Posted by: pmarkrobb | February 14, 2016

bookend truths

There are two perilous truths which I have both observed and experienced in my life.  I have come to know and name them as “bookend” truths.  They are defining and confining truths which hold so much of our lives in an unnecessary tension.  Namely, that we take too much credit and too much responsibility for the outcomes in our lives.  We linger with the consequences of our actions — both good and bad — at great risk of the perils of swelling pride and debilitating guilt.

We set out to do what’s right and accomplish it … only to have someone behave as all broken and fallen people do, and make a mess of every one of our good intentions and actions.  We take hold of the mess as if it was of our own making.  We crouch low in an attempt to wedge ourselves under it and lift with our legs to stand upright and carry it the second mile.  We dissect the mess to determine its root cause and roll up our sleeves to do the work of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.  We create, or add to, our pile of guilt and shame.  We wrestle with the resolve to do “better” next time.

Then, at other times, we set out to do what’s right and accomplish it … and then possess the tangibles of our accomplishment.  We take hold of the treasure as if it was of our own making.  It boosts our confidence.  It’s the shot in the arm we needed.  We accept the accolades (if given) and find a proper place to store up or display any reward.  We rationalize the success as an outcome of our own choice, logic, skills or strength.  We dissect it, and learn from what we’ve done.  We author, expand or validate a formula for success.  We commit it to memory.  We are enthusiastic about sharing it with others.

But here’s the absolute truth about our “Humpty Dumpty’s” and “pots of gold.”  We aren’t the authors of, or responsible for, the outcomes in our lives; God is.  Even when we fully submit and set out to move a mountain in His power, it is His choice whether the mountain is moved that day, how far, and whether anyone notices.  And when the mountain moves, it was God who did it and owns the mess or treasure from its moving.

We succeed because of what He does in and through us.  We fail because of our sin nature and its curse.  We suffer so that His glory can be on full display in our lives.  He has a plan for us, and it is for our good and the good of His kingdom (Jer. 29:11).  He created us in His image, knit us together in our mother’s womb, and wants us at work doing the good He prepared in advance for us to do (Gen. 1:27, Ps. 139:13, Eph. 2:10).  Yet there is such an overwhelming portion of our lives where we feel and act as though we control our own destiny.  We train, we resolve, we try in our own power (many times not noticing), and then are crushed under the weight of our own failures or those of others.  We are quick and harsh at being both judge and jury, while assessing the most severe penalties on ourselves.  We do not forgive ourselves easily (if ever).  We are quicker to give grace than accept it from God.

Think on these things the next time you are tempted to take credit or accept blame.  He gives us the great gift of participating in the work of His kingdom … the great gift of participating.  We were designed to care for His creation, not carry it.  We were designed to participate, not possess.  Cast all your cares.  Give back from the first fruits of every gain.   Live with the freedom He offers in serving Him, and then leave and ascribe the results to Him.  Be lavish in your praise of Him when the outcome is blessed.  Be quick to confess, repent and fully embrace the scandalous forgiveness and grace He offers when sin wins the day.

In contrast to the perilous truths I began with, there are two absolute and liberating “bookend” truths, which hold our lives in right and proper tension.

It is ours
to simply do,
and His
to do with and through.



  1. 🙂 Enjoyed this today.

    “Unless the Lord builds…..Unless the Lord watches…..” (Psalm 127)
    “To show that this all-surpassing power is from God…….” (2 Corinthians 4)

    We don’t even provide the clay for the jar we are made of. 🙂

    But…He does!

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