Sometimes it sounds as if living by faith is a passive existence. If we surrender to God, does it mean we are nothing, we do nothing? No way! To answer this dilemma, let's continue our study of the "rest of faith" by looking at our second verse and the second question.
If God Himself is the Strong One who does the doing, what is my part…yes faith, but what about my doing?
Here's the answer in our second “yet not I” verse:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God with [sun, united with] me. (1 Corinthians 15:10 NET)
Take a look at the first part of the verse:
By the grace of God I am what I am…
Paul had been a persecutor of the church and could have lived in regret and remorse over the past…thinking little of what God could do with such a man. He could have compared himself to the “pillars of the faith,” the other apostles. But rather we see him humbly embracing all that he is, giving glory to God himself, and FULFILLING GOD’S CALL ON HIS OWN LIFE…AND THAT IS FAITH!
All of a sudden one day years back now, I realized that I was fighting against my own life by resisting circumstances that were mine. I wasn’t saying “By the grace of God, I am what I am…I am where I am.” No, I was fighting it:
Why do I have to live in OHIO when my health would be better in the desert and mountains of AZ or the coastline of NJ?
Why are other people living there and I’m not?
Why do I have these exotic allergies and sensitivities and mysterious reactions?
Surely this is not God’s will!
How stupid was that -- to fight against my own life? I finally realized that God wanted me to embrace my life, hug it to my breast, thank God for it…brokenness and all, and yes, OHIO and all. What peace, what fullness unfolded for me…though my state of residence and the state of my health didn’t change.
That reminds me of the story of a woman who had fought her own life, Catherine Marshall, wife of Chaplain of the Senate, Rev. Peter Marshall (1947-49). She was a woman who recognized the Lord speaking to her mind and heart, both through the Scriptures and the Spirit. Catherine spoke of hearing the Lord and following Him. And more importantly, she spoke of coming to what she called the relinquishment of her will to the Lord.
In the midst of a stubborn case of TB that wouldn’t yield to prayer or medical intervention, Catherine finally came to the point of wanting the Lord more than wanting healing.
In Catherine’s own words:
“This is my situation at the moment. I’ll face the reality of it. But I’ll also accept willingly whatever a loving Father sends.”
Acceptance, therefore, never slams the door on hope. Yet even with hope our relinquishment must be the real thing, because this giving up of self-will is the hardest thing we human beings are ever called on to do.
And Catherine received healing of her TB in the relinquishment of her will to the Lord.
What about you, dear brothers and sisters? Can you sincerely say, “By the grace of God, I am what I am”?
Are you embracing fully who you are and what God has for you right here, right now? It may be serious or mundane circumstances. It’s all important to Him. But there’s a certain acceptance of one’s life that characterizes the person who lives by faith. And oh what peace and joy will be yours!
And peace and joy were Paul’s because he knew that by the grace of God, he was who he was. He knew God was the all-powerful One who could even bring good out of all the evil he had done.
And so now the rest of our 2nd verse:
[By the grace of God , I am what I am, and His grace to me has not been in vain. In fact,]…I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God with [united with] me. 1 Cor 15:10
So Paul worked but he didn’t work…WHO did the work? The indwelling God who is grace who was in union with Paul did the work using Paul’s person (body, soul, and spirit). So God lived and worked in and through Paul as Paul.
And that is what He wants to do in and through you and me, as you and me…using our person (body, soul, and spirit) to express Himself on this earth. We were meant to be "human vehicles of the divine life" (Maj. Ian Thomas).
And as my friend Penny says, “I just want to cooperate with the Lord”…and that’s faith.
I recently heard a Bluegrass song that grabbed my heart. The message is sweet and expresses union with Christ in a very subtle way. So as you listen, just close your eyes and reflect on the privilege of being the temple of the Living Christ, a partner with Him in His purpose and pleasure in the world (Acts 13:36), and a living prayer of worship to Him.
And that’s faith!
A Living Prayer
In this world I walk alone
With no place to call my home
But there’s One who holds my hand
The rugged road through barren lands
The way is dark, the road is steep
But He’s become my eyes to see
The strength to climb, my griefs to bear
The Savior lives inside me there
In your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee
In these trials of life I find
Another voice inside my mind
He comforts me and bids me live
Inside the love the Father gives