Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Whose Got the Power?

*Part Three of the Radical Read-Along with Marla Taviano

"My grace is sufficient for you,  
for my power is made perfect in weakness." - 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have sat myself down to write this post about five times and each time I come up lost for words. I ended chapter three in Radical with the same sort of dazed "okay, but now what?" feeling that I've had at the end of each chapter so far. This chapter, perhaps more than any other, has left me the most baffled.

Perhaps it is because this chapter uproots one of the most deeply-set beliefs of my country:  With enough work, confidence and know-how, you can achieve anything. It’s the American Dream after all. 

Now, I don't claim that the American Dream is not without its practical faults - especially when the economy is less-than-ripe-for-opportunity; especially when reaching a dream sometimes means pridefully and selfishly stomping on someone else’s; and especially when that inconvenient truth of “reality” doesn’t line up with our American Dream fantasies. I can also see the danger in such a self-focused, self-dependent drive to better oneself by our own power. It does seem that this "dream it, achieve it" way of thinking harvests pride and removes our dependence on God while also bestowing the glory of our achievements on ourselves.  

But what bothered me (for better or worse, I’m not sure) about this chapter is that Platt seems to suggest that because the lives of American Christians aren’t marked by desperation for God, perhaps we are relying on our own power rather than God’s. If this is true, it presents two huge conflicts between the American Dream and the Gospel:

“While the goal of the American dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God.” (Radical, page 47)

“As along as we achieve our desires in our own power, we will always attribute it to our own glory.” (Radical, page 46)

Both of these statements made me say, “Wow - How true!” However, I was still left wondering what this means practically speaking. (This seems to be my biggest struggle with this book.) 

How do I make the most of the skills, opportunities and resources that (I’ve always assumed) God has blessed me with, without giving into what Platt describes as “the dangerous assumption” of the American Dream – the belief that our greatest asset is our own ability? I do not believe I am my greatest asset. I believe that it is through God’s work in my life that I can achieve anything of lasting value, but now I wonder if my life shows differently.

The fact is that my life here in America is not marked by the dependence on God’s power that I read about in Acts or the desperation for His provision that I hear about in the modern, persecuted Church or from believers in more destitute countries. I acknowledge that living in America makes me less desperate for God's provision/power, but is this a blessing or a curse? Is my lack of desperation a lack of faith or have I just been placed in a land were I am not in as desperate circumstances as most? Is it only lip service to for me to say, “God has blessed me with this ability and that resource,” when in reality, maybe I am relying more on these things than on God’s power? How can I tell the difference? How do I depend desperately on God, while not neglecting hard work or wisdom and while making the most out of the talents that He seems to have given me?

I feel like this chapter has produced more open-ended questions than any of the others and I’m trying not to be frustrated by that fact. Frustration is continually causing ineffectiveness in my life and I am trying to focus on what I can do and understand, rather than be incapacitated by what I can’t do or understand. I don’t really know what conclusions, if any, I have come to after reading this chapter. I can say though, that it will cause me to take a second look at my motives when I achieve things and will make me, once again, ask God to search my heart and show me where I can rely more on His power rather than my own. 

"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting."

- Psalm 139:23-24


  1. something God has revealed to me is that I need to much more appreciative and thankful for the things He has blessed me with, rather than just accept them as what i deserve. i like the prayer that you have ended this with. i've been praying that often as well.

  2. Wow, another great post, Jen! I really appreciate your voice in this discussion.

    I struggled with that too, though much less than I struggled with the content and conviction in the first two chapters. It sounds like you are turning to the right One for answers!

  3. What does one do when he/she is desperate? PRAY! The mark of a believer desperate for God is a strong prayer life. Asking God for wisdom, asking God to work in hearts (including my own),asking God for help to say "no" to worldly desires and say "yes" to Him, asking Him for directions in what goals and aspirations I should have and what I should pour myself into. Understanding that apart from His power, I can achieve nothing of spiritual significance. This is desperation that ALL believers should have, regardless of financial or material wealth.

    How did you end your blog? With a prayer! That is God's desire for you, Jen!

    I loved this chapter because Platt explains how much we need God's power and that it is unleashed through PRAYER. We can't do anything apart from Him and a consistent prayer life is the mark of a believer who is desperate for God.

  4. Once again Jen you wrote the same thing I'm feeling. Thanks for expressing it for me as those thoughts have been going through my head for a week now and I haven't been able to put them all together like you did for me. ;)

    I don't have an answer but wanted to let you know you're not alone in your struggle with this chapter.

  5. Those are open ended questions that I am sure God wants to answer for you! Be sure to look around in your current circumstances for the opportunities to live gratefully, to give graciously and to challenge yourself radically- God will reveal them to you- your heart is in the right place!


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