Step 3 of 12 Steps – “Made a decision to turn our lives and our will over to the care of God.” As I explained in the message the past weekend, this is both a one-time decision and an ongoing daily decision. It’s living out what Paul meant by, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 If you didn’t hear it, listen to it: http://www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast/. This blog supplements how to take Step 3.
Step 3 is far more radical than most Christians I know ever experience. I went for years as a “professional Christian” without experiencing the wonderfully radical life of daily, moment-by-moment surrender. This is tragic, because I’m convinced it’s the only way that “God’s Kingdom comes to earth, as in heaven,” like Jesus taught us to pray. I find addicts have an advantage over “good religious people,” because the addiction forces a radical daily surrender, whereas “good religious people” can remain partially submitted to God (which really means not submitted to God) for years. Recall, it was not the addicts who crucified Jesus, but the “good religious people!”
There’s a prayer called the serenity prayer that I want to walk you through as a way to live Step 3. It’s become well known in recovery circles, but it comes from a 1940s pastor, and it’s excellent practical theology of what surrender is all about according to the Scriptures.
Let Go of Playing God
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time.”
You know most of the things I try to control, or make happen, that then stress me out–are none of my business. Most of the things that get my panties in a wad come from me falling into the trap of wanting to be God rather than finite, fallen, forgiven John. A few things are my responsibility, but the rest is God’s.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6), Jesus is talking about God’s responsibility versus ours. Go read it–he says what God really wants is a kind of personal intimacy and honesty that’s not about show, or proving to others that we’re good. We don’t have to worry about all these things that really are God’s business (the past, the future). Today is the only time we finite humans can actually affect—so let tomorrow worry about itself, says Jesus.
As a finite human, I can only live this moment, then the next, then the next. In fact, that’s all I have to do! That’s not to say I don’t have responsibilities that God gives me, there’re some things that I need to take responsibility for (like seeking His Kingdom will right now!). My responsibility is over those things I can do something about right now, the rest I have to trust into God’s care. And this doesn’t mean I don’t plan for the future, so that I can make wise choices right now. What it means to “surrender playing God” is to live faithfully each day and each moment, taking care of my responsibility in line with God’s kingdom ways today. Let God be God of tomorrow.
Seek God’s Will Only
“Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will.”
Our job is simple: “Seek His will and ways first” (Matthew 6:33). Sometimes life is hard, people sin against God and me, we hurt each other, need to give and receive forgiveness, and sometimes must endure hardship. Often it’s an unwillingness to accept the hardships of life that cause us to take moral or ethical shortcuts against God’s will. When things don’t go our way, we kick and scream and run away, and then do stupid self-destructive things to feel better. But it’s a trap that keeps us stuck.
Jesus submitted himself to God’s will, suffered hardship, but overcame. The promise is that we too will overcome as we seek His Kingdom, His will be done, moment by moment. “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 Which doesn’t mean we will never suffer, it doesn’t mean stupid people won’t light themselves on fire and burn us—it means that even though you and I can’t control any of that—what we can do is pray each morning, each moment of temptation, each point of decision, “God, not my will, but your will—show me the next right thing to do, and I’ll do it.” And that’s the very best we can do! Do that, and even the most tragic Ashes of hardship can grow the most beautiful Garden of life, now and eternally.
Letting Go of Unreasonable Expectations
“That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.” –Reinhold Niebuhr
The key phrase here is “reasonably happy in this life.” One symptom of the disease of playing God is expecting this life to be heaven–it’s not heaven and was never meant to be. Our desires are not bad—most all of them are good at the root. God gave us those desires, but we often aim them at the wrong target. When we aim our desires at seeking God’s Kingdom first (because He is the Source of all we desire), we find increasing happiness. But ultimately, this life is not our home. We will never be supremely happy until we are together with Him forever—until then, live today like there’s no tomorrow!