unwilling

I recently finished Paul Tripp’s, Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy. It’s a collection of meditations on Psalm 51, and it’s wonderful. One of those I should probably just keep reading over and over again.

Anyway. There was this one chapter that just stuck with me, looking at Psalm 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

First, the problem:

“Human beings are simply not self-sustaining, and we were never designed to live as if we are…We were created to be dependent.”

“All fallen human beings tend to buy into two attractive but dangerous lies…The first lie is the lie of autonomy, which tells me that I am an independent human being with the righ to invest my life however I choose. The second lie is the lie of self-sufficiency, which declares that I have everything I need within myself to be what I am supposed to be and do what I am supposed to do.”

And then the good stuff!

“God has promised to sustain us by his grace. He has promised us the sustaining grace of forgiveness, so that we can stand before him unafraid. He has promised the sustaining grace of enablement, giving us the strength to do what he calls us to do. He has promised us the sustaining grace of protection, delivering us from evil. He has promised us the sustaining grace of wisdom, protecting us from our own foolishness. He has promised us the sustaining grace of perseverance, keeping us until the final enemy has been defeated. He has promised the sustaining grace of eternity, giving us the hope of a day when the struggle will be over. 

It is a willing heart that causes us to seek the grace that has been promised. When we turn from our own way and recognize our inability to live his way, we begin to seek the full range of resources that he has promised us in his Son. Grace is for the willing and we only become willing when we confess not only the gravity of our sin, but our inability to deliver ourselves from it. Then our willingness opens to us all the sustenance of heart that can only be found in the Son.”

Isn’t it good??!

Grace is for the willing. But we don’t become willing by writing down our goals or making a plan or mustering up enough resolve. We become willing when we admit our inability to be willing. When we throw ourselves upon God’s mercy and confess our unwillingness, resting on the work of Christ who willingly obeyed and willingly endured the cross on our behalf. And then we trust Him who wills to work in us as we walk by faith in His sustaining grace.

There’s another place in Scripture that the word “willing” has jumped out and convicted me – Proverbs 31. (Don’t you just love the Proverbs 31 woman? We can talk about her another day.) Verse 13 says, “she works with willing hands.” This is a hang-on-your-mirror-motivate-you-verse, right? To muster up the strength to work willingly? Or not? Does it leave you feeling a little like a failure?

When I reflected on Psalm 51:12, I wondered if David’s dependence on God’s grace to grant Him a willing spirit could apply to a woman’s desire to work with willing hands. Are they so different? I can’t muster up a spirit that is willing, and isn’t it a willing spirit that will lead to willing hands?

I am unwilling. All across the board.

So this has become a prayer – That I would see the depth of my need and confess my unwillingness – that in His grace God would grant me a willing spirit to sustain me (NIV), and that out of joyful, grateful awe at the grace that has been showered upon me, I might work with willing hands.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of “devotionals,” but this one was so, so good. If you need something to help you meditate on the beauty of the gospel, buy it.

3 Responses

  1. Tim loves that book! I have wanted to read it..now I will for sure:-) So thankful you are writing! Love both hearing what you are learning and how it points me to Jesus and the gospel in such a tangible way. Love you

  2. Thank you for your transparency that always encourages! Psalm 119:32 was on my mind tonight and when I read the AMP version I immediately thought of this post: “I will [not merely walk, but] run the way of Your commandments, when You give me a heart that is willing.”

    • That is one of my favorite verses but I have never heard it put that way! I’ve often wondered about the ESV “you enlarge my heart” but never looked further – what a neat picture of God’s work in us, giving us willing hearts so we can walk in the paths He’s set before us. Thanks for taking the time to share – it was an encouragement to me!

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