On our journey through life, like a hike in the wilderness, sometimes we may come across a path that someone else has already forged, making our trek much easier. Incredible strides are made as we step in the footsteps of others who have gone before us, but there are times when, by doing so, we actually lose our way.
It is easy to see someone else’s success and want to duplicate it, to look at what they have done to fulfill their goals, dreams, and calling on their life and use it as a guide to do the same for ourselves.
So, what is the difference between a pattern and a formula?
God asked me this question one night as I pondered how to artistically give Him credit for the stars. For most of my life, I considered myself an atheist. At one point, I had a scorpion tattoo placed on my right shoulder to give credit to a constellation for my personality, my identity. Then, years later after encountering Christ, I considered what to get as a cover-up tattoo. To my surprise, God asked me why I wasn’t asking Him what He desired. Although I thought that seemed incredibly ironic because of the stigma of tattoos in much of the Christian community, I went ahead and asked. While you may imagine His response was for me to remove my previous tattoo, it wasn’t.
Instead, He asked me, “What’s the difference between a pattern and a formula?” I wondered if this was a rhetorical question or if He actually wanted an answer. As the Final Jeopardy tune played through my head, I couldn’t figure it out and gave up, asking Him for the answer. That’s when He revealed that the difference between a pattern and a formula is who gets the credit. (And, regarding the cover-up tattoo, God then asked why I didn’t give Him credit instead.)
You see, for years I gave the stars credit for who I was and why I am the way I am. But God showed me that giving credit to the stars is a form of worshiping them. And, like so many other things, it’s simply worshiping the created instead of the Creator. It was then that He gave me an image of what the first day of creation could have looked like as light appeared shining through the darkness. The image incorporated the scorpion constellation into the darkness, giving Him credit for the creation of the stars that this constellation is comprised of. This new tattoo tells a story: I no longer believe that I am who I am because I was born at a specific time; I am who I AM says I am simply because He says.
At some point, almost all of us do the same thing I did for so long. We look to the created – others’ successes, others’ creations, the paths they have taken – and we start to worship them. It isn’t a bad thing to look for help, nor is it bad when we find patterns or pathways that can ease our burdens, lightening our load. But, it can become a problem when we look at the pattern and no longer give the credit to God for providing it, instead, we decide to take the concepts, rebrand them, and take the credit for it ourselves. It’s even worse when we abandon the path that God has planned for us for the plan of others. It is so critical that we seek His kingdom, His will, His desire, and His path for us. When we do, it may still be challenging, but it will be well worth it.
What is the Holy Spirit saying to you?
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
This doesn’t mean the temptations get easier but may get harder as we get stronger in Christ. As babies he shelters a bit more and as adults we should be able to handle more so those temptations may only get stronger. So what do we do about it? Sit and cry out for more protection? To me that would be like reverting to diapers every time I felt the need or urge to use the restroom instead of handling it as I can.
God equips us with an incredibly enabling Holy Spirit and a suit of armor second to none. Doesn’t that mean we should advance in His security rather than retreat because of our flesh?
We are no longer slaves to sin. Temptation has no hold on us. It can only reach out to attempt to pull us down, but as scripture says we should not and cannot give the devil that opportunity. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:24 ESV
This isn’t just about anger but a multitude of situations. Just a thought, is it possible that you could extend grace to yourself through talk, “good for building up, as fits the occasion?” I think so. So next time you are faced with a temptation that seems overwhelming extend yourself grace by building yourself up in Christ instead of submitting to your flesh.