God’s Gentle Tug
But He gives us more and more grace [through the power of the Holy Spirit to defy sin and live an obedient life that reflects both our faith and our gratitude for our salvation]. Therefore, it says, “ God is opposed to the proud and haughty, but [continually] gives [the gift of] grace to the humble [who turn away from self-righteousness].”
Humility can be a difficult concept for us to grasp. It is often thought of as being weak or spineless, but that is the wrong definition of humility. A fitting example of humility can be found on the responsiveness of a fine horse to the gentle tug of its rider on the reins. When the horse was acquired, it may have been a wild bronco, but it has been broken and now gladly responds to its master’s care and guidance.
The Bible describes proud people and “stiff necked” and “willful.” They demand their own way, which focuses on their selfish purposes of success, pleasure, and approval. In His kindness, God allows difficulties into our lives to break us, not to harm us but to tame the selfishness in our hearts. As long as we buck, we fight against God and His gracious purposes for us, it when we finally give in and accept His leadership in our lives, we experience more encouragement, strength, freedom, and joy than we ever imagined.
The “freedom” of the proud is an illusion. Rebellion ultimately results in shattered dreams and shattered lives. But “a broken and a contrite heart”(Psalm 52:17), one that is open to God’s discipline and leading, experiences the true riches of His grace.
It does not take great men to do great things, it only takes consecrated men.
As a rider over the years, I can attest to the fact that being on a horse that responds to a gentle touch is a pleasure to ride and to be around. On the other hand, I can attest to the stress, and the unpleasant experience of riding a horse that has to constantly be pulled back under control. Those kind of horses literally wear you out rather than giving a pleasure ride. We are in the process of training our new puppy right now. He has a built in nature to do his own thing but little by little everyday he is learning to obey. He’s discovering that it’s better for him to obey for that gives rewards than to disobey for that puts him in the crate in time out and he certainly gets no treats. As he is learning to obey, he is becoming a pleasure to have but on those occasions when he acts out, he is a chore.
These same principles hold true for humans in their relationship with God. What a pleasure it must have been for God to be with Adam and Eve in the Garden when they were submitting to His leadership and what a heartbreaking moment for God and the beginning of sorrow and trouble for them and us. If you read of the life of David, you will find that both He and God shared in the pleasant walk when David’s heart was fully controlled by God, but oh the heart rending times when David resisted the leading of God and went his own way. The Bible tells us that the way of a transgressors is hard. Back to my story of training horses or dogs. The horse that resists and wants it’s way feels the bite of the bit forcing him through pain to follow commands. When he wishes to run ahead, the bit pulls against his mouth and the more he resists the harder the pull. When he learns to set his pace at command, the bit never presses against him. The dog that learns to follow commands will never feel the pressure of the leash forcing him to a certain pace or direction. Instead he will follow his master wherever he is led and for both it will be a pleasant walk.
The same is true in our walk with God. He loves us enough to pull on the bridle or the leash so that we won’t walk in places of harm or danger. Now we could be that one who is always pulling away, trying to get our way, and that will be an unpleasant experience. When we read of the Israelites, we find the words “stiff necked” and “willful” or “stubborn” used by God to describe them. We find those words offensive to us. We would never accept that those words could describe us. We would all like to think that we are submissive followers of God. But if that’s the case then please tell me why there is such conflict and divisiveness among the world and the church. Perhaps among the world that is understandable since there are many masters, but among the church not so much since there is one Master and one Head- Jesus Christ. We seem to fear unity. We somehow think that we need compromise rather than consensus. We somehow think that if the church walks in unity that we will be led astray and that would be so if we were following some human leader. Many would say that a church in unity is a cult. But if we have truly humbled ourselves before God and we are truly being led by His Spirit, then we all speak the same thing for God is not divided. Our conflict arises because we all think that our way is the right way and far too often we are like a herd of horses, each believing they have found the right course. The Acts church was faced with many challenges beyond their ability to manage. They were confronted with things that were outside their norms, for instance, what should a Jewish congregation do with Gentiles who were being brought into the kingdom of God? They had to see that the kingdom of God was larger than the kingdom of the Jerusalem church. It was impossible to do that humanly speaking, so they came together and sought the direction of God and as the Holy Spirit nudged them- not drove them, but gently nudged them, they responded with acceptance and did not demand the Gentiles become Jewish proselytes. And I’m glad they were not “stiff necked.” As we face the future of the church, we too, must choose whether we will resist where God is taking us so that we might be effective in reaching our communities or whether we will be “stiff necked,” insisting that we know best. James says that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Those who insist on going their way, especially when it is contrary to the will of God will find God opposing them. I don’t want to be on one end of a tug-of-war rope and have God on the other. He always wins, so I’ve learned to respond to the gentle tug rather than wait for the hard pull. Jesus has declared that He will build His church and that will happen with or without us. If God can’t work His purposes through us, then He will work them through someone else. Either way His purposes will be accomplished. The only question for us is whether we will be the means which He works through.
When I was riding, I would spend some time working to break an unruly horse. But when I wanted to enjoy a ride, I left that horse in the pasture and saddled one that was broken to command. I had no desire to wrestle with the unruly horse all the time. God is looking for those who are submitted in humility to His purpose. While He will work with us, and patiently train us to follow Him, He will also at some point set us aside if we continue to insist in going our own way. In Genesis we read that God will not continue to strive with man and Paul says there is a point that God gives us up to our selfish will and desires and we find ourselves with a “reprobate mind’, a mind so set in its way that not even God can influence it to change.
James follows the above text with these words:
“So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you. Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your [unfaithful] hearts, you double-minded [people]. Be miserable and grieve and weep [over your sin]. Let your [foolish] laughter be turned to mourning and your [reckless] joy to gloom. Humble yourselves [with an attitude of repentance and insignificance] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up, He will give you purpose].”
Dr. John Thompson