Making Your Behavior Match Your Identity
(excerpted from Lifetime Guarantee, published by Harvest House)
A friend of mine who has made several trips to the Holy Land was telling me the other day how much different it was when he traveled with the tour guide he discovered on his fourth trip. This guide was Jewish, had been reared in Jerusalem, had studied Hebrew history in an Israeli university, and was also an enthusiastic Christian. He told me about some pretty exciting insights this guide had given him with regard to prophecy.
Personal experience is often invaluable if you are to serve as guide to others. Accordingly, I’d like to relate briefly how the Holy Spirit took me through the experience that has “qualified” me to take pen in hand and to serve as a spiritual tour guide. I hope my experience will give you insight to help you appropriate your own victorious walk. We will also look at a step-by-step sequence of how to trust Christ to express His life through you as you face a particular task.
My Credentials (for Writing This Book)
Before coming to the end of my resources in attempting to live the Christian life, I depended on my ability. I saw all Christians as working for God. It was as if He needed my help. I never stopped to ask myself if He was that impotent. I just went along with the program of my church and “tried to do my best for God.” Sound familiar?
I received my doctorate in counseling from Oklahoma State University and accepted an appointment as a psychology professor in the Oklahoma higher education system. I was very proud. Dr. Gillham! Hot dawg! “Lord, here I go to my new job,” I prayed. “And my main goal is going to be to win souls for You in my new position. Man, what an influence I’ll have for You—a born-again psychology professor on a university campus! You must admit You don’t have many of those around!”
I have since envisioned the Lord’s saying to Himself, “Well, there he goes again. Bless his heart. That boy means well. He thinks he’s going to that campus to help Me, and I’m really not so hard up that I have to depend on a man. I could raise up a stone to do My work if I chose to. But I love that boy! He has a good heart. However, since My strength shows up best in weakness and Bill sees himself as strong for Me, I’m going to have to allow him to get weak. Then, in his weakness, he will turn to Me as his strength, his only strength.”
So the Lord allowed a little “all things” to come into my life. I’m speaking of Romans 8:28, 29, where He says that all things are going to be used by Him to conform me to the image of His Son. Now, I don’t mean to be “familiar” with the Lord, but I do think He has a fine sense of humor, and I enjoy picturing Him that way at times. So maybe some angels said to Him, “Do you want Gillham to get a full order of ‘all things’ or a half order?”
“I believe you’d better give him a full order,” the Lord no doubt replied.
I want you to picture me lecturing to my new psychology classes. I’m well prepared, having generated and rehearsed my notes as best I could so as to make a good first impression. Oh, I so wanted to do well! But right in the middle of the lecture, it was as if my notes went cold. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what to say next. My lecture ground to a halt, followed by fifteen seconds of awful silence while my face got as red as a beet. It was a terrible experience that I shall never forget.
I was desperately trying to salvage some pride (ugh!) out of the situation. “Lord!” I said. “I’m Your man on campus! Your saved ‘sicoligy perfesser.’ Your man-of-the-hour-withpower is in big trouble! My reputation, Lord! How will I work for You if I lose my reputation? Help!” And it was as if He’d gone to Jupiter.
I didn’t keep a diary of those experiences, but their frequency was often enough to keep me paranoid about facing my classes. The circumstances varied in that sometimes they’d ask me a question I couldn’t answer. It wasn’t a question where I could say “I’ll look it up and tell you later,” but something like “What’s Sigmund’s last name again?” “When is your birthday?” Really tough ones! And there I’d go with the silence and red-face routine again.
I’d be strolling across the campus—I had a tweed sport coat and everything just like the “normal” professors—and here would come a cluster of kids. “Good morning, Dr. Gillham.” Oh, I loved the sound of it! Here comes Doctor Gillham. And then the devil would tell me that I could know what they were really thinking about me: “There goes Delbert Dumb! What we don’t need on this campus is another educated idiot.” It nearly beat me to death. I didn’t share my misery with anyone, not even Anabel. I was too ashamed.
I’d try binding the devil before I entered the classroom, and it was about as effective as screen doors on a submarine. I claimed the blood. I did everything I knew to do, and still I was a miserable failure as a psychology professor. Can you see God at work? He was allowing Satan to attack me in my area of “strength” to bring me to the end of myself, of my ability.
What’s your source of pride, dear one? He hasn’t got you reading this book as a time filler. You can choose to come to the end of yourself right now if you will. Or you can wait until the “all things” treatment forces you to come to grips with the flesh. How are you getting your needs met on this planet?
I don’t know how long it took me to finally wake up and smell the coffee, but it was a long time. Finally, however, a pamphlet “somehow” came into my hands that spoke of my co-crucifixion with Christ. I couldn’t understand it. I ultimately read it onto a cassette tape that I played over and over as I drove alone in my car. Finally I arrived at a point of very limited comprehension. I studied the Scripture references the writer cited and cross-referenced them. I seemed to see a glimmer of hope. Christ, as my life, would teach the class through me.
I got on my knees in my bedroom and prayed, “Lord, I don’t understand this, but the Bible says that the ‘old me’ died, the ‘new me’ was born, and Your desire is to express Your life through the new me. You want me to depend on You to teach those psychology classes through me, using my personality and my earthsuit to do it. Okay, Lord, I enter into that agreement. One thing I am convinced of: I can’t teach the class. You do it.
Put Some Legs to the Commitment
Then I took a very important step, step 3 from the bear story: behavior. I got up off my knees and walked down the stairs acting as though Christ was going to do it through me. If I had waited on my knees until I “felt” Jesus take over and move me to the classroom and wiggle my lips for me, I’d still be there. We’re not robots. I got up and I moved my legs in obedience, but I believed by faith that Christ was doing it through me because the Bible says He is my life, my only life. But I felt like a hypocrite. Like the biggest phony in town! I did it anyway, however; because I was desperate. I was at the end of my resources I couldn’t hack it anymore, and I knew it.
Thus, I began my new walk of utter dependency. I dared not depend on my university training, my skills as a communicator, my cleverness, my ability. I had depended on all those things before, and they had let me down like the Titanic. I wanted out, and I believed I had seen a Biblical crack in the door that would bail me out of this awful situation and glorify Christ if He pulled it off. I was going to let the Lord do it all through me. And it worked! Praise God, it worked, and it’s still working! It’s working just as well for multitudes of Christians who have come to the end of themselves and claimed their true identity in Christ with Christ as life. Our brother Paul said it best, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21).
“Lord,” I prayed, “there are classes I must prepare for and lectures I must deliver. But with this new arrangement, I’m sure glad that I don’t have to do either of them. You will do it all for me. You have commanded me to cast my burden upon You in Psalm 55:22. That’s not an option, but an order! Okay, I’m casting this on You. You do it.” And then I set about acting as though He was doing it all through me.
My lecture notes still looked the same—balloons with arrows zooming across the page, and so on. The pages didn’t begin to fill up with automatic writing. If something like that had happened, I’d have begun to “walk by sight,” which would have created yet another problem that God would have had to help me overcome. I simply had to believe that He had taken over; that everything was now under His control and was His responsibility. I gave it my best. I applied all the knowledge of psychology I possessed. I tried to generate the best lecture notes I was capable of; but I gave Him the responsibility for it. If it turned out praiseworthy, to God be the glory. If it didn’t, to God be the responsibility, and praise Him anyway! The monkey was on His back to produce, not on mine. Hallelujah! This is what He meant when He said His yoke is easy. What freedom! Not freedom to goof off, but freedom to see His power through me.
White Sands Proving Ground (Testing Time)
Here’s an example of how it actually worked: I’m walking down the hall toward my Abnormal Psychology classroom. Do I feel confident that this is going to work? No! I feel insecure, just like always. Is there any guarantee I’ll be successful? It all depends on your definition of success, If you’re defining it as “perfect performance with perfect resuIts,” the answer is no. If you’re defining it as “perfect method, trusting Christ as my life,” the answer is yes.
What a relief! I began to sail along, class after class without a hitch. There was no hint of the old memory lapse problems—until one fateful day. Here it came, the test. I could detect it immediately, and I saw my options. I could choose the panic road, or I could choose the road of faith and obedience. I said, “Okay, Lord, here it is. It looks bad for the home team. I’m glad it’s not my responsibility to pull it out. I’m blank! I’m sure glad You’re on the hook. You can do whatever You want. If You want to let me look like a Delbert Dumb, go ahead. Let me get red as a beet. That’s okay. I’ll hate it, but that’s Okay. That’ll be Your problem, too.” I gave Him permission to let the worst thing I could think of at the moment happen to me. The worst fear the devil could suggest. And He pulled me through. Praise the Lord, He pulled me through!
You say, “Bill, that’s too simple. You have no comprehension of what kind of a pickle I’m in. My life makes your situation look like Ned in the first reader.” I hear you, and you’re right; I don’t know what your situation is. But I can tell you this. Trusting Christ as my life has carried me through the experience of having a mentally retarded son. It has carried me through fathering four physically incomplete sons and agonizing and wishing that there were something I could do, even to exchanging places with them if it were possible. It carried me through speaking at my son’s funeral. It has reduced my super-critical tongue, which was formerly being used to destroy my beautiful, faithful wife and my dear sons—while all the time I was striving to stop doing “the very thing I hated”—to a trickle. It liberated me from lusting after nearly anything in a skirt, whether in or out of church.
Oh, dear friend, God’s grace is (not will be) sufficient for your situation. He wants to carry it all for you. Won’t you give up and let Him live through you? You don’t need to wait for one single thing to be added to who you already possess if you know Christ as Savior. Just celebrate a good funeral for the “old man,” and then celebrate the birth of the new, victorious you who arose in Christ by beginning to act like who you are.
Testing times will come, but the one who is in charge of the “obstacle course” has designed it to motivate you to claim Him as your strength. He will not allow it to destroy you. The course is specifically designed to conform you to the image of your lovely older brother. Relax in it. Keep your mind on this. Our moment-by-moment battle is to fix in our minds that we are resting in heaven in Christ while simultaneously setting our minds to move through our daily tasks, believing that Christ is meeting them through us. We work at resting while we rest at working.
This article was written for The John Ankerberg Show By: Dr. Bill Gillham; ©2000.