Those of us who have struggled with a spirit of rejection often find ourselves working under a spirit of perfectionism as well. Those of us who have lived in fear that we will not be loved and accepted, will often try to earn both by doing everything “right.” This tendency has often paralyzed me in my walk with Christ. Prayer has been difficult, as I struggled to find the “right” way to pray. Worship has been practically impossible, being entirely too intimate for me to engage in freely. Even scripture becomes a burden when it’s being read in order to appease an angry God. For the longest time, it seemed that no matter what I did, or where I turned, I was constantly failing in my attempts to please God.
In my previous post, I wrote about how my prayer life was changed when I made the conscious decision to take God at His word, regardless of my experiences. My prayer life is not the only thing that changed, however, for as I began to act in my decision to trust God with my circumstances, I unconsciously began to trust Him with my heart as well.
There is an incredible freedom that follows the decision to trust someone. When I lived in fear of God failing me (and of me failing Him), I was unable to fully rely on Him as my councilor, helper, healer, provider… or even savior. After I made the decision to trust Him no matter what the outcome, however, I was suddenly free, for the first time in my life, to go to Him with anything! I knew I might come away from prayer without complete understanding, but I would never come away without faith in Him again. I chose to never again exalt my experiences above His Word. And I discovered that the more I prayed, the more He met my need. And the more He met my need, the more I began to believe in His love for me.
This kind of decision, choosing to trust someone regardless of the circumstances, is not made in the intellect. It is made in the will. I had to choose to trust God, regardless of the outcome. This is the basis of faith, believing in that “which is not yet seen” (Heb 11:1) solely based upon His character as revealed to us in His Word. Many men and women who now have powerful ministries have spoken of similar struggles as, in the beginning of their walk with God, they prayed repeatedly without seeing any results. As they continued in faith, however, miracles began to happen. Each of them had to discount their own experiences rather than discount the word of God. Todd Bentley wrote in his book, Journey Into the Miraculous:
“I purposed that if I prayed for a thousand and no one got healed, that I would pray for another thousand.”
Todd Bentley later went on to lead one of the greatest healing revivals of our time (1).
The more I walk out this principal in my own prayer life, choosing to trust in God regardless of the outcome, the more I am able to fully believe in His love for me. I have come to realize that God wants a relationship with me regardless of my mistakes. If I could come to Him while I was yet a sinner to receive salvation, how much more grace does He give now that I am His? “Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more” (Romans 5:20).
This transformation is not yet complete in me. Worship is still difficult for me. I still struggle with self accusation. I often find myself feeling that God is angry with me for something, although I usually don’t know what. Satan constantly accuses me of sins that God has never spoken to me about. But I’m learning to distinguish guilt from conviction. Guilt is almost always accusatory. When I listen carefully, I recognize it. “How dare you… You’re such a bad… You should be… You’re not even…” The Holy Spirit is always encouraging, never condemning. He wants us to walk in Holiness even more than we do, and what’s more – it’s His responsibility to enable us to do so.
I have also come to understand that I am not in charge of my own sanctification. “He who has begun a good work in [me] will complete it” (Philippians 1:6). I am not responsible for perfecting myself. I am discovering that the more I attempt to keep myself from committing sin, the more stifled my relationship with God becomes. I must be willing to make mistakes if I am ever to experience true freedom in Christ. A child who is not willing to stumble is a child who will never learn to walk (2).
Today as I sat, reading a book, a question popped into my mind as to whether I was doing something wrong in a certain area. Normally I would have put my book down to ponder this. Perhaps done a bible study on the subject to resolve the matter. I would have worried about whether or not God was mad at me for it, and tried to determine what I should do about it. Instead, my thought in response was, “well, if I am, He’ll let me know.” In that moment, I realized…
I am free to fail!
(1) Many of you may know the personal circumstances that caused Todd Bentley’s ministry to come to an end. However, as Bill Johnson pointed out, we cannot confuse a great anointing with bad character. If we are to disregard the ministry of those who fell into sin and deception, we would need to stay away from Gideon, Samson, Solomon’s Proverbs, and the Song of Solomon. “We must learn to eat the meat and throw out the bones.”
(2) While I am certainly not advocating that we ignore sin, it is important to recognize that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to act as the sanctifying agent in our lives. It is His responsibility to mold us into the image of Jesus and we should not attempt to take His job by practicing self-examinations.
Bill Johnson, in his book When Heaven Invades Earth, writes: “In my own pursuit of God, I often became preoccupied with ME! It was easy to think that being constantly aware of my faults and weakness was humility. It’s not!…By being sold on my own unrighteousness, the enemy has disengaged me from effective service…It may sound strange, but I don’t examine my motives anymore. That’s not my job. I work hard to obey God in everything that I am and do. If I am out to lunch on a matter, it is His job to point that out to me. After many years of trying to do what only He could do, I discovered that I was not the Holy Spirit. I cannot convict and deliver myself of sin. Does that mean that I never deal with impure motives? No. He has shown Himself to be very eager to point out my constant need for repentance and change. But He’s the one with the spotlight, and He alone can give the grace to change.”
Introspection is most often accompanied by guilt. Conviction by the Holy Spirit is always accompanied by the power to obey. Let us not confuse the two.