You know the drill. Your teenager asks for help on his math homework. Although you feel exhausted from the day's activities and still have more tasks to complete before bedtime, you agree to help. Before you know it, you are the one trying to decipher a complex algebra problem while your child is in the next room chatting online with a friend.
If you supervise other people, you probably have had the experience of giving one of your employees a task to fulfill, and later when you check up on the assignment, your employee says, "I put it aside because I didn't understand how to...." So you patiently explain how to solve the problem. A few days later your employee offers another excuse for not completing the job. With your own deadline approaching, you reason silently, it would be easier if you just did the task yourself. So you do!
Or maybe you receive a letter from your accountant in January reminding you that "April 15 is just around the corner," encouraging you to fill out the enclosed questionnaire to aid in the preparation of your tax return. So you spend most of a Saturday with a calculator and stacks of files, answering questions about earned income, deductions, losses, and gains. Suddenly it dawns on you: Wait a minute. Why am I spending hundreds of dollars for an accountant when I'm the one doing all the work?
If similar incidents have ever happened to you, you are a victim of "upward delegation." We become victims of upward delegation whenever we allow a subordinate to give a job back to us that belongs to him. We are guilty of practicing upward delegation whenever we give back to a superior a job that he has assigned to us.
In our spiritual lives, we are often the perpetrators of upward delegation — and God is the victim. We give back to Him assignments He has given to us.
For example, maybe a single mother in your small group at church mentions a specific request during prayer time:
"My car recently lost its transmission, and I don't have the money for the necessary repairs. Without the car I can't get to work. Would you pray that God would provide the money for the repair work?"
So you pray aloud, "God, we know that You own the cattle on a thousand hills. Nothing is too hard for You. Please, Lord, answer our dear sister's request so that she can have a car and be able to provide for her family's financial needs. In Jesus' name, amen."
However, your small group really doesn't need God's help in the matter.
Each person in your group has the ability to contribute at least $50 dollars to the cause; together you probably could cover the entire bill. But instead of passing the hat, you have collectively chosen to pass the responsibility to God. You have given Him a job that He has already given to you.
Consider carefully what James wrote to his fellow Christians:
"If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself," (2:15-17)
Or maybe you have a family member who is not a Christian. For years you have been praying for his salvation: "Lord, please provide an opportunity for him to hear the gospel so that he might escape an eternity of separation from You."
Tears stream down your face as you imagine your loved one engulfed in the flames of hell. Yet, in spite of your sincere interest in your family member's eternal future, you have never mustered up the courage to share the gospel with him. Instead, you've asked God to do the task that He has already assigned to you.
Sure, God could miraculously shout the Four Spiritual Laws from heaven or supernaturally switch the television program your loved one is watching from Friends to an evangelistic crusade. But God's preferred plan is for you to explain the way of salvation to your family member.
"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?...So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:14,17).
One more example. Frustrated with a mediocre spiritual life and hungry for something more in your relationship with God, you pray, "God, I am tired of living a life of continual defeat and disappointment. I need to experience Your power in my life. I'm tired of fighting by myself. If anything supernatural is going to happen, You are going to have to do it. Lord, fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I pray in Jesus' name, amen."
Have you ever prayed such a prayer? If so, you have once again practiced "upward delegation." When we ask God to fill us with the Holy Spirit, we are handing back to God a responsibility He has given to us.
God commands us to "Be filled with the Spirit," (Ephesians 5:18). Contrary to popular thought, the filling of the Holy Spirit is not something God does for us, but something He has commanded us to do for ourselves.
In this month's series I WANT MORE! on Pathway To Victory radio (www.ptv.org), we are going to discover what we can do to experience the Holy Spirit's power in every part of our lives.
(Adapted from I WANT MORE! by Robert Jeffress, Waterbrook Press, 2003)