Thursday, January 5, 2012

I can't, but He can

 by Niki Turner

Paul's letter to the church at Galatia is probably my all-time favorite book of the Bible (and not just because it's one of the shorter books.)

Galatia, in New Testament times, referred to the north-central region of Asia Minor that included the cities of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. The Gauls, who were followers of the Celtic religious beliefs, were from the area now known as France. They had emigrated and settled in Anconia, the highlands of central Turkey.

Some of Paul's greatest adventures (read: harrowing life events) occurred in the cities that comprised the Galatian region. Perhaps that's why the epistle (fancy Greek word for letter) Paul wrote to the churches in those cities, is so real, hands-on and in-your-face.

The Galatians were a people who valued religious observances and rituals to a fault. To them, keeping the rules was how you avoided the wrath of God and how you earned his accolades. However, the Apostle Paul corrected them...

"You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you?" Paul wrote. (Gal 3:1)

The Galatians had fallen prey to one of the most common failings of Christians everywhere: They had started to depend on good behavior as their "golden ticket" to relationship with God.

In Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," merely earning the golden ticket isn't a guarantee of relationship with Willy Wonka, The story reveals that Willy Wonka is looking for someone who is like-minded, someone with the same ideals and vision, to pass his factory to as an inheritance.

I believe Paul was trying to get a similar message across to the residents of Galatia.

"We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ." Gal 2, Msg.
Paul was concerned that the Galatians had set aside the grace (supernatural power and ability) of God for what they could accomplish through their own willpower, their own strength and knowledge and wisdom. Hmm. That makes me think... how many things do I do everyday, how many of my goals and tasks, are based on ME and what I can do, as opposed to how many find their foundation in God and what He can do?

As Paul put it, "For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren't smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?" Gal 3:3 Msg.

You see, that's one of the lessons we learn from Galatians... not just the laundry list of the fruit of the spirit... but the revelation that dependence on our own works, ability, strength, power, faith, holiness, or works to obtain favor with God is futile. Pointless. Without result or effect.

What DOES matter is a bold, naked reliance on God. Not the kind of faith that says, "I did this, and this, and this... and therefore I have earned such-and-so," but the faith that says, "Jesus has cleared the way for me. Glorify yourself through me, Lord."

For myself, applying that lesson to my writing is often painful.

I'm a great starter. Presented with an idea, I fling myself on God's ability with gusto. Eventually, however, the initial excitement wears off and I wilt into old patterns of frantic struggling (think Olympic breaststroke vs.preschool dog paddle). According to Paul, what God starts, He also finishes, and that includes all the things I entrust to Him, including every story I write, all the way to the end...


Your personal Achilles' heel of writing falls somewhere within the spectrum of God's grace and ability, whether it's plotting or characterization or editing or writing a synopsis or marketing. He is well able. As someone has said, where we find ourselves frustrated, we are not operating in the grace God has supplied.

In Paul's letter to the region of Galatia, he pointed out the importance of trusting and depending on God for everything, including the good works He desires to produce in and through us.

As we plunge forward in this new year, with resolutions dogging our heels and goals flapping overhead, let us remember that we aren't our own saviors, we aren't the source of our will power, talent, ability, gifts, creativity, or any other good thing. God has it all, and He has opened it freely to us through Christ Jesus. Whatever you need is available at the asking. Quit trying to do it on your own and turn to Abba God!

About the Author: Niki writes fiction, blog posts, articles in the local newspaper, grocery lists, and Facebook status updates. She can be found at her own blog, In Truer Ink, in addition to posting here. She was a 2009 finalist in the Faith, Hope, and Love "Touched by Love" contest.


  1. Niki this is incredible. I'm afraid relying on me vs God is a major way we tire ourselves out.

    I tend to rely on God in those big life struggles but operate on my own for everything else. Why?

    Willy wonka and squirrels belong in more discussions of faith. ;) truly. Because you are absolutely correct.

    Paul was saying "what in the world do you not get about grace?" But I empathise with the Galations. Sigh.

  2. Sometimes I feel like my whole life is an exercise in learning to rest on God's strength and not my own. Great post, Niki. Always enjoy your take on things.

  3. Oh, Niki, thank you so much. I really need this right now.

    Love those "crazy Galatians" quotes. Actually, Galatians is one of my favorite books, too.

  4. Yep, me too. It's soooooo easy to say that we're trusting God, but if we're getting weary and worn out by it, we're not relying on grace, we're relying on our own power.

    It's like that Carrie Underwood "Jesus take the wheel" song... only in my version I'd be singing the words and wrestling for control... : )

  5. "A bold, naked reliance on God."


    And wonderful.

    And very, very essential.

    Thanks for the great post (and the precious squirrel picture).

  6. awesome post and very encouraging for me right now. having a situation with DH's daughter that is requiring that "bold, naked reliance on God". i know that trying to deal with it in our own strength will only make it worse.

    thank you so much for the reminder of my need to give things to God and trust Him over my own "good" works (which aren't very good sometimes... *meh*)

  7. Thanks, DeAnna! I might just have to turn that squirrel into my desktop background...

  8. DebH,
    praying for a release of grace (God's ability) for you and your family as you walk through this situation. Trusting God for ourselves is difficult, trusting God with our loved ones can be even harder, IMHO.
    Thanks for coming by and commenting!

  9. Great post, Niki. I needed to read it today! I came to the realization that I've never fully relied on God for anything for more than a few moments without snatching it back. I may never get there, but I'm working on it.

  10. Just finished a Beth Moore study on the fruit of the spirit that talks about gentleness being the strength to rely on God rather than ourselves. He is so good about hammering a message into my skull from multiple directions.

  11. Lisa, what is the name of the Beth Moore study?

  12. Yep, Susie, I'm in the same spot. I let it go, and snatch it back... it's especially bad when it has to do with my kids.
    Thank God for His grace!

  13. Yes, Lisa, which Beth Moore study? I love her Bible studies.

    And yes, I know EXACTLY what you mean about getting things put in from all directions... God seems to be into the multiple learning-styles teaching methodology! : )

  14. thanks for the prayers.

    love the Inkies! you ladies are great.


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