“A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven … he gives the Spirit without measure.” (John 3:27, 34b)
Take a moment and go back over these words of God a time or two more. Slow down. Breathe deeply. Purposely pause to ponder.
The first line was uttered by John the Baptist as his disciples began to panic over people’s sudden preference of Jesus over their master. They were afraid they were loosing something that had become precious to them. They couched it as concern for John, but surely part of it was their loss of status as insiders with the most popular preacher around. John’s humility before Jesus stands in stark contrast.
As these words began to seep into the crevices of my soul these important points floated to the surface of my thoughts:
- Everything is by grace. Nothing is mine by right.
- God is absolutely sovereign over my life and over what enters it (and what does not enter it).
- If something enters my life it is by God’s permission and it therefore means something.
- What comes into my life is controlled by someone outside of me, God Himself. I am not ultimately in control of the inflow.
- I must therefore live by faith and dependent upon God’s grace.
- There is no limit to Jesus’ willingness to give His Spirit to me. All limitation is from my side.
- There is therefore no limit outside of myself to what God can do in and through me.
- My responsibility is not to be a busy “producer,” but a responsible “receiver.”
- I am accountable to God for the reception and use of those things He gives into my life.
Paul uttered words similar to those of John the Baptist: “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7). James did the same: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
John, Paul, and James had each come to the place where they were gladly praying something very much like these lines penned by some anonymous sojourner.
Lord, I am willing
To receive what You give,
To lack what You withhold,
To relinquish what You take,
To suffer what You inflict,
To be what You require. (quoted by Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace, p.185)
Are you able to genuinely pray this as well?
Come on, be honest. We don’t arrive at such a place quickly or painlessly. But God both gives and withholds in order that He might bring us to this place of glad, willing, honest surrender and contentment.
The trail God has you on right now—with all that has come into your life and all that has been withheld from your life—winds its way to this very destination. Know this. He is on the trail before you … leading you. He is on the trail before you … preparing the way for you. He is on the trail before you … making sure that you are headed toward the place He has prepared for you to dwell.