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.