The Bible is filled with stories about courage. Interestingly enough, these stories are often as much about courage and faith to trust in God as they are courage to face a tough circumstance or adversary. Sure, sometimes it's courage to stare down enemy (David), but it could just as likely be courage to look stupid by following a counter-intuitive God plan (Noah) or wait patiently for God to act when everything inside us wants to take charge of it ourselves (Abraham). This version of the Serenity Prayer focuses on courage to change the things which should be changed. This is different than the more common prayer circulated these days, which says to change what "can be changed". This begs the question: as Christ followers, is it sufficient motivation to want to change our circumstance simply because we can?
The very first line of this version of the prayer represents the most significant difference between this one and the more popular versions used by most of today's Twelve-step recovery groups. The more popular version reads, "God, grant me the serenity", instead of, "God, give me grace". To some, perhaps this is a subtle difference, amounting to nothing of substance. But here's the not-so-subtle difference in my mind.
The Serenity Prayer has long been a favorite among folks in recovery. Unfortunately, many only know the first line of the prayer which, to me, misses the richness of the full prayer. So, I'm going to spend a number of weeks combing through a complete version of this prayer because I think it has much to teach us, whether or not we are in recovery. All Christians are "in recovery" from sin and will continue to be until Jesus comes back, so I suppose that places all of us on equal footing at the Cross.
When faced with challenging people and/or life circumstances, too often we do the opposite of what's most helpful. Something in our fallen nature instinctively focuses externally rather than internally when we're met with resistance.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Yes, that’s what Scripture says. However, if this is where we begin, we’ll at best have spotty success in the actual resisting. Let me explain.
Recently, I was re-reading a very helpful book for affair-proofing marriage titled "Close Calls: What Adulterers Want You to Know about Protecting Your Marriage". It's by Dave Carder, a colleague I've known for many years who specializes in the area of affair recovery and who also (like me) has a big heart for those in Christian ministry. In the book, he gives lots of illustrations of the various risk factors that frequently lead otherwise unsuspecting men and women into either affairs or "close calls" with affairs. One particular illustration struck me. Not so much for the particular story line, but rather for the unintentional three-point outline I noticed that (in my own professional experience) is more at the heart of how we end up flirting with just about any area of sin in the first place.