You’ve likely seen it all over Facebook: Smiling kids with backpacks full of new glue sticks, markers, and freshly sharpened pencils, teachers posting pictures of their beautifully decorated and organized classrooms, and college students lamenting about where all of their money has gone after picking up their textbooks. It’s the time of year when new beginnings are fresh and exciting, and the promise of fall teases us with cool mornings and advertisements of hot drinks.
My tendency in this time is to make mental resolutions—to process summer and try to put into action what was learned. However, as I was reading this morning, I was reminded of my need to continually rely on God in new seasons rather than myself. Instead of thinking “What have I learned, and how can I put it into practice this year?”, thinking “What is God still teaching me about this as I continue to rely on Him?”. I think we see this clearly in John 15, specifically in verse 5:
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Reliance is so key. By abiding, we see change. But change typically isn’t quick to come, is it?
As Miley Cyrus will tell you, it’s the climb. We so desperately want to reach the destination without the long (and potentially painful) process.
I remember the tediousness of math homework, especially in high school. Math was never a strength for me, and I hated “the process”. I was lazy and didn’t want to actually learn the concept of my math homework—I just wanted to understand it on a basic level and get my homework over with as quickly as possible.
Since I wasn’t very good at math, I often had to ask my parents for help while doing my homework. My dad, understandably, wanted me to learn the concept of the homework I was doing. This meant he wouldn’t just help me with the specific homework problems I wanted. Instead, he would create sample problems for me to work through and ensure I understood the concept. This was obviously a wise long-term way to learn, but I was NOT a fan. The “process” was frustrating and tedious to me, just like the process of growth and understanding in other areas.
This unfortunately applies to my relationship with God as well—if He provides conviction on something in my life, such as my self-dependence or pride, my response is to immediately get over it and fix it. I just want to be DONE with it.
But that’s not how we work.
We are people. People are messy.
Every day I am learning new depths of how little I can do without God and how change truly comes from Him.
God is the one doing the work, not me—it’s not about my effort. This is so difficult for me to acknowledge and come to terms with. Even though I am a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17) as a follower of Jesus, He is still refining me. This is a comforting thought, because, as Philippians 1:6 says,
“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Paul is confident that those who follow Jesus are being shaped and transformed. I cannot rush through the issues with self-dependence that are before me—I must rely on Him instead of a quick fix.
I am also reminded of Ephesians 2:10:
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”.
Some translations replace “workmanship” with “masterpiece”, which I love. It communicates an intense level of care, work, and intention. This gives the impression of an artist hard at work–an artist’s masterpiece is done with much care! This verse says that we are His masterpiece.
There’s a lot we can see from this verse, but here’s one thing that must be acknowledged: We can’t miss what He has in store for us—I cannot “mess up” what He is preparing me for.
He knows my heart, motivations, and everything.
My hope is that as we move forward into a new school year and all it brings, we won’t be quick to make goals or resolutions that rest upon ourselves. Instead, let us cling to the One who brings life change.
Recommended reading: Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges and Lay It Down by Bill Tell. (So good!)