Life is hard. When you choose to follow Jesus, it doesn’t get easier; it gets harder. But that’s a post for another day… The real difference is that you have a Source of strength that makes this life feel easier at times. And sometimes it doesn’t. Once sin entered this world, easy was no longer an option. If that is your goal in life, you might as well be shooting for perfection because neither is going to happen. If you think about it, the reason hard things feel so hard is because we can’t control them. “If this would happen” or “if this didn’t happen” then life would be so much easier. Well those things are generally beyond our power. If my father hadn’t died… If my wife hadn’t left… If my son would just serve Jesus… If my boss appreciated how hard I worked… All things that are bigger than us. So how do we live the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10? He said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Clearly there are two sides to the coin.
The formula isn’t hard to understand, but it isn’t what most of us want it to be either. Nearly all of us wish for a genie that does what we say, but that isn’t the God of the Bible. Paul explains it quite simply in Romans 6:16 “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” It all boils down to obedience. Not in a legalistic or ritualistic way, but the way a child obeys a parent that it loves and respects. We don’t obey because we fear punishment; we obey out of a deep love for our Father.
Surrendering control in every aspect of our lives to a loving Father, seeking counsel from His Holy Spirit, and following the teachings of His beloved Son lead us into a deeper relationship with Him. It’s overwhelming to consider that the God of the Universe – the Creator of everything – wants an intimate relationship with us. Depending on your religious background, or lack of one, we tend to see God as either a firm authoritarian or a loving Father. In actuality, He is both. He is Sovereign (Acts 4:24); He is a supreme ruler who answers to no one. Yet He is also Abba Father (Romans 8:15). While the original word, ἀββα, has no equivalent in the English language, it is a term for “father” that expresses warm affection and loving confidence.
As an American, submitting to a sovereign goes against everything we are taught. We like democracy – everyone gets an equal vote and has a right to be heard – but this is not God’s plan for the world. We generally love the idea of a permissive Father – one who gives us what we want. But God is a perfect Father. Because He is sovereign, He actually knows what is best for us at every moment and in every situation. We can trust Him always because, unlike our earthly fathers, He is all-knowing and does not make mistakes. Numbers 23:19 teaches us that “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” Every direction He leads us, everything He asks us to do, is for our good (Romans 8:28). He is not a dictator that controls people like puppets and He is not a Father who gives us what we want so we’ll like Him or stop pestering Him.
If we do not understand the true nature of our heavenly Father, then we risk every step of obedience we take in our faith journey becoming either a march toward legalism or us treading a path to manipulate God into doing things our way. Take some time today to reflect on how you view God, and if there is anything in your understanding of Him that contradicts Scripture, take the time to work it out with Him in prayer and confess any concepts you’ve been holding onto that minimize who He is. That is the first step in going deeper in your faith journey.
- Looking at John 10:10, which description best fits my life right now?
- Do I view God as more of an authoritarian dictator or a permissive father? Why is that?
- When I have a hard time releasing control of the things I can’t control, why is that? What am I afraid God will or won’t do?
- Do I truly believe that everything God does in my life is with my best interest in mind? Why or why not?