It is always encouraging to get together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We talk about the exciting ways God has worked in our lives and in the lives of those around us. But there are times when we discover that some are making decisions that are spiritually devastating. Too often we wonder what in the world happened and how did we not know where they were headed. Or we find ourselves in hopeless situations, and see no answer in sight. Where do we look when the hope seems to be gone? Our God is faithful to those who obey Him, this we know. But what happens when we have obeyed Him, and our life seems to have lost its value?
As Christians, our obedience must be our goal. However, it is not necessarily the action that leads us to success. We go to our job, not to find purpose, but to allow God to use us while we are doing our job. The lack of peace is found when we are serving the action and not serving God.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven”(Matthew 6:1). Jesus tries to get this across to us by going as far as to say that you are not to “let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). Our actions do not complete the process of His plan. We know that we will eventually be guided by what truly dwells in our hearts. Matthew 5 describes the matters of the heart. If God is not the master of our thoughts and all we are made of, then the outcome will be as he describes of the hypocrites: seeking man’s approval.
Some look to their friends for assurance in their life choices. There are some who are defined by their job, by how much money they make—those who seek to accomplish great things with their physical abilities, the best mountain climber, an Olympic gold medallist, etc. There are those who find great success in how many friends they have on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong; it is nice to have succeeded in certain things—these things can be a gauge of the deeper value in some cases. But how are these things being used in our lives? Do these things define who we are?
God provided marriage to allow us to become an even more powerful tool for His good work. Being in a marriage and raising children causes us to look at ourselves and how we live our lives. Yet the relationship between the husband and wife is to be guided and ruled by His word. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
God blessed us with being a part of the church, our family. Yet this blessing can become more of an obligation than a source of peace. The very things that should be valuable in our Christianity have turned into a stumbling block for many. We are to pray, but not for the sake of others’ approval. The tool is not our god.
He has provided all that we need, and yet those very things when used improperly, can work against us. What we set out to do can be detoured by the devil if we are not constantly aware of our every move as Christians.
As we go through life, as we teach our children what is valuable and what should be valuable, what are we really teaching? School is important, jobs are important, how you work and give your best effort is important. Striving for excellence is fantastic, although how we think we live and how we actually live can sometimes not come out to be the same.
As Christians we strive to serve God. And in His service we are to seek out His eternal plan and apply it to our lives daily. Too often, we find ourselves dissatisfied, frustrated, and eventually feeling hopeless in our walk as Christians, thinking Why? Why has our God not delivered us?
Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame…He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for thou art my god.’ They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend…He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 44:9, 17-18, 20).
Reading this passage, it is clear that there is foolishness in their actions. Throughout the Bible God has sent the message that we must look to Him to find salvation. It seems beyond ridiculous that someone would look to something empty to provide any sense of deliverance. I can’t help but see this in our lives today.
We work to apply God’s word in all that we do. We know we have the fruit of the Spirit when we have “love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22). Yet as we seek to serve God, we walk through our days, spending time on the things that are before us. We teach our children to be good students, and we are thrilled when they come home with straight A’s. They get good jobs while they are in school, they keep up their grades, they date Christians, and spend their time wisely.
As parents, we seek to serve God in all we do. We carry out our Christian attributes throughout our day. Honesty is our guide. We work hard and follow through. Self-control is shown in how we react, despite how we would like to react. In all we do, we feel led by the Spirit. But are we doing these things in service to God, or for a shallow sense of value and purpose in this life? Are we actually bearing fruit?
In all we do, the obedience must be fulfilled; it is not necessarily the action that leads us to success.
So why are we surprised when our children feel like they have no direction or purpose? They accomplish their goal and yet they feel empty. Why do we feel shocked when we look at our “perfect” lives and find we have no peace? We have done it all in the name of God and serving Him. What is missing for us?
We cannot allow the world to define marriage and family or to convince us that they alone will bring us happiness. Our friendships, the making of money, and “success” are all nothing unless they are led by God. Only He can bring value to what we do in this world. It is not the marriage that brings you fulfillment; it is the true service to another, the self-sacrifice that completes God’s plan. We must not allow ourselves to be distracted by all that we have accomplished. This delay causes our human nature to creep in and seek out self. Our one hand need not know what the other is doing because there is so much to do! We dull the light of Christ in our lives and make our paths unclear when we allow thoughts of self to be our guide.
So where is our hope? “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9). God has saved us from ourselves and yet we hold onto the old ways of our old self. Wake up and see what is holding you back and realize all the good that God has set before you.
By Julie Oehlert