This past weekend, I was preparing to help put on a retreat, and I didn’t put as much effort in as I should have. When I was driving to the church, I prayed that my mediocre preparation would not have a negative impact on the people attending the retreat. In response, I heard, “for the glory of my name.” Peace settled over me, until I got to the Church.
Before going forward with the story, I want to explain why the phrase, “for the glory of my name” brought peace. The phrase (which is actually, “for the sake of my name”) comes from something I learned in my Old Testament Prophets class. During the Babylonian exile, Ezekiel tells the Israelites that he would uphold his end of the covenant, despite their failure to do the same. He was going to bring them home, not because of anything they did, but to prove to other nations that the God of Israel was faithful.
So, what I heard was, “I will care for my people despite any weakness in you. I will lead them to me.” I knew in that instant that I was just an instrument through which he would do as he pleased. All I needed to do was surrender.
When I arrived at the church, I started hauling boxes in from my car. One of the boxes flipped over, and the vegetable tray container broke open, and spilled out on the floor. As I reached to pick everything up, I discovered that the fruit tray had also broken open. Luckily, it spilled out in the bag. Less mess. As soon as that was straightened up, something else fell to the floor. In the course of 45 minutes, I dropped several things. I stepped away from the setup, and went to find a quiet place to take a breath.
I found myself asking, “God, is this your way of encouraging me to do better in my preparation next time? Are you using this as a way of making sure that I don’t procrastinate as much next time? Did you choose something that only impacted me instead of the entire retreat? No. I quickly realized that it was another force was at work; a force that was trying to make me doubt the promise of his faithfulness. I thanked God, and got back to work. Some things still went wrong, but I kept my peace.
Trusting in God can be difficult when we do not know his ways. He doesn’t always come to our aid the way we expect. He allows things to happen that make us question whether he is there. I don’t know about you, but I have often thought, “if I were God, I would have done it this way…” The entire Bible tells us that even when he isn’t working as we would like, he is always faithful. He always brings good out of evil. He always has our eternal good in mind, and sometimes that has to take priority over our physical good in that moment. Regardless of how things seem, he is always faithful.
I know that nothing I have said means that I should settle for lesser effort in my preparation. He is still calling me to do my best. The difference is that no matter how much work I put in, it is still him and his faithfulness that makes the difference. He is the God who saves.
Spend some time with the Holy Spirit asking him to show you where he is working for the sake of his name. Where is he calling you to trust in his faithfulness instead of on your own works? How has he shown you his faithfulness in the past, and how that can lead you to assurance in how he will work in the future? Spend some time thanking him for his faithfulness, even when you do not do your part. If you are new to the path, then look to Scripture and learn of his faithfulness through the lives of the ancient Israelites. He who led his people out of captivity in Egypt continues to lead us all to the Promised Land. He leads us one dropped item of responsibility at a time.