Monday, July 14, 2014

Self-Determination (by Margaret Lepke)

Thirty years ago, self-determination was one of my goals. It meant autonomy, self-rule and independence. People all over the world are striving for it because they think it will make them happy. But then I learned that true happiness flows from a different source.

One day, one of my clients produced a Bible from her handbag and read me this verse: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:36). I didn't object to a God of love, but then she started talking about sin: There is no one righteous, not even one (Rom.3:10) - and I quickly protested. "I'm not a sinner! I'm not a liar, a thief or a murderer! To the contrary, I am a nice person. I help others!"

My lovely client was wise and did not argue. Instead, she read from Isaiah 53:6 that all of us like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him (meaning Christ) the iniquity (sin) of us all. And there it was: my own way. SELF-DETERMINATION. What I thought to be a virtue, God declared to be sin. And it bugged me. A lot! The Holy Spirit used this verse to convict me, to show me that self-rule - in the sense of not wanting to submit to a higher authority - was the very essence of sin.

This conviction immediately led to fear. Jesus once said: Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 20:28 and Luke 12:5). So if the God of the Bible truly existed, then I was truly in trouble because then I was guilty. I needed a pardon, and that very evening I turned to Jesus who had paid for my sins in His own body on the cross. I handed over the reins of my life and self-determination turned into God-determination. I thought that was the end of my 'self' determining things. But was it - really?

In regard to trusting God and following His lead it was. However – and this is a big however – when reading the Bible I soon discovered that I still had the responsibility of determining things. For example, Rom.12:2 told me that I should NOT conform to the pattern of this world, but that I should be transformed by the renewing of my mind. It wasn’t a passive thing that would just happen, but in obedience I had to actively do it myself. God is in the renovation business. He wants to renew my mind and my life and has given me all the tools I need. But it’s my responsibility to pick them up and put them to use so that I might run my race here on earth effectively. The Bible puts it this way:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it (1Cor.9:24).
And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown (victor's wreath), but we for an imperishable crown (1Cor.9:25).

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil.3:14).
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done (

It became clear to me that my eternal reward is determined by what I do. Just as my eternal destination is determined by what I believe. Once I truly grasped this concept, it changed my whole attitude to the here and now. It's up to me to determine my future!
Paul said in Phil.1:21, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. And a plaque in our kitchen reads, Only one life, it’ll soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last. 

Do YOU think God's rewards are worth striving for? I certainly do. I gave up self-determination in order to follow Jesus, but then I took it back under God’s guidance to use for His eternal glory because any reward (or crown) I might receive will prove my gratitude and love for Him through my actions here on earth. What a glorious turn-around for self-determination! Praise God from whom all blessings flow…  


My apologies for today’s topic not being on literary quests. I have recently had a new vision of the importance of providing for our eternal future and thought I might share it with you instead.

May your future hold great rewards for you - eternally!

With Christian love,


  1. Thanks for sharing those thoughts Margaret. I've been doing some Selwyn Hughes studies lately and have also been reminded of the importance of turning away from self-determination and self-interest and becoming more God-directed. I know that applies to all areas of life, but I think it's also a really good reminder for Christian writers. Those God rewards are more important than the earthly rewards (e.g., fame and fortune). But if we submit our writing to Him and we are successful, that too will bring eternal rewards for us and our readers. Thanks for sharing.

  2. The Christian life is an interesting mix of giving control over to God but also responding with courage and 'taking control', if you like, of those opportunities God gives us, isn't it? Thanks for this thoughtful post, Margaret. And it certainly applies to writing! After all, we're all of a piece, as some ancient Christian mystic used to say.

  3. My sentiments exactly, Nola. Thank you for putting this into a Christian writer's context! I am hoping to be back 'on board' now after my absence for the past months and look forward to everyone's posts :)

  4. Jo-Anne, thanks for your thoughts as well. And thank you for your wonderful email recently. It was such a blessing, and I will certainly respond as soon as the family that are staying with us have left (end of the week). It's just been too hectic to sit down and even think, let alone email.

  5. Hi Margaret,
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post. It's an amazing feeling, when it dawns on us that something we've always considered a strength may have aspects that are just the opposite, in God's way of looking at things. I love how that brought you to a new realisation of just how helpless we are without Jesus.

  6. Thanks for sharing your testimony Margaret. It's lovely to hear how you found God through life giving words given in season. So much of 'self-help' and 'inspirational' sayings centre on 'me' - yet it is both freedom and strength to finally realise that we belong to God not ourselves.

  7. Thanks for sharing Margaret and no need to apologise for your post 'not being on literary quests'. In a deeper way it is.

  8. Thanks Marg. It's like that spiritual dynamic of predestination and hearing the Gospel and accepting salvation. The choice is ours in determining how we respond to the Lord's prompting.

  9. Thank you all for your comments - all very much appreciated!