Potential Is A Fancy Name for Hard Work!

Many of you know that Sara and I moved a few weeks ago, to a house that I wasn’t impressed with at first sight. I could see a number of things that gave me concern. But where I saw problems, Sara saw potential. So we bought the house and moved in. In the weeks since, however, we’ve been exploring that potential. Now I know what potential means. It means LOTS OF WORK AHEAD!

The two pictures to the left represent before and after this week. Fully 1/4 of this two-story house was covered in ivy that had grown for 15 years. This week as part of exploring this house’s potential, we took it all off. Now, you might think it was pretty before, and it was! The ivy was gorgeous, but it is a nesting place for termites, a ladder for rats into the attic and a bottleneck for moisture to rot away the house. I’ve learned often in this kingdom that there is little connection between pretty and fruitful!

Tearing off the ivy and untwisting it from beneath the tiles was no easy chore. (By the way, if you look at the little dot in the first picture, just to the right of the ivy-covered chimney, you can see Sara hard at work.) We spent evening and most of the weekend getting it all off, and cleaning out the gutters that were packed with branches one and two inches across. They had to be removed almost inch by inch. We were worn out by the painstaking work it took to unleash this house’s potential. (And this is just one bit of it. I won’t tell you about the backyard excavation so Sara could turn the desert look into an English garden.).

Between moments of frustration where we vented at the former owners in abstentia who let this thing grow into such a monster, I was constantly reminded that change, even spiritually, doesn’t come without work. If we think freedom is living comfortably in the status quo, we’ll find our lives falling into greater disrepair. Living the life Jesus has called us to live doesn’t happen without intentional action on our part.

Those who misunderstand that, will not see the changes in their life they seek. There is one problem here. When we speak of action, most of us only know the self-effort of legalism that tries to earn his graciousness. First, we must learn that that never works. As we find that freedom, however, we must take care not to fall into the ditch on the other side of the road—lethargy.
Since so much of our effort was the self-effort driven by guilt or fear, when he frees us from those things, we don’t know how to respond.

But he wants us to go on and learn the joy of working alongside him as he invites us to actively follow him day by day. This activity is not an attempt to earn his love or to cover up our sin, it is the only thing that love for him will want to do. Those who find life in this journey discover how to intentionally follow him as he invites us onward. Sacking out on the couch won’t get it done. It takes intentionality to put off the old man and to embrace the potential God sees in us. Yes, that means work, but this work is a joy. It responds to his leading and goes forward on his strength. Each day the disciple takes great joy in asking, “What are you asking of me today?” And then when God makes the way clear we intentionally follow him, even if there is hard work to be done, so that we can feast on the fruits of his work in us.

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12 Comments
  1. Kevin July 18, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    Nice house and "hear, hear!" to your comments.

    As one who doesn’t come from a religious background, I never thought of working to earn God’s favor. With my past, I thought that would be hopeless. And since from the start I was told I didn’t have to, I figured "why bother?".

    My tendency is to rest on my laurels rather than serve in his grace. I need to be reminded to work out my salvation.

    I do love my wife…and it is a joy to serve her in various ways…nevertheless, I still need to be reminded of that once in a while. 🙂

    One of my new favorite quotes is from Dallas Willard.

    <i>

    The path of spiritual growth in the riches of Christ is not a passive one. Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning. Effort is action. Earning is attitude. You have never seen people more active than those who have been set on fire by the grace of God. Paul, who perhaps understood grace better than any other mere human being, looked back at what had happened to him and said: "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." (I Cor. 15:10)

    </i>

    – Kevin

  2. Dom July 18, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    Personally i get nervous that people will misunderstand this and be lead into more works.I want there hearts to rest,and i feel the friut of that relationship will produce fruit on its own and it will become obvious[i think God has that ability to make it obvious] what to do from their.Im not sure we need to have it said that we make an "effort" so much as we can know that Gods love produces supernatutral ability in us.What that looks like is Gods buisness.When the Spirit takes over and "efforts-through" us we are truly blessed.In the meantime im just enjoying for the first time experiencing what it is to be myself and how God made me to be.My 2 cents.

  3. Dom July 18, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    By the way Wayne you have a very pretty home!

  4. Wayne July 18, 2005 at 5:13 pm

    Yeah, Dom, I know that would be a risk.

    Hopefully people who read htis will have enough freedom not to respond to the guilt of old and learn to respond to the invitation of Jesus to come and live deeply in his love.

    But I do think some intentionality in that response is important. There is so much in Scripture about our involvement that it is good to be reminded once in a while not to get lost.

    I hope everyone ignores this blog in whom it stirs up self-effort, self-righteousness and guilt or fear induced activity. That truly is valueless. But I also hope it encourages others to go and freely do whatever God has put on their heart to do—whether it is to build a relationship with a neighbor or co-worker, invite some folks over for fellowship, or find some solitude to know him better.

  5. Kevin July 18, 2005 at 5:13 pm

    Nice house and "hear, hear!" to your comments.

    As one who doesn’t come from a religious background, I never thought of working to earn God’s favor. With my past, I thought that would be hopeless. And since from the start I was told I didn’t have to, I figured "why bother?".

    My tendency is to rest on my laurels rather than serve in his grace. I need to be reminded to work out my salvation.

    I do love my wife…and it is a joy to serve her in various ways…nevertheless, I still need to be reminded of that once in a while. 🙂

    One of my new favorite quotes is from Dallas Willard.

    <i>

    The path of spiritual growth in the riches of Christ is not a passive one. Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning. Effort is action. Earning is attitude. You have never seen people more active than those who have been set on fire by the grace of God. Paul, who perhaps understood grace better than any other mere human being, looked back at what had happened to him and said: "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." (I Cor. 15:10)

    </i>

    – Kevin

  6. Dom July 18, 2005 at 7:29 pm

    Personally i get nervous that people will misunderstand this and be lead into more works.I want there hearts to rest,and i feel the friut of that relationship will produce fruit on its own and it will become obvious[i think God has that ability to make it obvious] what to do from their.Im not sure we need to have it said that we make an "effort" so much as we can know that Gods love produces supernatutral ability in us.What that looks like is Gods buisness.When the Spirit takes over and "efforts-through" us we are truly blessed.In the meantime im just enjoying for the first time experiencing what it is to be myself and how God made me to be.My 2 cents.

  7. Dom July 18, 2005 at 7:30 pm

    By the way Wayne you have a very pretty home!

  8. Wayne July 18, 2005 at 8:13 pm

    Yeah, Dom, I know that would be a risk.

    Hopefully people who read htis will have enough freedom not to respond to the guilt of old and learn to respond to the invitation of Jesus to come and live deeply in his love.

    But I do think some intentionality in that response is important. There is so much in Scripture about our involvement that it is good to be reminded once in a while not to get lost.

    I hope everyone ignores this blog in whom it stirs up self-effort, self-righteousness and guilt or fear induced activity. That truly is valueless. But I also hope it encourages others to go and freely do whatever God has put on their heart to do—whether it is to build a relationship with a neighbor or co-worker, invite some folks over for fellowship, or find some solitude to know him better.

  9. Dom July 18, 2005 at 9:05 pm

    Wayne,

    i can clearly see you serve a God of mercy.Thank you for your kind response,and reaffirmation of the Truth.Beautifully said.

    Peace,Dom

  10. Dom July 19, 2005 at 12:05 am

    Wayne,

    i can clearly see you serve a God of mercy.Thank you for your kind response,and reaffirmation of the Truth.Beautifully said.

    Peace,Dom

  11. Dave Lindsay July 19, 2005 at 8:36 am

    Wayne:

    I guess this is one more proof that Vine Life has everything to do with Jesus and nothing to do with your house!

    Dave

  12. Dave Lindsay July 19, 2005 at 11:36 am

    Wayne:

    I guess this is one more proof that Vine Life has everything to do with Jesus and nothing to do with your house!

    Dave

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