At times I am amazed at what passes for power in our culture.  I read a news report about how twenty some people were injured at a motivational conference by attempting to walk over burning hot coals.  At first I thought it was going to be some out in left field, offshoot kind of charismatic kook who suckered a few people into trying this.  I was a bit dismayed when I learned it was a multi-day conference held by a popular and seemingly respected motivational speaker with published books, DVD’s, and CD’s who has created and successfully grown his own personal power motivational organization.  Six thousand people  were in attendance.  They had set up 12 lanes of hot coals and encouraged all six thousand people to end the first day of the conference by walking across the hot coals.  When asked to comment on the event and the injuries, the organization said, “The intention of the event is to get your focus and your attention away from that and look into the power within yourself and focus on just walking on the fire.” Listening to some of the reactions from participants and how excited and “sold out” they were to this experience made me feel sad.

Now, I understand that I do not know hardly anything about the teachings and philosophy of this organization that promises to bring out the inner power just waiting for us all to find in ourselves.  But the lesson of this exercise seems to be that if you can muster the strength, focus and resolve to walk across burning coals in your bare feet you can do anything. I must heartily disagree.  I think it’s far easier to walk bare foot across hot coals than wrought true change in your own heart.

I think most motivational speakers get it wrong from square one.  Their premise seems to be that we all possess the strength necessary to change our lives and become the best version of ourselves, which actually lives inside us.  Evidence of this is your ability to put your negative thinking aside and utilize the performance principles of their philosophy to perform feats of personal strength such as walking across hot coals in your bare feet.  The key word here is, “perform”.

I do believe that many people can change their actions with a lot of effort and, yes, practicing personal motivational techniques.  The problem is that what’s changing is your actions, and not your heart.  Just because an alcoholic stops drinking doesn’t mean he is healed.  To stop drinking is only the beginning of the journey, not the goal. Another problem with focusing on changing your actions, and even the way you think, doesn’t really bring lasting change.  It can bring temporary change, even temporary peace and joy, but if the heart is still sick then the changes will fade.

The real thing needed here, I believe, is the strength to surrender.  Surrender to the truth that I, on my own, cannot change my own heart, I need help.  Surrender to the truth that the only power capable of re-creating my heart is the One who created it in the first place.  It takes the power of humility and surrender to NOT depend on myself or my own personal strength, but give control of my heart to God.  Believe me, many people would rather walk across hot coals in bare feet, and suffer the pain and scars from attempting personal feats of power,  than to surrender.  Ellen White got it right when she defined a miracle as the true changing of a person’s heart and life.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

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