"Apart from me you can do nothing," (Jn 15:5).
One afternoon this week my eleven year-old son came out of school and announced, "we started World War II today." Having three boys, I know their ability to create chaos but I think even together they would find it difficult cause global conflict.
A High Opinion Of Ourselves
Of course my son didn't actually mean what he'd said, but something quite different. However, it does seem to me that we often like to claim credit for things that turn out well while blaming someone else, (the devil, the husband, the worship leader, the prime minister, perhaps even God) when things don't go according to plan.
For example, when we've felt the touch of God in our hearts during a service, it's because we are spiritually in tune, free from sin, praying more than everyone else. When we don't feel a buzz during the worship time it's because the pastor chose the wrong songs, the guitar was out of tune or the person behind us kept coughing.
Actually, none of these is the case. We experience the Lord because He is gracious enough to reveal Himself to us.
He Gave Some
We can make the same mistake with our ministries. We want to be recognised for the number of people we've witnessed to, the impact we've had on people we've visited, the loving acts we've performed. We forget what the Apostle Paul said to the Ephesians in chapter 4 verse 11 to 12, that it is the Lord who raises up people for ministry - He gave some to be ...
I was brought up short by the Lord last weekend when I was struggling to put a sermon together. After 5 hours I still wasn't confident that I had the right message for the congregation. A good friend reminded me that it was God's responsibility to speak to His people not mine. I repented of my pride & arrogance in thinking I had to do a good job in order for them to hear Him & asked for the Lord's anointing.
You'd have to ask someone else whether God spoke to people that morning, but I got the message. If Jesus doesn't show up it doesn't matter how eloquent I am, people's hearts will not be changed.
Apart From Jesus
Jesus said, "apart from me you can do nothing." We would prefer that He had said, "apart from me you can do some things but if you want any help just call." Until we recognise that Jesus actually meant what He said and said what He meant, the outcome of our efforts to please Him will be patchy at best.
This is particularly true of prayer. We pray many prayers that seem to go unanswered. We see results which are contrary to what we prayed. Sick people decline instead of getting better, marriages fail, loved ones die without professing faith. There is no standard answer we can give to explain these things, except this: Jesus said, "if you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you," (Jn 15:7).
I know I haven't fully grasped what that means. If I had, I would be able to list many more answers to prayer than I'm currently able to. But I do know that it has something to do with abiding in Jesus and that in some sense I'm not entirely aligned with His will when I pray. It perhaps is as simple as believing in the power of my faith or the power of my prayer rather than in the power of my God.
Prayer College Assignment
Acknowledge before Jesus your complete inability to accomplish anything on your own - unless the Lord builds the house the workers labour in vain (Ps 127:1). Ask Him to teach you about abiding in Him so that you can learn to live and pray in such a way that it brings glory to Him.