(Thanks to Nancy B. for inspiration on this one)
A reader responded to yesterday's devotional, recounting her own experience of the Lord leading her to act in a loving and responsible manner concerning small matters that are actually quite significant. She wrote that her particular challenge (opportunity) involves the return of shopping carts to parking lot receptacles rather than merely leaving them by her car (and, as with the can of coffee referenced in yesterday's message, making work for someone else).
I actually faced this very issue yesterday afternoon. We parked a long way from the closest receptacle at our local grocery store, and I strongly considered leaving the cart where I emptied it. Nancy's letter rang in my heart and mind, however, and my own words from the devotional furthermore left little option as to what I needed to do in the situation.
Or did it? In Biblical terms, the answer is a resounding "No!" "I will freely sacrifice unto Thee" (Psalm 54:6). As referenced in yesterday's message, the Christian life does not involve the mere construction and programming of robots. Faith and obedience to God rather provides living and real relationship with God whereby we are completely dependent on His motivating and energizing presence within us. "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). However, our faith and obedience flows from freely made determinations within our hearts to trust and obey. "I will love Thee, o Lord my strength!" (Psalm 18:1). Rather than eradicate our personhood, the entrance of the Holy Spirit into our innermost being at the time of our salvation resurrects, actualizes and enables us to actively and consciously do the will of God, while at the same time knowing that He is the executor of faithfulness in us.
During His earthly life, the Lord Jesus Christ modeled this fascinating way of the Spirit. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). He also declared, "the Son can do nothing of Himself" (John 5:19). Nevertheless, He also said "I do always those things that please Him" (John 8:29). Our Lord completely depended on His Father, and then lived from such confidence in freely determined obedience. Who was it that did the wondrous works of the Savior? Was the it the Father? The Son? The Holy Spirit? Yes. Yes. Yes. And in the same way, albeit imperfectly realized, the wondrous dynamic of God and man united in loving relationship works in those who trust the Lord Jesus.
Apart from God (and His trusting daughter Nancy), I can guarantee you that I would have left that shopping cart where it sat after I emptied it (despite what I had written yesterday). Still, as in the "can of coffee caper," I found the greatest delight in making the choice to transport the cart to its receptacle. Indeed, the gift of salvation in Christ provides both the power to obey God in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the freedom to obey in the knowledge that we are not merely programmed machines in the doing of our Lord's will. There is pure joy in both wondrous realities whereby Christ alone is glorified, we are vibrantly alive, and others are blessed as our Father worketh hitherto, and we work.
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."