Monday, July 05, 2010

Depending on God - An APCAT Tip

How do Christians depend on God in whatever they do? The popular speaker, John Piper suggests a short acronym to help us remember how to depend on God. I shall use this acronym to describe how we can cultivate a dependence on God each day. The acronym is Piper's but the applications and descriptions are mine.

1) Acknowledge that we are powerless to change ourselves
The Calvinist will be pleased to declare this. Under the "Total Depravity" point of Calvinism, they acknowledge that human beings are powerless to turn to God. On the other hand, while it is true that people are powerless spiritually, God still gives men the free will to choose who to turn to. While the Arminian and the Calvinist will disagree on the specifics of the depravity of men, it is fair to say that man's spiritual efforts, no matter how noble are imperfect. They are not able to depend on their own strengths. One reason for our powerlessness is simple. We do not know the future.
"God has wisely kept us in the dark concerning future events and reserved for himself the knowledge of them, that he may train us up in a dependence upon himself and a continued readiness for every event." (Matthew Henry, Presbyterian Minister, 1662-1714)

2) Plead or Petition with God to change our hearts
Changing the heart is one of the most challenging things in life. People have said that the longest journey in life is between the head to the heart. Only God can change our hearts. Emotions are something beyond our control. I cannot declare in our heart to be happy, and then we can be happy. Likewise, we cannot say we want to be sad, and expect our heart to be immediately moody.

For those of us with hardened hearts, we need God to soften us. Those of us with timid hearts need God to give us courage. Those with unclear hearts need clarity from God. Those with arrogance need to be humbled. Plead and ask God to give us a heart of gold, ever desiring to pursue after God's holiness.
"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." (Corrie Ten Boom, Holocaust survivor, 1892-1983)

3) Claim from God His Promises, Implications
After acknowledging and asking God for help, it is time to claim God's promises. We cannot sit around passively all the time and expect something to be done. God has placed lots of promises. I remember learning that if we spend time seeking to obey and to practice ALL the known truths in the Bible, we will hardly have enough time to question and to get trapped in controversies and mysterious matters NOT revealed in the Bible.
"Prayer, like faith, obtains promises, enlarges their operation, and adds to the measure of their results." (EM Bounds, 1835-1913)

4) Act On It
It is one thing to listen to the Word of God. It is yet another to put them into practice. Sometimes, we tend to become too passive in our declaration of depending on God. While theologically, we are correct to say that we are dependent on God, we cannot shift all the responsibility to God for what we are responsible for. For example, we are dependent on God to provide us food. Suppose the apple is on the tree. Are we to simply sit on our comfortable chairs, and then expect the apple to fly into our mouths? No. Someone needs to pick the apple, prepare it and then partake it.

Likewise, God has given us a promise to provide for us. We need to do the practicing. We need to take what God has given us, our gifts, our talents, our possessions and make something beautiful out of them.
"In God, we live every commonplace as well as the most exalted moment of our being. To trust in Him when no need is pressing, when things seem going right of themselves, may be harder than when things seem going wrong."

George MacDonald (Scottish poet and minister, 1824-1905)

5) Thanksgiving
It is fitting that this acronym ends with a thanksgiving. After all, if all things come from God, we need to direct our gratitude to the Giver of gifts. In fact, giving thanks is one of the most beautiful qualities of a Christian. This is not restricted to mealtime grace periods, or the Sunday prayer rituals. All of life is to be shrouded in thankfulness. This is the 5th mark of a life dependent on God.
"Those who are readiest to trust God without other evidence than His Word always receive the greatest number of visible evidences of His love."

(Charles C. G. Trumbull, 1825-1900)

This short acronym, APCAT, can be very helpful to remind ourselves that we cannot do God's work on our own strengths. We need to plead for God to change our hearts. We need to claim the promises of God. We act on what God has revealed and finally be thankful. Christians need to remind themselves of their utter dependence on God, and not their own powers. The quicker we realize this truth, the less frustration we will feel when the things in life do not meet our expectations. For when we depend on God like APCAT, we trust our unknown future to a known God.

Have a APCAT day, each day and every day.
"Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence."
(St Augustine, Philosopher & Theologian, 354-430)


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