God gave us the ability to reason, but reason and intellect without the input of God’s Spirit are the devil’s playground. I am deeply intellectual and prone to operating out of my reason when pondering the things of God, but I can get into trouble with this when my thoughts aren’t of His Spirit. Because what also lives in my intellect are deeply embedded strongholds; patterns of lie-based thinking that were programmed into me at an early age. We all have them.
So at times, instead of submitting all of my thoughts to the Holy Spirit, I end up meshing God’s truths with lies, and coming up with pseudo-religious beliefs that alienate me from the life of God.
For example, one that comes up frequently is the idea that God can only bless me if I’m faithful to obey Him perfectly in my work. Because of this deeply-embedded belief, I end up setting standards for myself that God never asked me to set. I work long hours, believing that the bills won’t get paid unless I slave myself into exhaustion. The excuse the devil gives me is that “Most normal people work from 8 to 5”-and since my workday starts closer to 11 AM, if I want to prosper, I am beholden to work until late into the evening.
Granted, I am an entrepreneur, and from what I’ve seen, most entrepreneurs end up working long hours, but after having been sick for ten years, I don’t have the luxury of being able to push myself like some others do.
I also am wary of falling into a “prosperity gospel” mentality which is that if I just trust God, I’ll be blessed with financial wealth or He’ll drop some millionaire opportunity down my chimney.
But then where does trusting God as my provider come in? If God can only bless me because I work like a dog or make perfectly wise business decisions, then why do I need Him? It puts the onus of blessing entirely upon me, and leaves no room for Jesus Christ to open doors of favor for me. Not only that, but it causes me to create impossible standards for myself, because I can never know with certainty how much work is enough work, or how much wisdom is enough wisdom to make it in this dog-eat-dog world.
It’s performance-based thinking; it’s legalism; it’s religion; it’s the idea that God will give me favor, if I just do it all right!
It is a subtle, but insidious lie that creeps its way into my daily thinking, and suddenly the Cross of Jesus Christ become irrelevant because I’m living out of performance, instead of God’s grace.
Many of us do this, because we live in a performance-based society where accolades, admiration and financial rewards are bestowed upon the productive, witty, brilliant and energetic. We are loved when we do it all right, whether in work, ministry or our relationships. So where is God’s provision for those that don’t have the natural strengths and abilities that society values?
Phillipians 3:3 in the Amplified version of the Bible provides a great answer to this question. It states “…For we are the true circumcision, who worship God in Spirit and by the Spirit of God, and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put NO confidence or dependence (on what we are) in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances.”
What the Holy Spirit communicated to me through this verse is that I shouldn’t put my faith or confidence in my natural ability to produce; in my intellect, and worldly knowledge. That God can guide me and bless me, whether I have worldly wisdom or not- whether I am able to work 4 hours or 10- whether I’m sick or well; able to walk or not, or have friends in high places or no friends at all.
I do think that God expects us to use the talents, gifts and abilities that He’s given us, but I believe that we are more blessed because of our heart towards Him, and are rewarded not because of what we accomplish, but because of our trust in Him. Psalm 147:10-11 of the NLT Bible states: “He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might. No, the LORD’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
When I walk in a spirit of Sonship, rather than out of a spirit of slavery, I understand this. The natural laws of the world still apply- such as, for example, I must work in order to eat- but I also have the help of a supernatural God who can open doors of favor and opportunity for me, when I choose to put one foot in front of the other. I have a God who can re-route me when I walk in the wrong direction; who can send finances when tragedy befalls me, and who can provide messengers and messages, dreams and visions, words of wisdom, and many other things, to make sure that I receive all that I need for life and godliness. Anyway, it is His Spirit that works in me to will and to do (paraphrased, Phil 2:13), NIV, -when I choose to acknowledge Him in all my ways.
The Bible is replete with stories of people who were blessed by God, financially, in their health and otherwise- when they chose to thank Him, and trust Him to provide for all of their needs.
I know many people with chronic Lyme disease who feel condemned and like they are “doing it wrong” because they have been sick for years, and tried every medical protocol under the sun, only to still suffer symptoms. Treatment of chronic Lyme disease is a quagmire for even the most brilliant of minds, so it’s easy to get caught in a perpetual maze of decisions, striving and wondering if you’re doing the right thing. I know, because I’ve been there, too. And it’s easy to feel like you can’t be blessed by God unless you’re doing all the right treatments, and can afford the thousands of dollars that it costs to treat the disease. It becomes a near impossibility for many.
But as I wrote in my 2010 book, Healing Chronic Illness: By His Spirit, Through His Resources, I don’t believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross so that only the financially well-off or the intellectually privileged, or those that have had a balanced upbringing could be healed. His grace covers our mistakes, financial hardship, and lack of resources, and can override our bad decisions, so that even if we do the wrong treatment, it can be blessed anyway- provided we trust Him to bless it. We can be led into an unconventional path of wellness, if He ordains it. We can experience healing in our bodies, or favor in our work, if we believe Him to make good out of our meager, but sincere efforts, to do the right thing.
This is contrary to the world’s wisdom, and, let’s face it, God did create natural laws; if you get a bug, you get sick; if you eat GMO food, it will harm you- but He’s also above the natural realm, and He can bring supernatural favor and blessing into our lives so that we aren’t affected by the world in the same ways as someone who doesn’t know and trust Him.
I have much to learn in this area, but as I dismantle my own mental strongholds, and He teaches me how to operate out of Sonship rather than slavery, He continually reminds me that He “…is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”
May we know that favor, love, power and grace, when our own inadequacies tempt us to believe that blessings are dependent upon who we are, rather than who He is for us.