Westmont Magazine Knowing How to Acknowledge God
Excerpts from a chapel talk by Dallas Willard, Professor of philosophy at USC
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don’t put your confidence in your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“Whatsoever you do, whether in word or deed, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” Colossians 3:17
It is very important to understand that these verses represent the gospel of the kingdom of God. They represent the invitation to take our whole life into the kingdom of God and learn how to live the life God has given us in the power of God. When I undertake all my activities, I am not doing them on my own. I am doing them in confidence, vision, and expectation in the spirit and character of Christ. If I am writing a paper or preparing for a conference or outlining a course, I don’t just do that looking to myself. I do that in expectation that God will act with me.
The gospel of the kingdom of God which Jesus preached, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” is precisely the good news that, in everything I am and do, God invites me to invite him to be my co-worker. He invites me to look to him, to act and move in tangible ways no matter what it is.
Go back to that verse in Proverbs, “In all your ways acknowledge him.” What does that mean? It means that we recognize he is God, and we acknowledge his authority in what we are doing. When I set up a course, or when I undertake to translate something from German into English, or whatever I am doing, writing a paper, composing a book, I expect God to direct me. I expect there to be a movement in my life that is more than me.
Now that won’t happen if I don’t acknowledge him. I have to acknowledge him; I have to recognize him. Take the verse in Colossians 3:17, “Whatsoever you do, whether in word or deed, do it in the name of . . .” What does that mean, “do it in the name of” —say the name as I do it? No. It means that I do it in behalf of him. I do it in place of him. So when I walk into a room to give a lecture, I say to myself, “How would Jesus do this?” And I do it on his behalf.
Discipleship means learning to acknowledge God in all we do—and it takes a lot of learning. You actually never get done learning because you are always learning, and increasingly you are able to acknowledge him in all of your ways. You are able to do everything you do in word or deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As you do that, among other things, your fear and anxiety disappear because you aren’t out there on the limb by yourself. You are actually watching God in action in your life. You stop second-guessing yourself and lambasting yourself because you didn’t do it right.
You have now heard the gospel that you are accepted by God where you are, that he put you there. You’re in your world to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth—and it is God who makes that possible. You accept the fact that you are finite, that you make mistakes, that you’re not perfect. And in so doing you get on with the work that God has appointed to flow through your life as you become the person he intended you to be.
You see, God has very high aims for you and me. His aim is that each one of us becomes the kind of person he can empower to do what we want. I am going to say that again. You and I are being trained and cultivated and grown to the point where God can empower us to do what we want. Now you recognize that a lot of work has to be done on our “wanter” before that can happen. But that is what life is about. And that’s what we are learning to do as disciples of Jesus Christ.