Is Christianity a joy or a burden?

April 20, 2016

 My son once wrote, "The day-to-day spiritual life lies more in wisdom and responsibility than in 'spirituality' as it is often presented." I thought about his statement for a long time. I am so often looking for the next spiritual experience to come my way that I miss the obvious—most of the Christian life is plugging away at knowing, understanding, and obeying God. There are no formulas. There are no easy three-step solutions. It's simply acting on what I know, then trying to learn some more to do the same. 

 

That doesn't mean I don't occasionally have astounding spiritual moments. I do. However, it's generally been days and days of seeking to know God and follow him that leads to those bright spots of certainty as I bask in the knowledge of his presence. And when those moments come, it's a greater joy than I could have imagined. It's somehow even more stunning because of the mundane day-to-day. Just as a cardinal appearing on the snow startles me with it's contrast, so do days of faithfulness as they are punctuated by the miraculous. 

 

Gary Gilles says in the Bible study "Faithfulness: The Church's Highest Calling": "Obedience is one of those concepts we both love and hate . . . We don’t always have the luxury of knowing why we must obey or have the privilege of seeing the outcome of our efforts. Think of Moses wandering in the desert for 40 years with tens of thousands of disgruntled Israelites wondering when they would reach God’s promised land. Moses led them faithfully during that time, but never stepped into the land himself. Yet the modern church . . . is increasingly uncomfortable with uncertainty. As a result, it often resorts to applying corporate techniques to measure its progress and quantify the end product of its effort. Hence, obedience now seems to require less faith because it can be measured by the outcome."

 

Jesus had a simpler and more profound approach to obedience. In John 14:15 he said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Our incentive for obedience is not the end product but something far more intangible: our friendship with God. Because we love him, we want to obey him. Because we trust him, we want to do what he says. That's why "pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps" often doesn't work. We've disconnected the rules from the one who made the rules. Only as we believe he is not only good but has our best interests at heart will we be willing to do what he says. And, shockingly, there is enormous freedom in that. 

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