I just finished The Pressure’s Off by Larry Crabb, one of my “Must Reads of 2009.” I wanted to somehow help the principles from the book sink into my brain…as I summarize the highlights I gleaned, I hope you will be encouraged.
At any given moment in life we are walking one of two paths:
Either we’ve decided that what we most want out of life is within our reach, and we’re doing whatever we believe it takes to get it
we’ve realized that what we most want is beyond our reach, and we’re trusting God for the satisfaction we seek. We want Him. Nothing less, not even His blessings, will do.
If we’re walking the first path, our life is filled with pressure. If we’re walking the second, we have hope.
Not sure which path you are one?
Here’s an example:
Path 1-A mother with a rejecting son asks, “What do I do?” Her primary desire is a restored relationship with her son.
Path 2-A mother with a rejecting son says, “I come as I am.” Her primary desire is a deeper relationship with God. This allows her to engage her son with godliness, knowing that with the passion and wisdom of Christ, I now move into my world.
Or put it another way:
Do you want to be spiritual? Then practice spiritual disciplines, not to create space for a merciful and sovereign God to work in the depths of your hungry soul, but rather to generate the level of spirituality you want. There’s a line between the practice of spiritual disciplines and the experience of spirituality, an arrow pointing from practice A to the experience B. You are in control. B follows A.
We all want our lives to work well, to become better than they are or to remain as good as they are. When that desire becomes our goal, the objective we most value, we will experience pressure in our lives and distance from God.
Maybe the Christian life is not about “doing right” to “get blessed.” Maybe it is a spiritual journey rooted in liberty, the freedom of grace: Come as you are, trembling, and learn to rest. Then go out into life doing what’s right because you’re privileged to do so, because you want to be holy, not because doing right is the way to a pleasant life. Life may provide rich blessings. Or it may not. Either way you can know God.
“The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:18-19
Granted, a hundred parents who love God and train their children well will rear a greater number of responsible children than will a hundred selfish, uninvolved parents. But, we can never live good enough lives. Good parents sometimes have kids who do terrible things.
Jesus’ blood has opened a new and living way. Living better may or may not improve our life circumstances. But now our appetite is different we want something more than a better life of blessings.
We are free to rest, to relax in an acceptance we did not earn and cannot lose, to plead a guaranteed mercy and to collapse into extravagant grace. And when we do, our hearts will stir with a passion to please the One who set us free from the pressure.
At conversion, the Spirit placed 4 distinct resources within us that make supernatural living possible:
A New Purity that makes us clean in God’s sight even when we roll in mud;
A New Identity that permits no labels other than ones like saint, child of God, beloved, and heaven-bound pilgrim to be accurately pinned on us;
A New Disposition that actually prefers holiness to sin;
A New Power to draw near to God as a forgiven heir who longs to behold the beauty of the the Lord.
In Psalm 116, the psalmist openly shared that he was torn up and miserable and that his relationships could not be trusted, yet he exclaims, “How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?” He knew his journey was a long struggle. But he continued in a long obedience–and he enjoyed the freedom provided by the hope of God’s presence now and blessings later. The chains were off. The pressure was off.
Psalm 116: 12-19 What can I give back to God
for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God!
I’ll pray in the name of God;
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
and I’ll do it together with his people.
When they arrive at the gates of death,
God welcomes those who love him.
Oh, God, here I am, your servant,
your faithful servant: set me free for your service!
I’m ready to offer the thanksgiving sacrifice
and pray in the name of God.
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
and I’ll do it in company with his people,
In the place of worship, in God‘s house,
in Jerusalem, God’s city.