By Donna M. Williams
May 21, 2012
My quest for sanctification, without too much angst, led me to three scriptures, two of which I call life scriptures and one of which I call my living scripture.
The life scriptures are those scriptures of promise that I needed in order to keep my focus on God and not on me. My living scripture is that scripture that I must continually refer to in order not to become distracted by the “isms” of everyday life.
My Life Scriptures
Philippians 1:6 (AMP)
And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.
Ephesians 1:6 (KJV)
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Philippians 1:6 reminds me that I do not have to be the quintessential ‘Church Girl’, rushing about to make things happen. God’s promise is that now having begun the work in me, He will continue that work until the day of Jesus Christ. All I have to do is submit to His will and guidance, and take my marching orders from Him. This frees me from performing, self-compelled to show off my great ‘Church Girl’ skills, even as I struggle internally with my imperfections. Ephesians 2:10 reminds me that I am God’s workmanship, the field in which He works, in order to prepare me for the works He has already designed for me. I don’t have to make anything happen when it comes to my place or purpose as a member of the body of Christ. I am not an appendage to the church; I have been baptized into the same body like every other member. To decide that I had to be some kind of ‘Superwoman Christian’ simply because I was the First Lady of a church was an extreme. I was called to follow Jesus, and if I allowed God to do His work in me daily, I would be freed from my Church Girl nonsense.
Ephesians 1:6 simply tells me I am accepted in the beloved. There have been more times than I like to remember when I have been deemed unacceptable. I was raised in a community that labeled my hair texture and my skin color as unacceptable. I was the consummate overachiever during a time when smart girls did not have boyfriends and they were not included in the popular crowd. My socio-economic status still denies me access to most high society events. I may want to go to places where everybody knows my name, but most of the time I am the obvious “Who dat?” surrounded by people who are going places and doing big things. In spite of what some may see as negatives, Ephesians 1:6 reminds me that regardless of how I am perceived in this life, I am accepted in the beloved. I am a part of God’s royal family, and nothing can separate me from His wonderful healing love. He knows me from the inside out, yet He has set a place for me at the family table where I, the still reforming Church Girl, am accepted warts and all.
His grace still amazes me.
Luke 9:23 became the Donna the Church Girl’s ultimate living scripture, God’s word to me that would keep my focus on Him at all times:
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me,
let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
When I say living scripture, I mean that which I need for everyday living. This is the scripture by which I must live in order not to revert to my Donna ‘Large and In Charge Church Girl’ ways.
1) The Cost – Deny Myself
I eventually realized that the psyche, my total self, had to be involved in this process.
There are three facets to this scripture to which I must pay attention each and every day if I want to stay Christ-centered and God-focused.
All of me, the mind/will/emotions, had to let go of the self-controls.
- The Mind (seat of reasoning & intellect) had to say, “I surrender.”
The Emotions (my visceral reactions/responses) had to acknowledge, “I will not interfere.”
The Will (conscious decisions/choices) had to concur, “Let’s do it!”
The declaration Jesus made was not an invitation to ‘First Ladyship’, but rather an invitation to discipleship. Wherever we are, we are expected to be His disciples. This is an internal discipline that manifests itself in an external behavior. The internal state is one of being totally submissive to the will of God, that which is reflected in my every day behavior.
The Cost is all about self-denial, which is the same as self-sacrifice. Sacrifice is never about giving up that which I do not like. Sacrifice and Denial requires that I turn away from doing those things I want to do, the things I like to do, to relinquish control of me to Jesus. I will not lead anyone to believe that to do this is easy; it is not; in fact, it is a real challenge to let go of those things and all that stuff that makes me feel sooooooo good, but I cannot and will not consistently follow Jesus when I’m weighed down by all those wants and desires. I have to let all of it go and trust Jesus to supply my every need. Besides haven’t I read somewhere that if I delight myself in Him, He will give me the desires of my heart?
2) The Challenge -Take Up My Cross
The idea of taking up one’s cross is not a tempting thought. What we know of the cross is that it was a source of torture and shame. But, the cross we believers are called to take up is that one which calls us into the service and encouragement of others. Wasn’t that the point of the Cross Jesus carried, to reconcile the world back to God? So it is with we humans; we are called to be ambassadors for Christ, to speak his Word and bring others back into friendship with Him. But our responsibility does not stop with this step; we are also called to be encouragers, people who edify (build up) our brothers and sisters in Christ, without any expectation of return or accolades.
3) The Course - Follow Jesus Daily
Here is the most important aspect of the three; if I do not keep my focus on Jesus daily, then self-denial and cross bearing will fall victim to my old Church Girl habits. When Jesus declared, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” He was in effect telling every believer that He was the path laid out before us; His revelation would not only keep us out of trouble, but would also set us apart for His service (John 17:17) and that the fullness of life could only be found in Him. I could work hard at accomplishing great things, but in the final analysis, they would provide no real satisfaction.
Can you hear the old hymn: “What shall I render for all His mercies? What shall I render, tell me what shall I give?” What, indeed?
It took a while for me to grasp that God really did not care about the ability of Donna, the Church Girl. In fact, all He ever expected was that Donna, the imperfect human being, would respond to His Word, submit to His Will and walk in His Way. I know act out Donna, the Church Girl, and when she does try to break free, I simply talk to her about the grace of God that rescued us from that foolishness to bring us into a new walk in a new way of life.
Besides, if Jesus died for me, doesn’t He have the right to expect me to live for Him? And that, dear reader, is not just a question for the Church Girl First Lady!
Donna M. Williams
Contributing Writer, B.L.O.G. Magazine
A pastor’s wife of twenty years (now a pastor’s widow), Donna wants to encourage all women of faith to integrate Ephesians 4:1 into their everyday lives as well as to always remember that “A woman’s place is in the will of God.” Donna is the radio host of the weekly talk show “Issues After Dark: Ladies Night” (www.RMGradio.org), a show that takes a frank look at the challenges women face each day as well as the perks and pain of being the pastor’s wife. She maintains a blog, “Off the Air” (www.donnanotdiva.wordpress.com) and is also a contributor to the Religazine Media Group Website (www.Religazine.com) and the Hinterland Gazette (www.hingerlandgazette.com). She is a contributing author in the 2012 devotional Zoe Life Inspired, and is the author of a novel, The First Lady Chronicles: Quiet Desperation.