assignment a counselor friend gave me to become an expert at finding God at work in my and others lives. Becoming an expert at anything requires hard work. Consider someone who you would describe as an expert. Do you think they were born that way? Even if they had some genetic advantage, hard work and intentionality were surely a part of the process of their skill or expertise.
When I was nine years old a little boy was born in Brooklyn and later moved to North Carolina. As a high school sophomore he was cut from the basketball team but later went on to become the NCAA Freshman Player of the Year in 1983 at the University of North Carolina. He left UNC after his junior year to join the NBA where he was honored as Rookie of the Year, was drafted third and went on to win six National Championships for the Chicago Bulls. Perhaps you’re one of the blessed fans like me who was privileged to watch Michael Jordan score and soar and steal balls on the court.
“Air Jordan” was obviously gifted. But Tim Grover, the trainer who worked most with him, said he was the hardest working guy he had ever seen and that “he practiced extremely hard which made the game easy for him.”
I’m learning that become skilled at seeing God at work also requires focus, devotion and practice. Apart from God’s help my tendency would be to see the glass half empty rather than half full, which means I’m better at seeing areas of lack than evidences of God’s work. And what’s interesting is this: to acknowledge God at work in my life has felt in the past like prideful boasting. How many times have you heard someone talk about themselves in a positive way and not feel a little uneasy? After all, we Christians are supposed to be humble and not draw attention to ourselves, right?
But what if admitting areas of growth in our lives is not drawing attention to us but to God? If God is the One who does the work, then why shouldn’t He get the glory?
The fine line between arrogant boasting and honoring God can be confusing. It doesn’t have to be! If I am taking the credit for personal growth then the honor should rightly go to me and boasting is the natural result. But if I am fully aware that God’s sanctifying grace is responsible for the changes in my heart and life then why is it wrong to boast in Him?
Okay, here I go. Tell me if this sounds like boasting.
My earliest memories of caring about others are from first grade. A friend was hit by a car while walking to school. Both legs and her pelvis were broken and she was in a cast from her waist down. I remember visiting her, taking her flowers and sitting with her to “help” her with homework. Our teacher was a lovely woman I remember fondly but I learned that she didn’t go to church. I vividly remember a picture I drew for her of my little church. Across the bottom it said, “Please come to Greenbelt Baptist Church. God loves you.” Mom reminded me of times I prayed for Mrs. Fink and my friend Pamela over dinner regularly, asking Jesus to heal Pamela and save my teacher.
When people tell me that they feel loved and cared for by me I know what they’re experiencing is the love of God working in and through me. I’m not tempted to take credit for this myself because I didn’t choose to be this way. I was made this way. Mom used to say, “Sheree, you came out of my womb loving others.”
That may be true. But I was also born with other things that came easy. My struggles with laziness, self-protection, jealousy, discontentment and self-righteousness are ones I still battle and have certainly threatened my ability to love others. Yet I’ve recently came to see that God made me with a capacity to love and care for others that is a demonstration of His work in my heart. It would be the height of arrogance for someone as selfish as I can be to pat myself on the back for loving anyone!
This God-given capacity is something for which I can thank Him. In the past I have tended to inordinately focus on the “threats” rather than on His signature on my life. While I want to continue to learn how weaknesses, wrong thinking and sin hinder my ability to love others, I also want to avoid robbing God of His glory for leaving His signature on my life in ways that honor Him.
Are there qualities, giftings or characteristics in your life that are also evidences of His work and grace? Absolutely! If you are a believer His signature has been left on you as God’s image bearer. I have a couple of questions for you:
- Are you uncomfortable talking about areas God has gifted you because you or others would assume you’re boasting?
- Are you aware of things God is changing about you? Ways you are making progress in becoming more like Christ? If not, it’s not because that’s not happening. He has promised that He is working in you and will complete that work! (See Philippians 1:6)
- Of which are you most aware: the areas God is at work in you or ways you still struggle with weak or sinful patterns?
I invite you to join me in becoming an expert at what God is doing and I’m asking you to begin with you first. Why not take a few minutes soon to look back over the past couple of years and make a list of the ways God has been working in your heart. Are you more patient with the kids or less selfish with your time? Do you use your money more wisely or find more joy in blessing others? Do you less frequently deal with self-pity or enjoy more consistency in your devotional times with the Lord? Wow. The list could go on of potential areas in which God has been busy in your life!
I still love watching clips of MJ on the basketball court. His natural ability and hard work resulted in some stunning results. Imagine how much more joy YOU bring to God when you operate in the gifts He’s given you as He sees the fruit of your Spirit-born efforts to grow in Christlikeness.
It’s not boastful to put His grace on display. So make your list and start becoming an expert at seeing Him at work in you.