A few months ago I listened to a sermon called “The Principle of Reception” by Jack Taylor. The perspective he took was that when “life happens”, we can either reject the circumstances that are frustrating us or receive them as a part of God’s conforming us more to the image of Christ. Taylor’s example was husbands or wives who would say something like, “I wish my spouse didn’t talk all the time,” and then reject them, instead of receiving that spouse as God’s gift, perhaps to teach them how to listen. Surrendering our lives to God means that we receive the circumstances of each day, good and bad, trusting that these are what God has for us. John Piper has an excellent post on his web site after he was diagnosed with cancer which illustrates this concept of receiving.
In the Dominican, we felt pretty useless, and the temptation arose to wonder why we were there and if we had missed hearing God. We were tempted to think that if we weren’t producing, surely it was our fault, not God’s design. And so we could choose – reject feeling useless, rage against our lack of productivity, or receive this trip as God had planned it, entrusting ourselves to His sovereign care and working in our lives. Receiving this type of mission trip meant we had to receive a lot of other things, too. Like translation help during church services. Or translation help during small groups. Or translation help to talk with kids. Or being served our meals and not being able to help with much of anything. Or the gift of feeling useless.
In one of our last devotionals with the kids, the topic was serving others, and the question was, “Which is easier, to give or to receive?” The theme of the lesson was that it is easier for us to receive and harder to serve, but for me it is often the opposite. It’s much easier to give and serve than to be served and receive (ironic that I make my living based on others giving towards my support). As I talked with our group leader afterwards, he told me that God was teaching me on this trip how to receive, which will make me more able to lead and to give later.
This lesson was hammered home near the end of our time. One of the YWAM leaders had on a leather bracelet that some of my team members noticed, wondering where they might get one. Later, another YWAM leader came up and he had a similar bracelet on, which I pointed out to my friends. He noticed that I pointed, and immediately began to take it off, asking me if I liked it. Everything in me wanted to explain that, actually, I was just pointing it out to my friends, and I didn’t really want it (interestingly I had said earlier that I didn’t think I would right wearing one of those). But God reminded me, “You are here to receive. Take the bracelet.” And so I did, humbled by my friend’s selfless gift, and now I wear it as a reminder to receive.
God has many things planned for me in this life. Some of them are wonderful and easy. Some are hard and not very fun. I can reject the hard and humbling ones, tell the Lord I know better than He does how life should go. Or, while still acknowledging my emotions, I can choose to surrender and to receive. As Job said, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”
This principle of receiving has been such a blessing in my life, because I am realizing that God’s biggest goal for me is not an easy life. It’s not prosperity. It’s not fulfilling the dreams I have for myself. His goal is that I would be more and more dependent on Him as my life, that He might live through me and reveal His life in me more and more.