Enabling Demands, Demanding Enablements

In his classic Confessions (Book X), Augustine prays

“Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou willest.”

Among other things, this suggests to me that God never demands more than he enables. Paul says it this way in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

To paraphrase Augustine’s heart and Paul’s inspired promise to us we might pray, “Lord, whatever your will commands me to do, please, above all else, help me to fulfill it in order that I might not fall into sin.” What would the Body of Christ look like if it prayed this way? How might your life be different if you prayed this way? You (and all believers) are taught by Jesus to pray that God’s will be done on earth (which, incidentally, at least includes your life circumstances, Matt. 6:10), but do you really want to be the means by which God accomplishes His will? I suspect this is why Augustine arranged his prayer in this manner, putting the request first for us to be enabled to carry out God’s will. “Yes, Lord. Please do give what you command.” When is the last time you prayed this way?

6 thoughts on “Enabling Demands, Demanding Enablements”

  1. Perhaps the happy-clappy-all-the-day modern evangelical churches should begin to learn how to pray/sing in such a manner by recovering the use of the Psalms in corporate, family, and individual worship. With much of what is sung in today modern evangelical churches one could easily substitute one’s boyfriend or girlfriend with Jesus in the lyrics. In saying this I am by no means advocating exclusive psalmnody.

    God has given us as His people a “top 150” to learn and inform how to pray and sing to Him. Imagine on every Lord’s Day an assembled people singing about breaking the arms and teeth of God’s enemies. Try singing and/or praying Psalm 13 to learn how to righteously argue with or complain to God. What a political statement it is when God’s assembled people sing Psalm 2 instead of becoming another political lobby group. Jesus Himself was/is the ultimate psalm singer, who loves to lead and sing along with us as a psalm-singing new covenant people (Col. 3:16).

    What a great gift of a wealth of rich wisdom we have in the Psalter. Yet we as the modern day church exchange this lavish gift of great riches for the mud-pies of trite lyrics. Unbelievers today notice this and mock–in a way, maybe rightly so. Perhaps if and when the church at large begins to recover the regular singing and praying of the OT top 150, unbelievers would begin to take notice and convert in a similar way that Paul describes in the case in 1 Cor. 14:24-25.

    Just my quick thoughts, though I may have not necessarily have stayed on topic here.

  2. Hey Ken,
    Thanks for posting this! While it does speak to another topic, I do see a correlation. That is, willing and enabled obedient living:worship as heat:drinking cold water. In other words, obedience enabled by God’s Spirit will indirectly affect a worship that is worthy of heaven (Ps. 51 comes to mind).

    On a similar note and in response to your post, check out David Naugle’s Worldview, Worship, and Way of Life.

  3. Wow seattledrummer. Love you post, even if it was off topic. Beautifully stated. Strikes a cord with me, and is a frustration shared by many. There’s no doubt the Worship Leaders in the modern evangelical churches have quite a balancing act.

    This is a great topic.

  4. I think the modern western believer is scared of what our Lord may want for us. Let me explain my point. As Americans we live in world of luxury and affluence. We are wealthier than kings from ages past and better off than 95% of the worlds population. Throughout scripture, when God does a work in people to give them a greater revelation of him, those worldly possessions are stripped away (I.E. Joseph, Moses, Job, Peter, Paul and so forth). So for me to say God give me what you command has HUGE implications. It could mean many an abhorable things, such as a child dying, financial loss, etc.
    (My child is sick with the Croup now, so the thought has been on the forefront of my mind)

    What if? Just what if? If so, do I really want God’s will for my life? Thankfully I trust that in the scripture that His grace would comfort me and my family, but still the thought is difficult to entertain.

    On the topic of the Top 150, I must agree. IMO that I hate going to services and hearing all these songs about me doing something for God, “Me loving God so much”, “Me staying true to God”, blah, blah, blah. It’s sickening how “self” centered we are as a western church. We need to quit cattering to “lost” and start glorify and magnifying our Holy Father. Maybe then we would actually see the “lost” saved instead of just transfers from one church to another.

    Phew, glad I got that out 😉

  5. Whoa! These are intense words, Zac, and by all means worthy of reflection for us all. Without doubt I would have immense difficulties actually giving up things or people I hold dear. Perhaps this is what makes Abraham the father and paradigm of genuine faith (Gen. 22; Rom 4; Heb. 11)? To trust God no matter what life brings is the hallmark of genuine, biblical Christianity. Or, the Apostle Paul’s mindset that “whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philip. 3). So beautiful and eloquent in theory; so very hard in practice!

    Your note on worship reminds me of a searing article, published by Christianity Today in 1986 when praise music was only a few years young in churches, entitled “Let’s Not Just Praise the Lord”. The author, Don Hustad, offers a strong critique and admonition to worship leaders and songwriters to stop making music so “ME” focused. Apparently, it was not widely read and certainly not heeded. [If you can get your hands on this somewhere on the web, let me know. It’s relevant now more than ever.]

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