Our father carries us to successful virtue-building
A story told about Ali: Mohamed Ali was flying on a plane when it hit turbulence. As the ride became more dangerous, the pilot turned on the seatbelt sign and asked everyone to buckle up, but Ali refused. A flight attendant approached and asked him to put on his seatbelt. His reply, “superman don’t need no seatbelt.” The quick-witted hostess replied, “superman don’t need no plane either.”
In the same way we are no super-Christians. We put our trust in the little things we happen to do on our own, while oblivious to the fact that God is still carrying the lion share of the load. The endurance and patience that some of us exhibit is not of our own strength. We exert so much effort into acquiring virtues such as patience and endurance that we forget we are only channels through which God’s purpose is shown.
Our virtues depend on the God in us
There is so much admiration for Hoover Dam, people forget that the dam is useless without a river. That dam provides drinking water to five states in the US including Mexico, 18 million people. It powers the homes of 1.5 million and it irrigates over one million acres of farmland (www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam). In terms of the resources required to construct that dam, more than 100 people died in the process, the project took five years. But here is the doozy, there is enough concrete in that dam to build a 5-thousand-mile 4-lane highway or to build a 6 feet sidewalk that could go right around the surface of the earth (www.pbs.org).
That structure is a work of wonder, marvelous engineering; but, what if right after building that dam, a drought followed for the next ten years? What would be its value?
In 2 Timothy 3: 4-5, Paul says we can be heady and high-minded, claiming to be something, but totally denying the power of God. In that case, you become a dry shell without the power of God in you.
Knowing and obeying God produces the virtues of patience and endurance
Colossians 1:9-11, We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened in all power according to his glorious might, so that you may have endurance and patience.
In simple causal situations, when one thing is the reason why another happens, that is viewed as cause and effect. However, a sequence of events that end up in an outcome is seen as a chain-of-causation. All the things that God does in our lives to produce virtue in us is the chain-of-causation that produces righteousness. It is like the rainfall, the streams and creeks and mountainsides that produce a river in the valley. In this case, Colossians chapter one lays out a series of experiences for the building of patience and endurance. That is not luck or happenstance. It starts with asking God knowledge, through the wisdom of the spirit. That enables us to please God. In that way we bear fruit in every good work we do; know God better; and God’s power becomes our strength. And that chain-of-events guarantees our growth in endurance and patience.
Why do we focus on our own strength when we have access to the mighty power of God?
One million tourists visit the hoover dam every year. Here is what should give you pause: they come to see that dam, not the river.
The river produces 20 thousand gallons of water flow every second, same as 15 full-size swimming pools; but they come to see the dam, not the river.
The river produces 45 thousand pounds of pressure per square foot, but they come to see the dam, not the river.
That river is so powerful that when its water falls through the dam, the pressure is compared to a 100 pound sledgehammer pounding every square inch of the dam’s floor, but they come to see the dam, not the river (www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam).
What is your focus today, is it the river or the dam? Is it your strength or God’s power?
Access Virtue-building power
Christians are not like any other humans who generate their own success or build their own character. We are like dams that channel the power of the river who is God. We are channels of God’s virtues and goodness. The dam has no power of its own, all it does is access the mighty force of the river. Once you begin to know God and obey him, miraculous things begin to happen, we become the dam wherein a mighty river flows and we begin to impact people. So, we bear fruit that reflects the character of God. It then becomes natural for us to witness for him. We develop the knowledge to teach others about him and become loving and charitable as he is.
His power enables our strength for difficult times. Handling tough issues pertaining to our relationships become more feasible. Our faith in grim situations become embolden. Our prayer become more impactful. All of those are available if we start with the chain-of-causation that begins with knowing God better and committing to his commandments.