The Christian responsibility to God is not a popular topic. TV evangelists and most ministries avoid talking about it for financial reasons. They want to keep the donations coming in, so they tell their followers just what they want to hear. But they’re not doing you any good by avoiding the topic of responsibility and obligation to God, because it is part and parcel of what constitutes the Christian experience. Everything, in the final analysis, is done for God’s sake, not ours.
God tells us throughout the Bible that everything He does and all that we should do was and is and will be done for Him, not us. Even that which is beneficial to you also benefits God: “For the Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake: because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people” ( 1 Samuel 12:22). In the creation account in Genesis, God said it was good that He made Adam and Eve, and all of creation. He made everything for His benefit, and that hasn’t changed. In 1 Samuel God saved the Jews so that it could be seen that He is all-powerful. This was also the main point in Moses’s conflict with the Pharoh. It was to prove to the Egyptians and also to the Jews that God the Creator was all-powerful and could take care of His own. So, whatever He does for our benefit is also for His benefit ( 2 Kings 19:34; 20:6; Psalm 6:4). He does this so that His power will be known ( Psalm 106:8). Therefore, He pardons our sins for His name’s sake (Psalm 25:11) because He loves us and wants us to be with Him forever (John 3:16).
Psalm 23 is arguably the best known and most loved of all the psalms. It is a very calming and lovely poem. But look at the point given from the onset: ” He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul: He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (emphasis added). People miss the fact that the psalm ultimately isn’t about them, it’s about God.
This theme carries on through the New Testament. In the account of Jesus healing the blind man, His disciples asked if God had made the man blind because of his sin, or the sin of his parents. Jesus replied, “Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:1-3). The story shows the power of God to both afflict the man and to heal him. It continues the theme that many of our hardships are to show the unsaved the power of God to bring us triumphantly through our hardships, not to allow us to avoid them.
When God sent Ananias to Paul, he was fearful because he’d heard how Paul had been persecuting the Jews. God told him, ” Go your way, for he is a chosen vessel to Me, to bear My name before the gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” ( Acts 9:10-16; emphasis added). Accordingly, Paul later said of his thorn in the flesh (infirmity) that God refused to heal, that God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness”. Therefore, said Paul, he would “gladly rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of God may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in persecutions, in distress for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak then I am strong” (1 Corinthians 12:1-10). God doesn’t use strong people to do His work. He makes weak people strong by having them work through difficulties.
The second reason God brings Christians through hardships is that He loves seeing His creations doing well and triumphing over troubles. He wants us to do well, to be prosperous in Him. John wrote in the most well-known Bible verse of all time that God so loves you that He sent His only begotten Son to die a horrible death on the cross in your place so that you can be with Him forever (John 3:16). No greater love exists than for one person to give his life for another. News stories abound in which a parent has died so that his or her child would survive.
Also, good parents allow their children to learn lessons on their own, albeit with some guidance. Good parents don’t do everything for their children because if they did the children wouldn’t grow to be strong, capable adults. Parents do have to give guidance and subtle help, of course, and to keep their children from seriously hurting themselves. I remember the lesson my parents taught me about the fire on our stove, not by allowing me to burn myself, but by taking me to the stove and burning a little piece of paper to demonstrate how destructive that pretty little flame could be. I was very young then, but the lesson was so powerful that I still remember it. Likewise, God will give us powerful lessons that are for our benefit because He is happy when we are safe and happy.
Your being safe and happy doesn’t mean you won’t have troubles: ” These things I have spoken to you that in Me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). That seems a contradiction at first. How is there peace in hardship? Notice exactly what Christ told His disciples: “In Me you may have peace”, and then, “In the world you will have trouble”. In other words, peace comes from the assurance that because you live in Christ and He in you, and that you are His brother or sister and a child of the Father, God will help you to safely work through the trials He has planned for you to work through in your life: “For your are created in Christ unto good works, that He has before ordained that you should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
Your choosing to become a Christian came with an obligation to God. You effectively entered into a contract with God to do what He has planned before the foundation of the world for you to do. It’s a lot like starting a new job. In accepting the job you agree to do the work that the business needs for you to do in order for the business to succeed. If you don’t do the work you suffer, the company suffers, and the other employees suffer. And, if you don’t correct your problem you will be fired. Now, here’s the point: you don’t cease being an employee because you failed to do your job. In essence, you were never actually an employee to begin with. You did the work in order to obtain a paycheck. That is a selfish reason. You weren’t committed to the company or else you would have wanted to do your job well.
Likewise, Jesus told the parable of pseudo-Christians coming to Him at the judgment and saying, haven’t we done all these things for you? Look what we’ve done in Your name!” And Jesus said He will tell them “Depart from Me, I never knew you”. They were never really Christians because they were never committed to Him. They didn’t lose their salvation because they failed to do their job. In their minds they had no commitment to God when they claimed to be Christians, nor did they gain that commitment after starting.
Jesus said if anyone really wants to follow Him, he needs to take up his or her cross first, then follow, because “whoever will save his life will lose it; and whoever will lose his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:21-27; Mark 8:32-38; Luke 9:23-26). Taking up your cross is accepting your responsibility to God to do the work He has planned for you to do, whether or not you like it and no matter how inconvenient it is to your plans. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean you can ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. It means making a promise to God to follow His direction in your life no matter what it is God has planned for you to do. In exchange, God promises to bring you safely into His family. That doesn’t always mean safe in the world, but that’s another blog. It means He will help you accomplish what he has for you to do even if it’s a lot harder than you could do on your own. Moses couldn’t part the Red Sea. God told him to hold up his hand and then God parted the water, not Moses. Moses was just God’s instrument, His ambassador to the Egyptians. And we are God’s ambassadors to the world today. God exercises His power through true Christians.
Do you need to reconsider your position in Christ? Are you committed to doing what he has planned for you to do, or are you just looking for a free ride to heaven? There is no free ride. You can’t ride off into the sunset worry free. It does mean that if you live up to your obligation to God, He will take care of you and help you through the trials He has planned for you, in the manner in which he has planned for you to deal with them. That is not always how you’d like to deal with the problems, but in God’s overall scheme of things, it is the best way for them to be dealt with. He created the universe and everything in it, so He knows best how to run it. And, when anything runs the way it should run there are harmony and peace. In Christ, it is the blessed assurance that in the final judgment Jesus will tell you welcome into heaven, good and faithful servant. I have a home for you all ready and waiting. Is your home waiting for you?