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Affluent Christian Investor | August 18, 2017

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Lay It Down

Ruth on the fields of Boaz by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Ruth on the fields of Boaz by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

I have been thinking about Ruth, the biblical character, the last few days. You may want to read her story before you read this, or you can watch the magnificent video summary of the book from a ministry called The Bible Project. This ministry has done wonderful summaries of biblical themes and books, and they are perfect to watch as a family or for your own personal Bible study. In seven minutes, you can have a complete and well-done summary of Ruth. Below is my written version.

In time, the father and both sons, one of whom was Ruth’s husband, died in that foreign land. Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, decided to return to her people and urged her two daughters-in-law to stay in the land of Moab, their homeland.

The one in-law agreed, but Ruth refused, uttering words that have been used in weddings for generations: “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God'” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth returned with Naomi, and God worked out all the circumstances for good. Ruth remarried a kinsman of Naomi and had a son named Obed, who became the grandfather of King David.

RUTH

Ruth was a Moabite woman who married an Israelite when he came to her land with his family in a season of famine. The thing that has impressed me as I reflect on the story is Ruth’s abandon of her own plans in order to trust and serve Naomi, and then how God used that to direct her steps while she was not even aware that God was directing her! That’s nice, you may be thinking, but what does that have to do with me? It has plenty to do with you, for Ruth was able to surrender to the circumstances and not struggle and scheme to stay in control. When you learn to do the same, God may be able to grant you the desires of your heart.

THE LESSON

It’s difficult for all of us to let go, to lay down our plans, our schemes, our way of doing things. We don’t listen to the advice we receive, and we often fall prey to the biblical summary found in Judges 21:25: “ In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (NASB), and Isaiah 53:6a: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (NASB). Don’t think for a minute that this problem is dealt with when you and I come to the Lord. No, we stubbornly cling to our way of thinking and doing things, and insist on doing it, as Frank Sinatra sang, “my way” long after we come to know Jesus.

What does this have to do with purpose and creativity? This truth has major implications if you and I are going to be purposeful, productive people. We will have to learn to accept a compliment and feedback, realizing that our perspective of who we are and what we produce is not the best of final word. Often, we stubbornly cling to an image of low self esteem when we are much more powerful that we are willing to accept. We can insist that we know best when we don’t know much of anything, but that is our story and we stick to it regardless of how much evidence there is to the contrary.

I am not suggesting we surrender our lives to the whims and feedback of ignorant or self-willed people who are stuck in the same rut of doing what is right in their own eyes. What I am saying is that Ruth surrendered her future once and for all to what was most important to her, and that was loyalty to Naomi. When she surrendered, God began to work out the circumstances and blessed her beyond what she could ever have done for herself. When Ruth laid down her way of doing and thinking, she was in the best possible place to be. God was truly in control.

God being in control is a not a truth that enables us to passively wait for Him to do something. It is a trust that as we work and make decisions, He is actively involved whether or not we sense His presence. Where have stubbornly clung to doing your own thing? What do you need to lay down once and for all, and stop doing it your way? Whatever it is, God is ready to help you, just like He did Ruth, but you must surrender the controls to Him and trust that the guidance system He placed in you is taking you in the right direction. Have a blessed week!

 

Article originally published on The Monday Memo.

John Stanko was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and attended Duquesne University where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics in 1972 and 1974 respectively.

Since then, John has served as an administrator, teacher, consultant, author, and pastor in his professional career. He holds a second master’s degree in pastoral ministries, and earned his Doctor of Ministry from Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh in 2011.

John founded a personal and leadership development company, called PurposeQuest, in 2001 and today travels the world to speak, consult and inspire leaders and people everywhere. From 2001-2008, he spent six months a year in Africa and still enjoys visiting and working on that continent, while teaching for Geneva College’s Masters of Organizational Leadership and the Center for Urban Biblical Ministry in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Most recently, John founded Urban Press, a publishing service designed to tell stories of the city, from the city and to the city.

 

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