How is a "Life Without Lack" Possible?
Psalm 23 gives us a vision of a life without lack - "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing". It paints a picture of a person who is fed, refreshed and restored by God (verse 1-3); who is comforted and kept free from fear through dark valleys (v4); who experiences abundance from God even in the presence of enemies (v5); and who leaves an aroma of God's love and goodness wherever they go (v6).
But if you are anything like me, you will ask - is that sort of abundant life really a possibility for me? in my complicated life? with all my issues?
Fortunately Dallas Willard shows us the way forward in his book "LIfe Without Lack". He identifies three things that need to grow in us for us to experience the Psalm 23 Life without lack. In order they are Faith(Trust) in God, Death to Self (not death of self), and Agape Love. (see chapters 5, 6, and 7).
We have now come to the important matter of how we embrace God, who is the holy center and wellspring of a life under the Shepherd’s care. This chapter and the two that follow will each focus on one of the three things that must be working within us before we can truly experience the sufficiency of God: faith, death to self, and agape love. These three combine to create a triangle of sufficiency in our lives. When faith, death to self, and love are alive in you, you will find that hope and joy pervade your entire life as a natural result. Each one is a gift from God, and our privilege and calling is to become the kind of people who can receive these gifts and work with God to develop them as we learn to live a life without lack.
With Dallas's help, we are going to unpack these in the next few posts.
Here are some helpful quotes from Dallas:
Faith—trust—is the key that unlocks our readiness to receive God’s sufficiency in our lives. Given how we commonly use these words today, it is helpful to replace all occurrences of faith in the Bible with trust. For example, “For by grace you have been saved through trust” (Eph. 2: 8). To have faith in God is simply to trust God, to rely upon him in the face of all fears. (Chapter 5)
Many people misunderstand faith; it often falls into the category of mystery or superstition. This is especially true for many who go to church regularly, where we hear how important it is to have faith. You may feel some degree of pain or guilt because you think you do not have enough faith. A deeper understanding of faith can help you gain a greater peace and confidence about your own faith and how you are growing in it.
Faith, however, is not a mystery. We experience it day in and day out. In its most basic aspect, faith is simply reliance upon something in both attitude and action. It may or may not involve reliance upon God. I have faith in my car, even though I am not driving it at the moment. This frees me from worrying about how I am going to get home later. If I did not have faith in my car, I would have trouble concentrating on what I’m doing, wondering how I was going to get home. I would probably stop and give someone a call to see if they could come and pick me up. My attitude (concern to get home) would affect my action (making the call). Again, faith is reliance (trust/ confidence) revealed in attitude and action. (Chapter 5)
You cannot escape faith. There’s no way to get through life without it, because you have a future. You make plans for your future, and making plans involves having confidence—faith—that things will be a certain way and what you desire will come to be. The only way you can deal with your future is by some kind of faith. It may not be faith in God, but it is still faith. (Chapter 5)
So how can you be open to God growing your reliance on Him in attitude and action?
A first step is to grow in your knowledge of God - who God is, what God has done, and what God is doing and will continue to do. You see faith IS NOT opposed to knowledge, rather it is based on knowledge. To take Dallas's example of the car. His faith in his car is based on his knowledge of that car - that it works, that it got him to work that day, and that it is in the car park outside. Similarly as you learn more about God, God's Character and God's work that helps you to trust Him. Now it is important to realise you don't need to know everything about God to begin to trust God just as Dallas didn't need to know everything about his car (mechanics, electrics etc) to trust it to get him home.
For many of us this will simply invovle reminding ourselves of things we have already learned!
A second step is to form an inward attitude to trust God with a part of your future. This doesn't have to be about the rest of your life or your grand plans for your career. Rather it might be about a difficult meeting you have to participate in this afternoon, or a decision you have to make, or a need for some money to pay a bill. Decide that you are going to rely on God and God's resources of wisdom, grace, patience for that concrete part of your life.
A third step is to look for simple ways you can put that attitude into action.
Finally, reflect on your experience, see what you can learn from it (speaking with others sometimes helps), and then repeat steps 1-3 in another concrete part of your life.
While you are in the difficult meeting you might imagine Jesus sitting in on the meeting (because He will be there) and you seeing Him with love in his eyes for everyone in the room (because He does love them). And then as you look to Jesus try to only speak only the words that you think Jesus wants you to say.
When you are making your decision, you might have a conversation with Jesus by talking out loud through the pro's and con's of the options.
With the bill to be paid, you might thank God for His provision for all the bills you have been able to pay in the past and ask Him if there is anything He would like you to do about this bill (Once Jesus sent Peter fishing to pay the temple tax - Peter found a coin in the mouth of the fish he caught).
A final hint: when choosing a concrete part of your life to trust God in, try starting with a small thing and over time work your way up to bigger things.