April 30, 2016

God's Grace

It is a good day in Phoenix. Yes, it is Saturday, and I am up and about, getting ready to begin chapter 2 of my dissertation. My plan for the day is to get part of my review of literature written so that I can finish it up by tomorrow. I feel pretty confident that I can do it, and I am think I finally have the angle I need to attack this project with boldness and speed. Right now, I am sitting at the computer contemplating my life, feeling a bit sorry for myself, and thinking about how I allowed the enemy to gain a foothold the other day. Let me explain...

It started on Thursday. As I recall, Thursday was a good day. Well, it might have started out rough, but it ended well. I didn't get much work done on my major paper, but I did spend the day researching for more articles, reading about my method (proposed), and then making notes on what I might do differently when I sit down to write my chapter 2 and 3. I also spent some time on the Internet looking for work. Yes, I spent about four hours looking at jobs -- in teaching and in business -- when I should have been focused on writing my paper. My day went downhill from then on...

Doubting God's Sufficiency

In truth, I was doing fine *mentally* until I checked into OCU's online system. I am approved to teach courses online, but I haven't received any contracts yet. I check into their mail system once or twice a week, but so far, I have only received communication that is general to the administration and faculty. However, last week (backing up a bit), I received an email asking me to correct an assignment I posted during my orientation course in February. I went in and made the suggested corrections, and my grade was adjusted. The lady who was grading the orientation was very nice, and was filling in for the chair of the Humanities program. She explained to me that they (the school) were behind in assessments, which helped me understand why I hadn't received any confirmation on contracts. We chit-chatted back and forth throughout the week, and then on Thursday, I went back into the orientation class to read her feedback on my final assignment -- a reflection paper on my abilities to teach online. I wrote that reflection as I was preparing to pass my qualification exams, so my mind was a bit stressed and I was feeling the pinch of a timed-deadline. Her response to me was very kind, but it also sparked feelings of inadequacy in me. Basically, she questioned whether I would have enough time to teach online with all my "other" responsibilities (on campus, school, dissertation, family, etc.). I appreciated what she said, but I couldn't help but take her words as criticism of my abilities to handle the workload. I mean, I understood what she was saying to me, and I took her advice to heart. It was just that I felt as if I was impotent to change my circumstance, to earn a living wage, and to improve my financial outlook. I mean, I cannot live on adjunct pay -- plain and simple -- and I had such high hopes that this job would provide a way for me to earn extra income by teaching from home. It seemed like such a winner, you know, a God-provision, a good thing.

As I considered her words, I couldn't help but think "How can this be, Lord?" How can I work all these part-time jobs and make a decent living? The answer rolled round and round in my head. All I heard was a resounding and very loud, "You cannot." I mean, it is important for me to do good work. I want to be thought of as a highly conscientious worker, someone who gives 100% to their job, and who takes the responsibility of each job seriously. Now, I was wondering if I could do that, I mean, if I could be 100% considerate of each contract I am offered. Can I teach at 2-3 or 4 schools with equal and fair commitment? Her question was worth considering because she clearly could see my situation.

After a while, I thought to myself, "Perhaps, I need to keep looking for full-time faculty jobs" even though I have felt for a while that I wouldn't be able to find one, let alone be hired, until I had my PhD in hand. So I spent the next few hours looking for teaching positions as well as business/industry ones.

As Friday arrived (and passed), I made little progress on my dissertation because I was fixated on finding work. I mean, I thought "It is impossible" for me to work part-time another year. How can I make ends meet if I will be teaching on campus and not online (for extra income)? Of course, I prayed about my situation. I went to the Lord, asking -- no -- pleading for Him to help me understand what I am to do, where I am to go, how I am to get there, etc. All I heard back was "Trust me." Yes, Lord, I will be patient. I will wait. I will trust you.

Sigh. Why can't I just listen and obey? Why can't I just be content?

Relying on God and Not Man

I was reading through Philippians 2 today, and I came across this familiar set of verses:
So then, my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ]. For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure.
As I read verses 12 and 13, I was reminded that my purpose is to glorify God, to worship Him with my whole being. I was created to bring Him honor, and my purpose, first and foremost, is to live in such a way that I am always demonstrating His goodness, His character, His love for others. I often struggle with my purpose, and I confuse my calling (how God plans to use me for His work) with my every day life (being in the moment and presence of God). I know that sometimes my life, as I blog about it, seems to take on larger-than-life proportions. I write so frequently about my struggles, my woes, so to speak, that I often lose sight of my priorities, my perspective, and my purpose. Yes, I lose my purpose in what I am doing, in the path that I am on to serve and to honor the Lord.

Furthermore, Isaiah, in chapter 43:7 reminds us of our purpose when he writes, "Everyone who is called by My Name, Whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made." God created us specifically for the purpose of worship. When we focus our energies on man and the world, we easily lose our sense of focus, our well-being, and our desire to do what God asks of us. We can become easily ensnared in the troubles of the world, rather than remembering that we serve a Holy and Mighty God.

Last night, my friend and I had a chat about faith, about believing God and believing that He will work things out on our behalf. I tend to be a half-glass full person when it comes to God's sovereignty. I simply choose to believe that He will do what He has promised. I believe that God not only can intervene in our lives, but that He chooses to do so regularly. I do not hold the view that just because God can do something, there is no guarantee that He won't do it.  I know many Christians believe this -- that somehow God is mean, and He picks and chooses whom to bless or curse. This is OT logic and thinking, and I refuse to accept this as true. I don't mean to say that God acts like a credit-card machine, that He always will do whatever we ask. I acknowledge Him as sovereign, and in that way, I accept that He has the ability to choose when and where to act. There are plenty of scriptures that support the view that God doesn't always intervene in the lives of His creation. But, we forget that there are numerous promises recorded in the Bible where we are told to expect Him to intervene. Yes, I believe in faith in action -- faith that believes not only can He do something -- but that He will do what we ask of Him. Thus, in matters of faith, I choose to believe that He will do what is asked, so long as we ask with the heart motivation that pleases Him most -- humility, obedience, and utter reliance upon Him. I know that some people will say, "But God didn't spare my child, my wife, my husband...from cancer, that car wreck, that loss of job, etc." I still hold true that it takes less energy to believe He will intervene, then to take the "wait and see" approach. I will believe in Him IF He spares my child. Rather, I believe that it is always in our best interest to believe regardless of the outcome. Our faith is tested and tried (James 2) in order to develop strength. There are times when God doesn't intervene in order to develop our character, our witness, and yes, OUR FAITH.

I know that I struggle most of the time when I doubt, when I stop trusting God to provide for me, and when I start to look for provision through a job. I do this all the time, I mean, ALL THE TIME. I hate that I have gotten into this habit, this spiral of doubting God's timing, of believing that somehow it is up to me to save myself, to find a job that will solve all my problems. When did I stop trusting the Lord? When did I stop believing that He would solve my problem, provide a good job, and make a way for me? Has He stopped being faithful to me? Has He allowed me to suffer, to go without, to lose hope? No. He has been faithful to me. He has never once left me alone or asked me to figure this out on my own. He has provided grace, grace, and more grace. He has made my way possible -- all the way -- through graduate school, through a PhD program, and now through a dissertation and defense. He has a plan, and it is a good one. I stand today, at the ready, and I wait for Him to deliver me. He will do it, I believe He will, and I have faith in my God who is able to do more than I could ever imagine or desire. He alone is God, and I give Him all the praise, the honor and the worship this good, good, good day!

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