November 10, 2013

Not given all the answers

A client asked for a painting of some elk. I came up with a composition, but struggled with knowing how to paint it. Some parts were easy, like the elk, but the rest of it challenged me. I asked my art teacher and she said, “Paint the parts that you do know how to do. The rest of it will come to you.”

I’ve been wrestling with what seems like an unsolvable spiritual composition. It has nothing to do with a painting so I go to God and ask Him for help with it. God isn’t giving me a full solution. Added to that problem and His silence is that I tend to dwell on an issue and let it distract me from everything else. That becomes a problem in itself. It’s like throwing out an anchor or hitting a reef, and my ship grinds to a halt. Any usefulness I might have in the kingdom of God is set aside as I try to figure out the problems or issues. While that might be a good idea, what if there is no answer from God. What do I do then?

Paul had a goal and was not there yet. Instead of going into retreat mode until he figured it out, he had a plan to press on with what he did know, similar to my art teacher’s advice . . . 

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:12–16)

The part that speaks to me in this passage is that line that says if I am mature, then think this way, but if I’m not thinking that way, God will reveal that to me, but I need to hang on to what I do know.

In other words, if I’m held up somewhere, even confused about why I cannot seem to move forward, then focus on what I do know and press on. God will show me whatever I need to know. I cannot postpone my usefulness until I settle all the problems of my universe. Some might never be settled, and in the meantime, press on. It may seem a good thing to figure out all the puzzles of life, but in the figuring, I still must obey God in those ways He has taught me, not let my life grind to a halt like that ship that has anchored or run aground.

Knowledge can be based on reason. That is, I want to know “why” before I do it. But knowledge can also be based on obedience. This is not blind, but means I must ask “who” instead of why. If Christ is asking me to do something, does it have to make sense? No, sometimes He asks me to do things that make no sense. Not only that, it can be a step-by-step obedience with each step taking me closer to what I don’t see or understand right now. I tend to want a long-range vision where I know the goal ahead, but God knows what is best for me.

Besides, obedience in taking each step (seemingly in the dark at times) brings understanding of the next one. Jesus said that, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” (John 7:17) I just need to be willing, rather than know everything.

This is a challenge for me. In trying to figure out God’s long-range plan for a current issues, He isn’t giving me that plan. Instead, He is asking that I do the next thing, or the thing that I know, making me wait each step to know my marching orders for the next step. Wanting to know and solve the final outcome creates frustration, yet He says not to give up.

I’m hoping that I can offer the next step to Christ and give my time and energies to the kingdom of God. By obedience to the light that I have, I must wait on Christ to give me more light, not all the answers.

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