I love the way Eugene Peterson translated the Paul’s prayer for the Colossians in the first chapter. He pulls the language out of the kinds of terms that religion has co-opted and allows us to see what Paul was really praying. Here is an excerpt of that prayer:
The truth of this statement is becoming increasingly real in my life. I’m sad to say that most of my life was spent in ignorance of how God works. Not knowing what he was doing or how he does it, I was taught things we believers should do to try to get God to do something. I was taught to press in, pray through, lay hold, and to be more committed and more disciplined so that I could move God’s hand for the things I wanted. Not only was that a ton of work, but it was almost completely fruitless. God still did some things because he is a gracious God, but mostly I was frustrated at him for not doing the things I thought my efforts compelled him to do.
So many well-intentioned believers get caught up in trying to do some great thing for God. So much of that is borne not out of responding to what we already see him doing, but out of our anxieties that we’re going to miss him in some way so we do the best thing we can think to do. We’ll even quote Scriptures to justify it. But in the end we’ll end up in that fruitless place where our own efforts make us miss the very things God is doing.
In my own journey, I’m just beginning to learn how to recognize Father’s fingerprints in my life and in other people’s lives. When I see that, then I know what work the Father is asking of me. That’s what Paul prayed for. He wanted the Colossians to have a thorough knowledge in the ways in which God works, so that they would know what their part is. We are responders not initiators. God doesn’t fulfill our agenda, he invites us into his.
Anxiety is a great deterrent to this process. If you are doing something for God because you’re worried you’ll miss out, or that he won’t respond in love to you, or because you think others can snatch it away from you, it will be almost impossible to see what he is doing. He is easier to recognize when we are at rest in his presence because we know he loves us and will take care of us through whatever circumstances life brings.
And if we don’t see him doing anything in our situations, we still don’t need to panic. Just lean into him more each day until he makes his work in us clear. I just shared some of this with a congregation in Wichita and this month have included the audio from that teaching in our Audio Library as the teaching of the month. You’re welcome to listen to it if you like…
I hope it encourages you to look to what Father is doing, instead of trying to do things for him. He’ll show us. He wants to give us the very kingdom itself. And until we see what he is doing, we do not need to feel any compulsion to ‘do something.’ And when we do see his hand moving, then we’ll know exactly what he wants us to do and in doing that we’ll get to taste of the fruit of his kingdom…