As I was wrestling with a written piece of personal reflection today, I was reminded of a consistent principle of God’s liberating coming-to-us that I was first taught several years ago.
God’s transforming presence is concerned with two spheres of our experience:
the internal (e.g. habitual thought-patterns)
the external (e.g. our circumstances)
Time and time again in God’s dealings with his people – Joseph, Moses, David, the people of
The principle is this: internal breakthrough proceeds, and results in, external breakthrough. Every time.
This principle even applies to Jesus, the one in and through whom a new covenant is written; the one in and through whom the kingdom comes in its fullest expression. Before his liberating mission can begin, Jesus must know that he is God’s beloved son; must experience a pioneering breakthrough in the frontier of identity (which takes place at his baptism), and a settling of that territory (which takes place in the wilderness, immediately following that event).
The converse is also true. When we fix our focus on external circumstances – whether they be ‘good,’ such as material provision, or ‘bad,’ such as illness or oppression – we lose internal ground that has previously been won. We trust in our own strength, forgetting that God provides; we despair in our own inability to overcome adversity.
This converse principle is: surrendering external ground God has won for us proceeds, and results in, a surrendering of internal ground won. Every time.
Whenever the people of
So where I am seeking God for external breakthroughs, I need to ask, what is the internal breakthrough that needs to be secured first?
And where I see external breakthroughs lost – those ways in which God’s love and power, made substance through faith, transform situations; that used to be characteristic of my experience of life but are rare now – I need to ask, at what cost? How much hard-won internal ground am I prepared to give away lightly?