The second major section of Gary Thomas’ The Beautiful Fight is called New Spirit, New Bodies and in it he discusses the transformation that God does in our eyes, mouth, ears, minds, hands and feet and hearts. I have now read “Eyes that See” and “Mouths that Speak.” If the “words” of email fit under the category of “mouths that speak,” it has not been a good week for me. And I read this chapter last week! Plus, my wife led a Bible study on 1 Thes 5:11 ff on how we are to encourage one another which is a passage that Thomas uses to show “particular uses of the tongue.”
What happened? It is ugly pride raising up its ugly head once again. I have been frustrated in my inability to stay on top of all that I am supposed to be doing. A couple of times this week, I noticed that I was angry and irritable–for no apparent reason. Well, late one day (already a danger signal), I responded to yet another email hoax someone sent me with a harsh, sharp and pride filled email that was sent publicly to all the members of the email group. Basically, I was saying, “how could you be so ignorant? Don’t waste my time.” I later apologized but the damage was done. Why do I keep reverting to this type of behavior?
Thomas writes, “Life changes when we live it in cooperation with God instead of just working for God.” 83 The level of frustration I have been experiencing in my position shows me that I have been doing more of the “working for God” rather than in “cooperation with God.” Thomas writes these powerful words, “Here’s the joy of the God-empowered life: we can cease expending energy trying to be impressive and instead rest in being used.” 85 Although it is not easy to admit that I have not been living a God-empowered life, the fruits are evident. God-empowered lives are not prideful lives because they know it is not about them and that very little of what they offer to people comes from them.
Listen to Thomas again, “It will help you more than you could know to realize how small (though necessary) a part of the process you really are–when indeed you are relying on God.” 84 I think what he is saying is that I still need to prepare, to pray, to listen, to do whatever but compared to what God does in any given situation my part is infinitesimal. Thomas says,
“Here’s the delightful spiritual irony: true biblical humility breeds confidence. Many people consider humility a sign of insecurity, but when we accept the Bible’s reality that God is already acting, already moving, and already directing the affairs of his world, we can rest in his capability, confident that he has made allowances for our own weaknesses, sin, limitations, and lack of gifting.” 85
This helps me to understand the cooperation involved in the God-empowered life and I think will lead to a lot less frustration and much more joy. I still regret that email I sent but I am grateful how God is using my failure to lead to what I hope is a greater level of transformation. To be continued . . .