If you have ever hired a workman to come into your home or yard to fix up something, remodel, or landscape, you probably had some idea of what you wanted the finished project to resemble. You had a plan and you asked the workman to follow the plan. Even when I had new shingles put on the roof a few years back, I expected it to look a certain way when it was finished and it was expected to perform without leaking, holding up to the tough summer winds in Arizona, and providing my home with protection from the hot sun. I had windows replaced on this old home during the summer (don't ask me why I chose the hottest day of the year to do it). I had seen the "demo" version of the windows, and could only imagine how they would appear once they were installed. Since all of them were custom sizes (don't ask me why home builders do that to us unsuspecting buyers), they had to be carefully fitted to each opening. Some fit like a jewel, others required a little "nudging" to get into place. Yet, when it was finished, it looked wonderful! I even caught my neighbor early one morning looking over the fence to consider the work which was done. What was in common with both rather large projects was the reality that I could have done them both myself - but I chose to allow another to do the work. Why? They were the experts - I was the novice. I could have taken a stab at it, but even my best would not have turned out as wonderfully as their work did! So, why is it we try to assume the role of "fixing up" our lives as "novices" and don't rely upon the skilled "workman" to actually do the work we can only imagine?
The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” (Romans 10:8-10 MSG)
First and foremost, we have to know who to call when we really are serious about getting things in order in our lives. It isn't some self-help guru - it is God himself. No better person to go to for the "how to" on getting things in order than the one who made the original in the first place! More importantly, we have to recognize there is a need to actually admit we need the help! We almost don't want to admit we could use a little help with this "fixer-upper" project of our lives. We try to put together the scattered pieces, all the while thinking we are doing a great job, but anything less than the "expert" actually figuring out what pieces need a little "nudging" into place and which ones need to be no longer attached to us, we just make the appearance change, but we cannot necessarily "guarantee" the work!
Nothing tickles God more than to hear us admit we need his help to set things right in our lives. It isn't that he just sits around waiting on us to realize we cannot make it on our own - he is at work even behind the scenes. It is that he cannot "take over" what we aren't willing to let go of. It would be like the skilled workmen waiting for me to pull the shingles off the roof one-by-one. They might be patient with me, but at some point, when I am tired out and aching from the exertion of doing this on my own, they will step in with their neat scraper things and lift those old shingles in no time. We might actually be amazed at how quickly the right tools actually accomplish the task at hand. I don't know about you, but if there is a way to accomplish the task without all the "ache" and "bungs" of trying to do it all on my own, I'd choose that route any day!
Now, a word of caution - lest you think all you do is call out and then all will be "fixed" without a care in the world from you. God "partners" with his kids in the finished work of salvation in our lives. Salvation is the means by which we are made "new" again - sanctification is the process in which we play a part. It is kind of like when the guys left after installing the windows - there was some cleaning to be done and some touch-up painting required. They ensured the windows were installed, air-tight and shined up the glass. The dust left in the house and the tiny pieces of debris - that stayed around after they were gone. This was my part in the work of getting new windows. Furnishings which had been moved had to be put back into place. Window dressings had to be rehung. The windows were PERFECT, but there was some "putting into order" the rest of the house which needed to be done. This is kind of like the process of sanctification in our lives. We get the bright, shiny new windows, but the little areas of "clean up" which might just be required involve us participating in the process. It isn't us working for our salvation - it is us working out our salvation.
After the roof was replaced, I would drive up to the house for the next couple of weeks and just admire how good it made the house look to have this fresh shingle in place. All the torn shingle, weathered after years and years of tough Arizona heat and wind, was gone. The shingles seemed to be a little "loose" to me, though. It didn't seem as though the "edges" were sealed together well. As the weeks began to pass, I observed something every roofer already knows - the heat "formed" those shingles to each other, giving a lasting seal and an impermeable barrier against the elements. It is often this way in our lives, as well. We get the "new roof" - all the right stuff is in place - but in the course of living out life, the permanence of the change begins to occur. The "loosely fit" pieces begin to come together in a way which gives us an impermeable barrier against those things which come against us. It wasn't until I received my first utility bill after the new windows that I realized the change they would make. It wasn't until I stood next to them on a hot summer day and felt absolutely no heat exchange that I recognized their extreme value.
Sometimes this is what God's changes in our lives are like. It isn't until we see those changes a little later on that we come to fully recognize the magnificence of what he has done within. Just sayin!