When I chose to retire, I had a few plans for what I wanted to do. They included some travel and time to visit with my kids and grandkids, maybe take up some new hobbies, and most importantly spend more time in study of the Bible, prayer, and meditation. So far things haven’t worked out quite like I’d planned (thankfully, the last part has). There are reasons why, but thinking about it raised a question.
What if God gives us a ministry requiring such a total commitment we never get to follow through on our own plans? In other words, what if I never get to do the traveling, hobbies, or other “fun” stuff I’d planned? Would it be acceptable to Him if I have to pass the task to someone else or find some other way to have it done so I can live my life? Where does my responsibility end, and will it cost me my soul if I can’t do it anymore?
Before we go any farther, I want to clarify something. I’m not looking for sympathy nor do I feel sorry for myself. I chose to do what I am doing, and I find joy in it along with a fair amount of frustration at times. But it is a responsibility I assumed based on my understanding of Biblical teachings. Nonetheless, it is a serious question that came to mind when considering how to proceed in the future.
The “what if” question leads to a larger one: what does God really expects from us? What is it we are called to when we respond in faith the God’s offer of grace through His son Jesus Christ? How much of a commitment are we really expected to make? Is there ever any room in the life of a Christian for ‘myself’?
Any such discussion needs to start with an examination of the lives of Jesus and the apostle Paul as seen in scripture. Philippians 2 tells us Jesus “did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited; instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant.” Jesus came to earth with a clearly defined mission and purpose, and He lived his life in fulfillment of it. He got tired, frustrated, and angry just as we do, but He never gave into it or lost sight of his mission. Because of that, he became the perfect sacrifice for our sins and the avenue of our redemption.
When we first meet Paul, then known as Saul, he is a fire-breathing zealot for the Mosaic law who is determined to eradicate Christianity. He presents as focused and single-minded in purpose. After his encounter with Jesus, he is still single-minded but his purpose is decidedly different. Paul was a man who didn’t know how to do anything by halves; his was an “all-in” mindset. The Bible tells us Paul was told from the beginning “how much he would suffer for my name”. In other words, Paul knew going in what it was going to cost him to be an apostle of Christ- and yet he still chose to obey. The reward far outweighed the cost.
There is another person whose story may apply. He is found in Luke 12:16-21. Jesus tells the parable of a man who was very successful in life, so much he had to expand his storage facilities to hold all of his crop production. His response is telling: ” I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry’.” God had a different response: “Fool! This night your soil will be required of you; then, whose will those things be which you have provided?’ Jesus’ conclusion is this: “So it is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Enjoying life is not in itself wrong. Spending time with family and friends can be a ministry, depending on the situation. Making plans is prudent, but as someone once said, ‘Make your plans in pencil and let God have the eraser’. Christians are first and foremost to be holy and faithful. We are merely vessels to hold the glorious treasure of God’s spirit; instruments by which He accomplishes His will and broadcasts His message into the darkness, to bring His light. We are conduits of God’s blessings to others.
Perhaps the best answer to the question can be found in Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Add to that verses 23 and 24: ” Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.” What a concept- we can find joy in even the most mundane or dreaded tasks because we are acting in the name of Jesus Christ.
I’m content with doing what I do, firmly believing it was placed in my hand by the Lord because He found me a suitable instrument for it. If most of my plans end up going by the wayside, so be it. Like Paul, I want my joy to be that Christ is glorified by my life. Everything else is just a bonus because the really good stuff comes later.