As early as you can, it is good to know yourself and to know the grace of God. I can describe my childhood and youthful years as zealous. I had zeal for a lot of things, but I lacked knowledge of myself or of the grace of God. Actually, the way I perceived God caused me to give little time to knowing who I was, but to move in haste and fear to please a God of judgement. I did many things because I thought they were the right thing to do, not because I had an understanding of who I am, what I genuinely believed and what God’s will was…
God gave us a will and a mind for a reason…so that we would use those things to know and love Him. We are called to worship Him with all our faculties, and a refusal to exercise a faculty for fear of displeasing God, is to not really know God. Our love for God will direct us, even as we exercise our will and use our bodies, mind, heart and spirit. When we exercise these faculties to know Him and His will, we are giving Him the worship He desires, and He will shape and lead us.
When speaking to His disciples about following Him, Jesus advised them all to count the cost (Luke 14:28-33). This is an act of reason. It requires that they know themselves, and that they are willing to submit themselves, and able to bear the cost of following Jesus. A knowledge of themselves might reveal that they do not truly have what it takes. That they are fickle or indecisive. But a knowledge of the grace of God, a God who helps us in our infirmities, who intervenes and mediates on our behalf before the Father, will give us the courage to act in faith and humility.
Jesus gave an example of two sons, whom the Father gave commandment (Matt 21:28-32). One son, who I think knew himself, thought he could not do it…but I believe he also knew his Father’s grace, and found the will to obey. Whereas, the other son, who did not know himself – or perhaps he was lying to himself – said he would do it. However, he did not or perhaps, he was unfaithful in seeing it through. Ultimately, the one who obeyed was justified, but I reckon his sincerity was what led to his obedience. Jesus said many that begin first (possibly zealously) will be last, and some who were last, will be first (Matt 19:30).
Jesus also said, when speaking to His disciples about marriage, that not all can accept the saying that “it is not good to marry“, as the disciples concluded, when told about the condition of those who enter into marriage (Matt 19:10-12). However, He said that this is a choice given to some who are able to receive it…and “let him who can receive it, receive it” (v12). This is another case of knowing yourself! Jesus didn’t deride those who can’t receive it, or propose that all should or even that most would be able to receive it. But for those who can, grace is given to receive and to abide in this calling.
I am sure that there are quite a number, who in their zeal for God, assumed that this was one of the callings they were to receive… Some would have been right, but others would have been presumptuous or misguided. A burden was placed on me to accept this calling, when I was still a youth. I struggled to accept it, because I had always wanted to meet a man and fall in love, and enjoy married life. My knowledge of self and my knowledge of God’s grace was lacking, and I gave in to a false burden to accept a life – for which I was given a choice to refuse. That decision and mindset took me on a long road of self discovery, at the end of which, I eventually learnt the grace of God, as it was the only thing that could set me free!
“But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able” (Matt 20:22).
Jesus asked this question of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, when they presumed their worthiness to sit on His right and on His left in the Kingdom of Heaven. They answered that they were able, but I doubt they knew what they were asking of God and pledging of themselves! They were motivated by zeal and pride, and perhaps, Christ would not have told them that they would drink of the same cup or endure the same baptism, if they had not been so presumptuous. But God is gracious. Even when we overstep our boundaries, and we act with reckless passion, His mercy follows us…according to His original call and purpose for our lives (Rom 8:28).
But we still lose time. We lose opportunities to grow and to serve. We lose joy and peace from being where we ought to be, if we would have been led by God. If we had been sincere with ourselves and knew His grace.
Life can feel like a maze where you are going around and around in circles, learning old truths again and again, but not truly getting anywhere. But God knows the way out. If we apply knowledge of ourselves, our strengths, weakness, and passions, and we abide in the knowledge of His amazing grace, He will lead us through this maze in a way that we won’t lose precious time nor opportunities, nor joy nor peace.
As we grow in wisdom, we will come to know even more about ourselves, and others…and know more about the grace we enjoy in Christ. We have truly been called to liberty (Gal 5:13, I cor 7:15, 1 Pet 2:16).
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).
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