Yesterday was memorable; the rays of the sun, the clear skies, the gentle breeze and the laughter of Ethan and Elliot as Stephanie and I took them to our “revamped” church playground. It’s enough to put a smile on your face and cause you to offer up a word of thanksgiving to God.
Of course, the gift of joy just kept coming when Ethan pulled up two small flowers from the grass and called out to Stephanie, “Here’s mommy!”
Her heart melted. My mind wandered. I looked at her overjoyed reaction, and then at her small, wilted prize and thought, It is so amazing that as parents no matter how small, tainted and ordinary a gift from your child is, you would not trade it nor the bright and heartfelt look in their eyes for all the gold in the world. As I pondered on this, my heart began to melt as well (“Melt” is to be viewed here in the most masculine sense possible … like a … a Patty Melt Sandwich.)
In part, it was because I was enjoying the moment in time, but more so because God was speaking to me through my son’s meek act. “How much more?” were the words that kept flowing through my mind. Jesus said in Luke 12:28 “If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?”
Often when declaring God’s care for His children, Jesus would use the words “how much more.” God began to say to me, “Josh, how much more. How much more do I love and delight in the praises and humble offerings of my children? How much more do I joy over the soul that comes with a simple, seeking heart to please me?”
Immediately, I thought about how often I would try to “bring a gift” to God, the times that I would strive to serve Him and yet my mind would constantly be filled with distressing thoughts such as I am inadequate. It’s not enough. God wants my best and I’m not cutting it. So many times I have heard preachers say, “God wants your best and then He’ll do the rest and be pleased.”
Yet, how are you to know what your best is and when you actually do it? Truly, this can easily turn into a tug o’ war of emotions and doubt. Every step taken turns into a question of whether you “gave it your all.” It is like the army slogan, “Be all that you can be.” It sounds noble and grand to implement such thinking into the Christian life, but it is so far from true, sanctified living.
All that I can be is nothing. It is only when my “all that I can be” shifts into “Christ is all in me” that I please and honor God. Sadly, this “do it your best” attitude, if not properly examined, will become something tangible like a list of rules, standards and regulations. Somehow, in order to give your best, you must “check off” every principle and preference you have upheld. Wearing a tie? Check. Listening to only Southern gospel? Check.
I had, for a time, bought into such a lie that God was not pleased unless I had heeded to every single fundamental preference and conservative principle under the sun.
It was as if simply having a heart and hunger for Christ was not enough. It was weak and wilted and what I needed was a “finer, fancier” faith where I prayed like a King James translator and looked like the CEO for a suit company. I thought it was only then that my gifts to God could be pleasant in His sight.
I can’t imagine Stephanie ever berating Ethan over the flowers he gave her simply because they were not from a florist, they were not enough or they were too small and dirty.
Regrettably, this is often our view of God with our “fundamental” way of thinking. In reality, so many “standards” we deem as priceless treasures are probably to God just about as desirable as tailpipe smoke in the face, because we do so much in pride and self-righteous ambition rather than simple, humble adoration.
True Christianity is not found in the adornment of standards, but in AVAILABILITY TO THE SPIRIT.
Psalms 103:14 states, “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” Understand that we are only the dust of the ground. We are the soil. That is it. Christ is the seed, He is the water and He is the sun. If we want life and fruit, if we want to be pleasing, we are only to be available to the planting and power of Jesus.
Look no further than the distraught man who came to Christ, desiring that He heal his son. His cry to Jesus was, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief! (Mark 9:24)” He knew that no matter how much faith he could “muster” in his own abilities it was still “flawed faith” unless rooted in the grace of Christ.
When I saw Ethan giving Stephanie those two tiny flowers, I saw myself yielding up my wilted life, my flawed faith and saying “Here I am Lord! Help me to glorify You through your Son!” And for a moment, with the eyes of my heart, I could see God smiling.
Don’t get caught up in the stress and strain of legalism, just rejoice in the glorious wonder that God rejoices over you as His dear child.