Beach chair overlooking the waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

The one thing you have that God wants

God expects a lot from those who have chosen to follow Christ. There’s a verse in Luke that says that people who have been given much have a responsibility to accomplish much, and as Christians we’ve been given a precious gift. Salvation is priceless and a relationship with God through Jesus is something we can never earn or buy.

We know about loving God and loving people. We know we’re supposed to do the right thing. We know we’re supposed to show mercy. We know we’re supposed to live humble lives. We know all those things because the Bible talks about them over and over, although it’s easy to talk about them and much harder to live them. But have you ever wondered what you can do to make God happy? In a way, all of those other things (loving people, living humbly, doing right, showing mercy, etc) all stem from this one concept, and this one thing you can do will please God because it’s the one thing we have that we can give Him.

Beach chair overlooking the waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Beach chair overlooking the waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Matthew 8:5-13.

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”

Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”

But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour.

If you want to make God happy, you have to trust Him. The one thing we have that we can give God is our trust–our faith. Faith isn’t something God will just take for granted. It’s not something He’ll ignore. Faith matters to God on a level that supersedes anything else. This story about the Centurion is just one of many stories throughout Scripture showing how God rewards faith. There are other stories of healing, stories of salvation, and there’s even a story about how the faith of four friends saved another friend. Faith is a powerful thing, and it’s the one thing that Jesus pointed out over and over and over again as something God wanted.

Some days it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around the idea that God doesn’t need anything from me. I feel like I need to do something. I feel like I have to earn His love or perform in order to show Him that I’m truly devoted. But that’s my pride talking.

Why is faith so important? Yes, the most important commands are to love God and love people. Yes, it matters to God that we do the right thing, that we love mercy, and that we live humble lives. But how do you expect to accomplish any of those things without faith? Faith is the foundation of the Christian life. You can love God, but first you have to believe He’s there. You can love people, but if you aren’t loving people for God what’s the point? And you can’t love people for God until you believe He’s called you to do it. Same with everything else. Faith comes first.

I’m at a place in my life right now where I’m so stressed out I hardly even know how to function. I don’t want to admit that, but it’s the truth. I knew all of these things I’m dealing with were coming. I’ve been expecting it, and none of it’s bad. It’s all good. And on one hand, I’m so excited to see how God is going to use it all–but on the other hand, I’m just so tired I want to quit. But in those moments when I feel like quitting, I just need to remember what matters. I need to go back to basics.

Faith is as basic as you can get. And it’s the simple truths that sustain me when life gets too complicated to keep track of anymore.

I believe Jesus. He’s my best friend. He wants the best for me, and He has wonderful plans for me. And even though I live in a broken world with broken people and broken circumstances, He can use all of those broken pieces to make something beautiful from my life. I haven’t seen it yet. I have no idea what it’s going to look like. But it’s going to be good.

None of my plans are worth holding on to because they’re not big enough and they’re not complete. God’s plan is better.

Is it easy? No. Letting go of what you want is never easy, especially if (like me) you’re prone to taking things back after you’ve let them go. But once you let go and continue to let go, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. Maybe it’s hard to release it, but the relief is sweet. And when you’re not weighed down with worry, you’re free to focus on other things that matter.

 

Advertisements
Lions chilling out at Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

What God requires

I like to perform, not on stage but in life. If I don’t deliver a good performance that meets or exceeds expectations in anything that I do, I get depressed. I like to please people, and I like to go above and beyond what people expect of me. But to accomplish that, I have to know what they expect me to do to begin with.

I’ve tried to break myself of this whole performance-based acceptance concept because God doesn’t work like that. God doesn’t care about our performance in regards to how much He loves us, but He does have expectations for how His children should behave.

Lions chilling out at Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Lions chilling out at Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Micah 6:6-8.

What can we bring to the Lord?
What kind of offerings should we give him?
Should we bow before God
with offerings of yearling calves?
Should we offer him thousands of rams
and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
to pay for our sins?

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.So many times I think we try to bribe God with money or giving up things we view as essential or important. I have many friends who give up things for Lent, which I believe is a period of time before Easter. It’s a religious tradition in some families. One friend gave up pop for a year. Another friend gave up chocolate for a year. And so on and so forth. They do it to show devotion, that things like that mean less to them than God does.

But is that what God requires of us?  What does God require from us? What does He want us to give up? What does He wants us to do for Him? What does He want us to sacrifice?

Well … here’s the thing. All of those requirements have been met through Christ. Christ was our sacrifice. Christ paid the price for our sins. Christ was the offering God required to symbolically cleanse us of our wrong and make us right with Him. So we aren’t required to give up anything. We aren’t required to sacrifice anything. We aren’t required to do anything, save making the choice to trust Christ in the first place.

People like to add things to God’s free gift so it makes us feel like we have some say in it. But God doesn’t need us to do anything more. He already did it all.

However, He does expect that we will behave in a certain way, and because God is a God of communication, He tells us exactly what those expectations are:

Do right. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.

Here’s how The Message puts it:

Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.

Is that too much to ask?

It’s certainly not easy. In the world we’re living in, doing what is fair and just is difficult because those qualities mark a higher road. And the higher road is always harder.

And when it comes to loving others? Love is easier from a distance, but that’s not real love. The kind of love here is compassionate love and loyal love, and both  of those require closeness. Another way to translate that says to love mercy and kindness, and that means to look for opportunities to show mercy to people. And that is even harder than taking the high road in doing right. You can take the high road and do the right thing without having to interact with people. But God expects us as His children to look for people to do good things for, even if they aren’t interested in doing good back to us.

And walking humbly? Not taking yourself too seriously? That’s difficult too, especially if you’ve already accomplished the other two. Because if you can always take the high road and always manage to do good to others, it’s easy to slip into the thought that you’re better than everybody else. But you’re not. You just take God seriously. That’s the key. You’re no different than anyone else; you just made a choice.

Another interesting thing to note is that each of these expectations starts with an action verb. Just a fun fact for all the grammar nerds out there. God expects us to move, to do these things, to be people of action, not people who absorb Bible verses and rest on their blessed assurance.

So get out there. Do right. Love mercy. And be humble about it. That’s what God expects from us.