I was in the doctor’s office this week and the receptionist had on her wall the following, “In order to kick butt you have to first lift your foot.”
I loved this. But what does it have to do with leaning into God? Well, here we go.
Leaning into God is simply put is the act of relying on God. It’s not running ahead without seeking His wisdom. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.(Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).
We go to Him first.
We are called to bring every need, big or small, and lay them at His feet.
It’s inviting Him into every aspect of our lives.
To lean into God requires us to trust God and let Him redeem our past.
Because of what Jesus accomplished by dying on the cross, a relationship with God is possible. That is why the book of Hebrews invites the church: Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).
I once heard that a relationship with God must be a daily conscious choice, that is, every day we choose God, choose a relationship with Him.
Keep it simple. Tell God everything. Don’t try to have a “good prayer or the right prayer.” Just talk to God. Ask God for help. Pray about the things you know you don’t have the ability or power to do. But also pray about the things you do have the ability or power to handle. Pray on all things. When you do this, your focus will shift from yourself to God.
Leaning into God is not something that comes naturally in this world we live in. For me, I like things to be in my control. Even though I pray, I don’t always release my control to God’s will. As written above, I have to make a conscious choice in my relationship with God. I choose to go to Him. I choose to tell Him everything (yes, I know He already knows.), I choose to listen and hear Him. I choose to lean into God.
The thing is things don’t always go as if I planned them.
Sometimes, a family member gets a diagnosis that we don’t understand. Sometimes, we lose our jobs. Or, our school situation changes. Life doesn’t always go as planned. But here’s the thing: this is where leaning into God is of paramount importance. We shouldn’t be so wrapped up in what negative things are going on that we forget to lean into the God who loves us more than we can imagine.
So, what does it really mean to lean into Him?
For one, it means that we keep scripture in our hearts. This is such an amazing passage that speaks on this. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11 NIV). The Psalmist declares this intent to the Lord here, and so should we in our own hearts. We can do so by turning to His Word and reading scripture that instructs, counsels, and comforts us. It is a Living Word, a word vibrant with life, a word that carries the power of life, and the power of transformation.
Second, cast our cares on Him. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6 NIV)
The above passage is the perfect reminder that God wants to be in the details. When we feel out of control, in big things or small, we are to cast our anxiety (or worry, or fear, or sadness, or defeat) on Him. He will carry the burden for us. God wants us to cast all our cares on Him from the beginning.
All in all, He is there for us, and we can lean into (on) Him anytime.
Third, trust in God, even when it’s hard.
Trust is another thing that doesn’t come naturally to many. We worry so much about our own safety and our own preferences that it’s hard to step outside of our comfort zone. I know I feel that way about many things in my life. So when I pray and ask and God doesn’t act in the way I want, it can be challenging to my faith.
In this world, it is easy to point out times where God’s actions, or maybe inactions, don’t make sense to us humans. Many Christians have their faith shaken when a request is seemingly ignored. This is when the challenge can be the greatest. Again, trusting in God isn’t always easy.
And, finally, follow Him.
In the book of Daniel we see three faithful Jewish men – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – who took a stand by refusing to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. For their defiance, they were sentenced to be thrown into a fiery furnace with the King’s challenge, What god is there who can deliver you out of my hands (Daniel 3:15).
Their response showed some of the greatest faith in the entire Bible. The story gives us a unique two-word template for the requests we bring before God.
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[a] from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18 NIV).
If and But
In the face of certain death, they acknowledged that God was capable of saving them (“If”). But they didn’t presume that He would. They accepted that saving them might not be His plan, and if not it wouldn’t shake their faith (“But”).
The “If” statement expresses two things. First, it expresses that we have a preference for how we would like things to go with the knowledge that God loves us and listens to our requests. Second, we affirm our belief that God is all-powerful and can accomplish anything that is asked.
In the “But” statement we acknowledge that while God is all-powerful, He’s also all-knowing and His agenda might not be the same as ours. At that moment we’re expressing the realization that God knows things we don’t know and sees things we don’t see. The “but” is a clear statement that God is God and we’re not.
So many misunderstandings of faith would be solved by an understanding of these two points. Those who deny God and His goodness deny either that He is loving or powerful because He doesn’t always act as mankind thinks He should. Those who have a prosperity view of God preach that He will give whatever we ask if we have enough faith, leading many to doubt or deny God when He doesn’t come through. That’s not what trust or faith looks like.
Trust in God means acknowledging that even if He doesn’t respond the way I’d like, it doesn’t mean He doesn’t love me, isn’t listening, or isn’t powerful enough. It just means His purposes aren’t always the same as mine.
This structure occurs in other moments of great faith in the Bible as well. In the Garden, Jesus’ prayer was “If possible, let this cup pass from me… But not My will, but Yours be done” (Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42). Paul’s request regarding the thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12 bears a similar structure. There’s the repeated request to have it taken from him (the “If”) and the acknowledgment that the “No” he received was God’s good and perfect will (the “But”).
Like Jesus, like Paul, and like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, this pattern may well be a good way to word our prayers. Admittedly, not by any means the only way, but something to consider.
“If You will, Father, ___________. But if not, help me remember you’re still in control.”
I’ve been following this lately and it is helping me lean into God, to trust Him and to let go of my need to control. With these if/but prayers, we acknowledge that God is God with our request, and most importantly we continue to let God be God with the results. There’s no guarantee that the results are always going to be what we want, but we can be fully assured that no matter what happens, God will use the result to His glory, and that is what’s best for us and everyone else.
So back to the beginning of this blog, “In order to kick butt you have to first lift your foot.”
We are called to trust, cast our cares, follow and lean into God. But this is not a passive relationship. Hear that again, it is not a passive relationship (on either side).
Each day we choose God. And choosing is an action.
We are called to walk in obedience. Obedience is an action.
We are called to follow God. Following is an action.
Allow God to guide your steps and trust the dreams He puts on your heart. Believe that He will qualify you and know that if there is a dream that He has placed upon your heart, He will help you achieve it, and He will be glorified in the process.
Following God requires action on our part. Lean into Him and allow Him to lead you.
Moving Forward with you,
Inaction at its best
The parable of the drowning man, also known as Two Boats and a Helicopter, is a short story, often told as a joke. Frequently retold within the American Protestant community (although Catholics tell the story as well, and Buddhist and Jewish versions have been recorded), the story is considered to reinforce the aphorism that “God helps those who help themselves.”
A storm descends on a small town, and the downpour soon turns into a flood. As the waters rise, the local preacher kneels in prayer on the church porch, surrounded by water. By and by, one of the townsfolk comes up the street in a canoe.
“Better get in, Preacher. The waters are rising fast.”
“No,” says the preacher. “I have faith in the Lord. He will save me.”
Still the waters rise. Now the preacher is up on the balcony, wringing his hands in supplication when another guy zips up in a motorboat.
“Come on, Preacher. We need to get you out of here. The levee’s gonna break any minute.”
Once again, the preacher is unmoved. “I shall remain. The Lord will see me through.”
After a while, the levee breaks, and the flood rushes over the church until only the steeple remains above water. The preacher is up there, clinging to the cross when a helicopter descends out of the clouds, and a state trooper calls down to him through a megaphone.
“Grab the ladder, Preacher. This is your last chance.”
Once again, the preacher insists the Lord will deliver him.
And, predictably, he drowns.
A pious man, the preacher goes to heaven. After a while, he gets an interview with God, and he asks the Almighty, “Lord, I had unwavering faith in you. Why didn’t you deliver me from that flood?”
God shakes his head. “What did you want from me? I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”