I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Ephesians 3:16 NLT
Every year I read through the Bible–the whole point of BetterOffRead. com. This year I used the One Year Bible plan which has daily readings in the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. So the last portion of scripture I read in 2017 was Proverbs 31.
Reading the characteristics of this seemingly “perfect” woman got me feeling a little inadequate. Ok, VERY inadequate. So much so, my ego defense mechanisms were involuntarily activated. I was quite surprised at how quickly that happened! My first thought was, “I don’t think I would want to be Lem’s wife and his mother’s Daughter-In-Law.” My second thought was, “Well, I used to be a Proverbs 31 woman but my husband and kids didn’t fulfill their part of scripture by rising up and calling me blessed. (Proverbs 31:28) Isn’t it amazing what a little affirmation can do! 🙂 My last thought, before the Holy Spirit put the kibosh on my rationalizing was, “Hey God, that’s not fair. There are no verses in the Bible about the perfect man!” Needless to say, I felt very silly when the Holy Spirit reminded me that the whole Bible is about the perfect man–Jesus. (FYI Jesus was also fully God. Capisce?) And we ALL are exhorted to walk as He walked (I John 2:6 ESV), follow His example (1 Peter 2:21), imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1 ESV), be conformed into His image (Romans 8:29) and the clincher that could make all of us feel hopelessly inadequate, be perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
Suddenly being, an industrious meal preparer, real estate investor, fashion designer, charity organizer and home decorator who brings her husband good–not harm all the days of her life, is strong , a vigorous worker, rises early, is dignified, laughs at what the future may bring, speaks wisdom, and is never idle, ceases to be the high bar that I must jump over. (Proverbs 31:10-29) Now, I am reminded the goal is Perfection!
Let’s just take a minute to do some clarifying here. Salvation is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8) and I don’t have to be perfect to earn God’s love (Romans 8:35-39). There is nothing I can do to make God love me more and there is nothing I can do to make God love me less. The striving/straining for perfection is something to which I aspire because I love this God who has done EVERYTHING which really matters, for me and I want to offer up my life to Him as a pleasing sacrifice. (Philippians 3:13-14; Romans 12:1) WARNING! SMALL TANGENT AHEAD: The last reading in the Old Testament for 2017 was in Malachi. In the first chapter God rebukes the Israelites for dishonoring Him. They asked how they have dishonored Him and He replied, “When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong…” (Malachi 1:6-8). I can’t help thinking that when we don’t try to live like Jesus and follow His example but rather live a life with pride, selfishness, disobedience and unkindness, it becomes the equivalent to offering Him blind, lame, diseased sacrifices which are really no sacrifices at all. David said, “I will not offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24)
…Ok back to perfection and its possibility of bringing hopelessness. Fortunately for me, I spent the last few weeks of 2017 praying about the new year. In my quiet time, I kept hearing the Holy Spirit speaking the words, HOPE and STRENGTH. The Hope Club I was thinking He meant, hope and strength to face whatever difficult circumstances that may lie ahead in 2018 but maybe He was also answering me before I ever asked the question, “How can I live 2018 in a manner that brings my LORD glory? King David asked and answered the same question. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your Word.” (Psalm 119:9) He also said some verses later in the same chapter, “You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.” (Psalm 119:114)
As for the POWER to live a godly life, Jesus Himself promised the empowering of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8) The Apostle Peter tells us that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life. And if there ever was someone who knew the despair of failing God, surly it was he! (1 Peter 1:3) In fact, this power which is our source, is the very same power that raised Christ from the dead!(Ephesians 1:19) That’s pretty powerful! Why, that is more powerful than . . . a locomotive! (Just trying to engage all you Super Hero movie buffs.)
In 2018, I don’t need to stop a locomotive. I just want to stop three things! While there are so many things I need to work on, this is what I will be focusing on this year:
- 👄Stop my mouth from eating unhealthy foods because my body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). You can read more about this in my post, The Man From Umatilla.
- 💭Stop the negative thoughts that the enemy uses to try to thwart God’s will for my life. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
- 👅Stop my tongue from saying things that don’t please God. This one I know is quite a challenge for all of us. James says, “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:2,7-8 NLT) Many of our resolutions can be self-controlled by human efforts but this one, the Bible specifically says cannot be controlled by any human being. We all totally need the power of the Holy Spirit for this one!
I will be praying for you that whatever 2018 brings your way, you will meet it with the supernatural hope and strength of the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to spend time daily in The Word and in God’s quiet presence.
I pray that from your glorious, unlimited resources you will empower us with inner strength through your Spirit. (Ephesians 3:16 NLT) Please give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but you said if we hope in you, Lord you will renew our strength and that we will soar on wings like eagles; we will run and not grow weary, we will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)Please empower us to do the right and godly thing in every circumstance. May we live 2018 in such a way that those who observe our lives will glorify you. LH