Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hardest Spiritual Lesson #5: Do Your Job!

5.  Obediently Doing Your Job and Letting God Do His

            Okay now, be honest and raise your hand if  . . . you like to lead instead of follow?  To push through with your plans and make things happen?  To set your own rules and goals? 
            Our world values go-getters and leaders - people who succeed, who make the impossible possible, who dream big dreams and make them come true.  It doesn’t put much value on followers who wait to be told what to do and who then immediately and completely obey (or at least try their best to).  The world overlooks people who shine the spotlight on someone else and who spend their lives in service to someone else.  It doesn’t respect submission because it values autonomy, self-reliance, and independence way too much.  So the world can’t really understand or value me.  But God does!
            You see, as I have grown ever closer to the Lord and desired Him more and more over anything else, I have found myself wanting nothing more than to glorify Him and to do His Will.  (Not all the time, but I’m trying.)  God has been working on me over many years to get me to this point where I care little about how the world views me because I am too concerned with how He does.  And my desire is to please Him, not the world. 
            It’s not easy to get to this point.  It means struggling with every bit of pride and self-reliance that we have inside of us.  It means learning to lay down personal desires, desperate wants and longings, and goals and dreams so that I can follow where He leads and bear the crosses that He asks me to bear.  It’s not easy.  And it’s not flashy. 
            Even though I have a Master’s Degree in Psychology and could be out in the workplace, in the core of my being, I am convinced that my place is at home right now, doing nothing more glamorous than raising my children.  Not that working is bad.  And of course, it could be a help to others.  But I know that God has asked me to lay aside my previous plans in order to do the job that He has asked of me instead.  And for me, that’s just loving and serving my husband and loving, raising, and homeschooling my children. 
            I’ll admit that it’s been hard at times to accept this “lowly,” over-looked role, to be unappreciated by society, to feel like I am not really contributing anything at all, to accept the loneliness that comes with being home all day without a car, to struggle with doing the same boring jobs every day, and to never feel like I accomplished much because I have to wake up and do the same boring jobs all over again. 
            But I am learning to be humbly submissive to Him and to do the job that He asks of me, whether it’s big or small.  I am learning to glorify Him with the small, menial tasks of washing dishes, making meals, cleaning off the kitchen table again, hugging my family, instilling values and knowledge in them, being kind to neighbors, etc.  The world barely notices the way I try to live in obedience to God.  But I am learning to be content knowing that He notices.  I am learning to live to please Him.  I am learning to focus simply on what He asks of me and to let Him be concerned with the results of my obedience and how He uses it.  I am learning to work for eternal rewards instead of temporary ones.
            And you know what?  We don’t have to “feel like” obeying in order to do it or even be happy about it.  (Although, our attitude will say a lot about how we really feel about God and if He is glorified abundantly.)  We don’t have to understand what God is trying to do or to see the big picture or to know the next three steps before we can step out in faithful obedience.  All we have to know is what God is telling us to do now and if we are doing it. 
            All throughout our journey, all of us Christians will have to decide who gets to be the leader in our lives.  We will either continue to fight for control, to make the decisions, and to do what we want, or else we will learn to wait for God’s leading, to follow Him wherever He leads, and to do the job that He asks of us, to the best of our ability and for His glory.  No matter how big or small.
            It is just as important to faithfully obey in the “small things” as it is in the big ones.  It is crucial to the health of our lives, our relationship with God, our marriages, our families, etc., to be faithful and God-glorifying in the everyday, unglamorous tasks.  Honoring your marriage vows, cooking, cleaning, raising children, reaching out to the “lowest of the low,” being a person of your word, watching your tongue, doing your job to the best of your ability, respecting your spouse, honoring your parents, etc.  All of these things are to be done to the best of our ability and for God’s glory.  
            I think that it’s how we do the “small” things that really define and testify about the Christian population.  It’s how we do the small things that build our character, which builds our Christian families, which builds our churches, which builds the generations to come, and, therefore, the kingdom of God.  It’s all built on how faithful we are in the little things.  And the world notices this kind of stuff and judges Christianity by it. 
            It’s not an easy lesson to learn, though – to be faithfully obedient in tiny tasks and with small jobs, to put aside our agendas and follow God down a less-flashy, less-exciting path.  It means struggling with our pride, desires, strong wills, dreams, independence, self-reliance, old wounds, fears, idols, and resistance to authority. 
            But we will all have to struggle with this lesson at some point in our lives, probably many points.  Because God desires and requires that we fully, humbly submit ourselves to His Lordship and glorify Him through our life of obedience.  And we cannot do that when we are working for our own glory, satisfaction, and fulfillment, and for attention from the world. 
            Part of learning obedience is learning to hear Him when He leads.  And we can only do this if we are cultivating a deep, attentive, listening relationship with Him through prayer and the Word.  Part of obedience is laying aside our dreams and plans in favor of His.  Part of obedience is giving Him the right to move as He wants to in our lives and to use our obedience as He wills.  It’s learning to just do our part (not His, not someone else's, not our spouse's, etc.) and letting Him deal with the rest: with the things we can't do, the unknown parts, the future, the results, etc.  And part of obedience is learning to wait in expectancy for His leading instead of rushing ahead with our own plans.  
            The older I get, the more I want to (and yet still often struggle to and fail to) follow Him in humble submission, instead of trying to lead with my own wisdom and desires and efforts.  I want to be able to patiently wait on Him, humbling myself under His hand until He chooses to lift me up in His time and His way. (1 Peter 5:6, next post)   I want to be able to wait until He points the way or gives a direction instead of trying to force something on my own.  Or as I like to say, “Surf, don’t ski!”  I already explained this in another post, but here’s what I mean by that:
            Water-skiing is when we start up our own little motor on a still lake, and we attach our own little rope to the boat, and we cruise around by our own little power, saying, “Hey, look at me.  I’m making things happen.”  But surfing is when we sit quietly with our boards, waiting and watching for when the waves pick up and the conditions are right.  And then we jump on our boards and ride the waves that God brought through His power.  One is about leading and making opportunities, and one is about following and taking opportunities.  And I’m learning to surf instead of ski. 
            Obedience is a life-long lesson and journey.  It’s really all about how we see God.  It’s about if we have learned to trust Him, to rely on Him, to listen to Him, to wait for Him, if we remain in Him, if we have learned humility, and, ultimately, it’s about if we love Him more than ourselves.

            1 John 5:3:  “This is love for God: to obey his commands. . . .” 

            Jeremiah 7:23:  “but I gave them this command:  Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.  Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.”

            Luke 11:28:  “[Jesus] replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”

            John 15:10:  “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

            Acts 5:32:  “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”