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Whose Fulfillment? Ours or God’s?

December 31, 2010

We were always taught that when we submit our gifts and talents to God’s will, God works in our lives to bring out the best in us. God doesn’t waste our gifts or talents. He will always brings our talents and gifts to fruition. God takes our potentiality and turns it into reality. God actively works to fulfill his purposes in us. And in this way, we live fulfilled lives, utilizing every gift and talent for Him. Right? So I thought. But then I realized that it is only another version of that old “self-fulfillment.” God fulfills me and thus helps me reach my “self-fulfillment.”

So when calamity strikes, and something happens to us, our family, our careers, we can’t figure out what God is doing. And so you hear people say, I need to assess this “God-thing” in my life. Why? Because God clearly hasn’t lived up to His promise. Not only are we not reaching “(self)-fulfillment”, we now feel God no longer even cares about our “usefulness” for Him. So whatever happened to the “promise” that God would work all things for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes? (Ro. 8:28)

Reaching our fulfillment is what drives us—we want to be all we can be for God! This is our “pre-understanding,” what we bring to the bible. It conditions everything we read in the bible. We need to “understand” our “pre-understandings,” and, instead of reading into the text, let the text read us.

When we allow the bible to “read us,” we see a totally different picture. When 2 Cor. 1:7-12 reads me, I realize how far off the mark we are. Paul is a man, an apostle, with tremendous gifts and talents and great potential. And yet, here we find Paul in deepest affliction, so much so that he even despaired of life itself. Remarkable for one who believed that he could do all things through Christ which strengthened him. (Phil 4:13). Not only were Paul’s plans interrupted, but his own life (fulfillment) and calling were in peril. One would expect Paul to cry out, “God, how could this happened to me?” “What fulfillment could there be in my plans being dashed and my life in peril?”

But in his suffering, Paul understood the deeper purposes of God even in his despair. It is not about his “potential” for God, or his life’s fulfillment because those things make us even more “self-dependent.” Rather, Paul says, “This happened..(v. 9b)”—read, “in God’s sovereign control, these things happened, “that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.” You see, the only thing God destroyed was Paul’s self-confidence, and in return, Paul received God himself, In relying on God Paul was receiving (v. 3) “the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort.” And that is what mattered most to Paul—and God!

“Christianity is not about our self-fulfillment, but our self-denial,” words attributed John MacArthur, but actually best developed and expressed eighty years earlier by Oswald Chambers.

“Jesus did not say, he who believes in me will realize all the blessings of the fullness of God. Our Lord’s teaching was always anti-self-realization. His purpose is not the development of the person, his purpose is to make a person exactly like himself and the son is characterized by self-expenditure. It is not what we gain, but what He pours through us that counts. Our spiritual life cannot be measured by success, as the world measures it, but only by what God pours through us…and we cannot measure that at all.”

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