Maybe another way of asking this question is, “How much effort do I put into something before I let God take over?” I think this question is valid for anyone wanting to live a life for Jesus. Although valid, I think the presuppositions are wrong for the question. I believe this question poses an “either/or” type of scenario, when in reality I believe it should be “both/and.” Maybe a better question would be, “How do I integrate Jesus in and through my daily life?”
I know we have all heard it said, “God helps those who help themselves.” This is not a proverb. Although, you might find it somewhere in 1st Hesitations. This phrase is actually unbiblical. The assumption is that we have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps first before God will intervene. I’m thankful Jesus doesn’t apply this principle. Romans 5:8 says that WHILE we were still sinners Christ died for us. Jesus didn’t wait for us to help ourselves before He died for us. He loved us the most when we were at our WORST! Think of some of the worst sins you have ever committed. Got them? Those moments are when Jesus had (and still has) His unending, covenantal love for you.
Does God reward laziness then? Is this an excuse to be lazy? By no means. The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about a person who is slothful, none of them are good things. We have to put in effort. The trick is not doing it without Jesus. Let’s not make plans and then expect God to bless those plans. Let’s seek wise counsel. Let’s be on our face at the feet of Jesus before plans are implemented. Prayer should be our first line of defense, not the last. I believe all throughout scripture God speaks through wise counsel. If we ask God for wisdom, He gives it freely and liberally. He is generous beyond your wildest imagination.
The problem with thinking that logic is somehow devoid of any type of faith is deeply rooted in the enlightenment era (another blog for another day). Christians adopted parts of this philosophy and said that God is number one, family is number two, work is number three, etc. This is very flawed. I believe this has truly produced what has been referred to as a “Christian Atheist.” This is when you go to church and act like a Christian on Sunday, but live nothing like it throughout the week. Your finances don’t look like Jesus. Your marriage doesn’t look like Jesus. Your singleness doesn’t look like Jesus. Investing in the next generation through discipleship is nonexistent. Putting all of this into separate categories has created a strong sacred-secular divide. What I think it should look like is: God in family, God in work, God in your sporting events, God in your school, etc. Let God work through every aspect of your life.
I am in conversation with students frequently. They range in age from middle school to college. If they are a Christian, they are on the hunt for a girlfriend or boyfriend with prayers that sound like this, “I am just waiting for God to bring me the person I will marry.” To which my response is this, “Do you use that logic in any other area of your life?” Of course the answer is always “no.” If I’m hungry, I don’t pray for God to make me a sandwich and bring it to me on the couch. I get up and make a sandwich! I tell them (especially the guys) to actually go ask someone out -- not over Facebook or a text. Do it face-to-face. You are praying and you have faith that God will provide a Jesus-loving spouse, and that usually starts with a first date. Get date #1 and we can talk from there.
Let me give you another example. Several years ago, I had started a new job at a bank. I was being trained by a guy in my department and I knew I would interact with him every day for the next 3-4 weeks during training, and then frequently after that. I prayerfully asked God for opportunities to share my faith not knowing if he was a Christian or not. I soon initiated a conversation about church and spiritual things. He said he wasn’t interested in any of that. I then simply offered to him, that if he ever did have any questions, I am here to listen judgment free -- because if I’m honest, I still have many myself. What transpired over the next year in a half was not only a great working relationship, but a friendship as well. He’d ask spiritual questions on occasion and we would have great discussion. I would ask him about spiritual topics and his perspective. I made fun of him for being a Steelers fan. He strongly reciprocated words that were unkind about me being a Rams fan, all of which were justified.
After many spiritual conversations and laughs, a foundation of trust was built, and I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that I hadn’t shared the gospel with him. I had talked about Jesus plenty, along with many other theological topics, but I was feeling pushed to do more. So, I prayed for an opportunity to really lay out the gospel: we are all wicked sinners who have refused, rejected, and cheated on God, and deserved to be punished eternally for sinning against an eternal God. I would then tell him how God became a man. That God/man is named Jesus. He came to save the sinners, heal the sick, and ask all people everywhere to repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in Him alone. I would then tell him that the reason we could put our faith and trust in Jesus is because He is the only One in the history of ever who has provided a sufficient solution for our wrongdoings. I would say that Jesus was beaten to the point where His own mother couldn’t recognize him. This showed what our sins do to God and how we should be punished. Instead, Jesus took our punishment. I’d then tell my friend that Jesus went to a cross to take on the wrath that should be on us for our sins. Instead, Jesus took that wrath. He died and was buried. Three days later, He rose from the dead conquering our enemies of Satan, sin, and death. He showed that death and the grave couldn’t hold Him like it had everyone in years past. That’s why we can trust Him. I wanted to say that, but I was just looking for the opportunity.
A great deal of work was put in along with many prayers. Two days after praying, and continually being watchful for my prayers to be answered, he asked me point blank, “How do I get right with God?” We had a fantastic conversation about the gospel.
It is not “either/or,” it is “both/and.” I pray you would work hard for the Lord, being prayerful in your decisions and conversations. Some prayers will be prolonged like the Daniel of the Bible. He prayed every day for years and years. He was finally faced with a situation in which he had to pray a shotgun prayer – quick, silent, and to the point. He didn’t only use logic when he faced Nebuchadnezzar. He also used faith. Read a section of, or the entire book of Daniel. You will find his marrying of logic and faith in chapters 1-3, and learn more about how God has called us to use “both/and.”