I’ve recently been convicted of something in my life by God and it’s this: I’m often tempted to use God for godly outcomes. And, here is what I mean by that…
I have noticed a consistent temptation, and even posture, of me using my relationship with God to ensure godly or good outcomes. And, that last part is important. I’m not seeking to use God for bad outcomes – sinful things – but rather for good and holy things – Kingdom things. And, here is what that might look like in the practical, tangible ways I’ve noticed in my life…
1. I spend time in prayer to ensure my preaching is good, but not to connect with God.
2. I serve to see God’s Kingdom grow, but not to find God in the serving.
3. I fast, but do it to ensure that a new project goes well, rather than as a way to sacrifice and focus on God.
4. I rely on God when I need Him, but rely on my gifting and skill at other times.
Do you see how subtle the shift is in practical, but real life ways? And, do you also see how dangerous it can be? Because prayer, serving and reliance can quietly shift from God to the ourselves or the good things God calls us to do. But, the truth is, as soon as the focus shifts from God to ourselves, we’ve lost the point.
Eugene Peterson puts it this way, “Along the way, the primacy of God and His work gives way ever so slightly to the primacy of our work in God’s Kingdom. We begin to think of ways to use God in what we’re doing. The shift is barely perceptible… We continue to believe the identical truth. We continue pursuing good goals. It usually takes a long time for the significance of the shift to show up. But, when it does, it turns out that we have not so much been worshipping God as enlisting Him as our trusted and valuable assistant.”
That last sentence is what stopped me in my tracks and caused me to really reflect on my motives, not just my actions.
And so, I write all this because this is the season of Lent – a season when we are to take a hard and reflective look at our lives, and reveal any subtle shifts that have happened. Because, they can happen and they can be hard to notice, but they need to be revealed and repented of. And, I use that word in the proper way – repentance is not about feeling bad, but about changing direction. We need to repent of our tendency to use God, and move toward worshipping, loving and appreciating Him.
So, I write this because, my bet is, I’m not alone in this temptation. But, becoming aware of it is the first step to changing it. And, it’s something worth changing. It’s subtle. It’s a small shift. But, it can change everything.