We are to be Actively-Passive©

To go with God, we have to leave our hammocks.

P.E.A.R.sPeriodic Encouragement And Reminders
We are to be Actively-Passive©
Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

(After reading this post, please take the sequence challenge in the P.S.)

The subject I want to address this week is not exactly heavy on my heart, but it does involve an issue with which I seem to have a constant struggle.  Basically, it comes down to this: how much of my growth and walk with God depends on me and how much depends on Him?

Perhaps you’re facing the same quandary.  If so, I hope the thinking-out-loud I am about to engage in will give you some thoughts to consider as you try to find God’s purpose and fulfillment in your own life.

It’s quite clear from the Bible that our salvation and adoption into God’s family, through which we will inherit the glorious riches of His eternal kingdom, are gifts of grace from Him and not something we can earn on our own.  Nevertheless, we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  [Philippians 2:12]  The next verse reads: “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” [Philippians 2:13]

We also find: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and mighty things which you do not know.”  [Jeremiah 33:3]  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” [Jeremiah 29:13]  “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”  [Hebrews 11:6]

When Charles Swindoll in his book “The Mystery of God’s Will” briefly mentions Philippians 2:12, he says, “…, be discerning, think it through, use your head, pay attention, get serious about your Christian walk.”  What he means is that even after we believe in Christ and are saved by His grace, there’s still more for us to understand; more growth for us to achieve, and more service and purpose for us to fulfill in God’s plan here on earth.

Are we left to struggle with this on our own?  Absolutely not!  For we will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon us. [Acts 1:8]  “I will ask the Father”, said Jesus, “and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world [those who reject Christ] can not receive because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” [John 14:18]

Still, there is initiative for us to take.  If we want to learn great and mighty things, we must “call” on God.  To find Him [to learn from Him and grow in Him], we have to “seek” Him diligently and seriously “with all of our hearts”.  And…we have to have faith that He is the great I AM, Almighty God with the desire, ability and irrevocable commitment to provide the rewards He has promised.

Dallas Willard in “The Divine Conspiracy – rediscovering our hidden life in God” puts it this way:

When we receive God’s gift of life by relying on Christ, we find that God comes to act with us.  However unlikely it may seem from our current viewpoint, God equipped us for the task by framing our nature to function in a conscious, personal relationship of interactive responsibility with him.  If we are faithful to him, we learn his cooperative faithfulness to us in turn.  When we submit what we are to God and where we are to God, our rule or dominion then increases.  He constantly invites us into an ever larger share in what he is doing.

Where the problem with this paradox often exists is that we sit like a lump of coal waiting for God to provide the flame and also stoke the fire.  He will provide everything we need to fulfill our part of the partnership (there is no doubt about that), but He does not force it on us.

Does this mean we are to step out on our own and then wait for Him to catch-up and provide us with what we want?  No, it doesn’t mean that either.  Confusing, isn’t it?

Doing the will of God is rarely easy and uncomplicated.  Instead, it is often difficult and convoluted.  Or, back to my preferred term, it is mysterious.  Yet, God’s will is not passive, it isn’t a matter of just lying back and waiting for him to move us from Plan A to Plan B. (Charles Swindoll, ibid.)

Many of the authors I’ve read speak to this dilemma.  “God is not going to help you set goals and then be uncommitted to and uninvolved in their attainment.  The Holy Spirit has been imported to you to give you a built-in divine ability to help you succeed.” (“Success God’s Way” by Charles Stanley)

Also, J.I. Packer in “Knowing God”:

Even with right ideas and guidance in general, however, it is still easy to go wrong.  The Spirit can be quenched, and we can all too easily behave in a way which stops this guidance from getting through.  Moreover, it does not follow that right guidance will be vindicated as such by a trouble-free course thereafter.

Here is another cause of deep perplexity for Christian people.  They have sought guidance and believe it has been given.  They have set off along the road which God seemed to indicate.  And now, as a direct result, they have run into a crop of new problems which otherwise would not have arisen – isolation, criticism, abandonment by their friends, practical frustrations of all sorts.

Trouble, however, is not necessarily a sign of being off-track at all.  [Twice, Jesus’ disciples were caught by night in bad weather on the Sea of Galilee and both times, the reason they were there was the command of Jesus himself.]

* * * * *
The thing to remember about all of this is that we are never going to be privy to the entire travel itinerary.  God will definitely light our way, but it generally will be only enough light to take the next step or two – not to map out the entire trip and all the detours to be encountered during the journey.

Where the phrase “actively-passive” fits into the process can, to a certain extent, be simply stated as this: God is not generally inclined to do for us that which we can do for ourselves.

The process will certainly require effort, faith, diligence, perseverance, and sometimes struggle on our part but, in a “actively-passive” form – meaning the results and benefits remain under God’s control. When good works are begun in us, God will be faithful to complete them.  [Philippians 1:6]

My final thoughts come from Charles Stanley, “Success God’s Way” and one of my favorite Bible verses on this subject:

God never asks any of us to sit down and wait idly for Him to vault us into success.  He asks us to trust and obey Him day by day, day in and day out, by doing the things He entrusted us to do.  He asks us to learn the lessons that He set before us – some of which may be painful, some of which may be difficult, and many of which may seem unimportant.  Often we cannot see that God is building a strong pattern of experience, skill, trustworthiness, honesty, integrity, and character into us, so that when the time comes for us to be in a position of authority or influence, we will be ready.

2 Chronicles 16:9: “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” – Hmmmm, sounds to me like partnering in an actively-passive way with God!

Have a great week!  (and to my family, love Dad)

Bob Alderman

P.S. Sequence challenge: Every time I review or share this subject, I wonder which of the two  elements (activity or passivity) should be stated first in the title. E.g.: Actively-Passive or  Passively-Active.  Although the distinction doesn’t make any real difference since in either order the prompter and the doer is the Holy Spirit, I am still curious to know in what order each reader would express those elements. Thus, please share with me in the comment box at the end of this page how you approach them – and why.  Thank you.

Original Publication 101205 – revised 2017.01.31

PERMISSIONS:  You are permitted to reproduce and distribute electronic or hardcopies of this article in its entirety provided you do not alter it in any way, do not charge a fee to others to receive it beyond your cost of reproduction, and do not make more than fifty physical copies without prior written permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr.  All republications of the article in full or in part, whether in a hardcopy or electronic format, must include this statement:  Reproduced with permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr., 661.904.7751, thegreatestlaw@gmail.com,  www.BobsPEARS.com

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