A few months ago, a good friend mentioned a book that he had read years ago that had been quite impactful. My ears perked up because I’m always on a quest for a good read. (Several years ago, I sorta promised my wife I wouldn’t buy another book until I completed all the books currently in my library … but I don’t count books I really, really, really “need” … books that come highly recommended to me … or books at a great sale price … or …). Within hours, this recommended book was on my iPad and I was discovering why my friend considered this such a good book.

The book? True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer.

I have been familiar with Schaeffer, the theological and philosopher, since his books were at my house growing up (I inherited my penchant for buying books from both my parents), and I had read some from him, but True Spirituality was new to me. My purpose today, though, is not to review the book; rather, I want to focus on a two-word phrase that Schaeffer used in the book, a phrase that has played repeatedly in my mind over the last several months.

Active Passivity

To some, active passivity may sound like an oxymoron, but it captures so succinctly how we are to live the Christian life.

How the Christian life is passive. Let’s begin with what passivity does not mean in terms of following Christ. It is not a resignation, a defeated giving in to whatever life throws at us. It is also not inactivity. Instead, it is placing our trust in Christ.

I trusted Jesus when I first became a Christian.

Too many people leave trust at the initial moment of salvation, but trust is a day-by-day, moment-by-moment act. Just as we cannot save ourselves, we cannot live the Christian life ourselves. Thankfully, God does not expect us to. He’s given His Holy Spirit to us; He is to fill us and work through us. Our role is to trust Him to do that work.

I am thankful for those in the church who step up and serve … who lead … who teach … who do whatever they’re asked to do. We’re supposed to get busy for Christ, right?! I’m concerned, though, that too many of us—the 20% of church members who do 80% of the work—serve in our own power. We’re active, but we’re relying on our resources rather than relying on God’s equipping and empowering. Consequently, we burn out. In a moment, I’ll address how we are to be active, but our activity must first be grounded in passivity, this notion of yielding to the lordship of Christ, trusting Him to lead, and relying on the strength He gives us through His Holy Spirit.

How the Christian life is active. This passivity does not mean we don’t do anything! We trust God and rely on Him, but then we step out and do what He calls us to do. It’s called obedience.

A friend recently told me of an acquaintance who lost his job and was praying for God to give him a new one. My friend knew of a couple of opportunities and was willing to give him the names of some contacts, but this acquaintance didn’t need them. He was praying and waiting for God. In other words, he was expecting God just to hand him his next job.

It’s like the old joke of the guy sitting on top of his house as the flood waters rose. He prayed for God to rescue him, and when a boat came by and offered to help, the man said, “No need. God is going to rescue me.” The man ended up drowning in the flood. When he stood before God, he asked, “Why didn’t you rescue?” God’s response, “Who do you think sent the boat?!”

Our activity comes in our obedience. We pray, ask God for His guidance, and we step out of obedience to Him.

We serve (active) … but we rely on God’s power (passive) as we serve.

We give (active) … but we trust God to provide (passive) even as we give to others.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you [passive], and you will be my witnesses [active] in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” Acts 1:8).

“If we live by the Spirit [passive], let us also keep in step with the Spirit [active]” (Gal. 5:25).

We can’t be active in our service and witness without first being passive and choosing to live in obedience and submission to the lordship of Christ. Passivity and activity go hand in hand. Choose to live with active passivity and discover the joy of seeing God work through you.

Subscribe to this blog or like our Facebook page. And share this post with others.

If you would like a printable version of this, check out PrintFriendly.