Monday, January 25, 2010


“If you want a thing done well,
do it yourself.” -- Napoleon Bonaparte

We are all familiar with do-it-yourself projects. Such projects are touted as being easier, faster, and – most importantly nowadays – cheaper. As a certain hardware store chain likes to remind us, we can do it and they can help.

We also like to undertake such projects with ourselves as well under the 'self-help' banner. With goals of losing weight, gaining confidence and turning back the clock we buy books, watch videos and subscribe to the philosophies of various gurus. Even Christians have their 'go to' people in this arena. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Many are familiar with the passage from the Apostle Paul's letter to the church in Philippi:

". . . work out your own salvation
with fear and trembling . . .”

--Philippians 2:12c (NKJ)

Woo – that is pretty serious stuff. And it is something we can do, right? We can work out our problems and issues so that we are in right standing with God, right? We'll pray and read our Bibles and change all our bad habits and just be awesome Christians! Yes we can!

Only . . . can we really? I don't know about you, but I sort of suck at the whole 'self-improvement' thing. Some days I can very closely identify with the following words Paul wrote to the church in Rome:

“For what I am doing, I do not understand.
For what I will to do, that I do not
practice; but what I hate, that I do.”

--Romans 8:15 (NKJ)

But what about Philippians 2:12c? Isn't Paul contradicting himself? Isn't God contradicting Himself?

In a word, no. Because what we often forget to do (and I'm including myself) is to read Philippians 2:13:

“. . . for it is God who works in you
both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (NKJ)

“God is working in you to make you willing
and able to obey Him.” (CEV)

What how now?

God gives me these standards to meet and live by and then He'll help me do it?

Talk about going against the “do it yourself” grain. And it sounds somewhat impossible and, well, wrong, doesn't it? Perhaps it will help you, then, as it continues to help me to follow the example of Abraham. Talk about a man with an impossible-sounding promise laid out before him – he was told by God he would become the father of a great nation, a nation whose numbers would be up there with the galaxy of stars and the grains of sand on the seashore. This promise was first given to Abraham when God called him to leave his homeland and extended family at the age of 75 (Genesis 12). He was reminded of it most significantly almost thirty years later (Genesis 17) and after he had a son with Sarah's maidservant Hagar.

Yup, Abraham and Sarah took on a 'do it yourself' project when it came to God's promise of a son. Yet God is always faithful and He fulfilled His promise of a son, a direct heir, when Abraham was 100 years old. And better yet, even with his mistakes and attempts to get ahead of God's timing, we read the following about Abraham, also in Paul's letter to the Roman church:

What we read in Scripture is, "Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own."

-- Romans 4:3 (Message)

Paul then goes on to explain what this means for us:

If you're a hard worker and do a good job, you
deserve your pay; we don't call your wages a gift.
But if you see that the job is too big for you, that
it's something only God can do, and you trust Him
to do it – you could never do it for yourself no
matter how hard and long you worked – well, that
trusting-Him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with
God, by God. Sheer gift.

-- Romans 4:4-5 (Message)

So we can't do it ourselves, nor do we need to. God is there, ready and willing to help us, to give the necessary means if we will only agree to do it His way.

Beats doing it yourself, doesn't it?

Oh, and as for Napoleon Bonaparte, the 'do it yourself' quote giver? Well, his 'do it yourself' project didn't end so well. He was defeated in his final battle at Waterloo, which in turn led to his exile to the island of Saint Helena where he died six years later.

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