“The purpose of life is not to be happy, nor to achieve pleasure nor avoid pain, but to do the will of God, come what may.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I love the epic relevance of this quote. We're seemingly in a constant pursuit of happiness, and for some reason, we feel that happiness is the most important thing in life. It seems to be our goal, our dream, and the object of our passionate pursuits. We frantically run from the things we fear. We hide ourselves from even the very thought of things which bring pain. We often, in the pursuit of happiness, compromise the truth of Scripture, and, catering to our controlling nature, we question the sovereignty of God by often living our lives in a self-imposed vacuum. We yearn to simply be happy and amuse ourselves throughout the course of our existence. Our personal vacuum shields us from the harsh realities of life, and we like it that way. However, God hasn't called us to a life of escapism. If we are to be disciples of a living Savior, then we must be compelled to live our lives as He lived His life, out among the world speaking the truth with compassion, sacrificially helping those in need, and daily engaged in finding reasons to love...not hiding behind a pew in church.
The example set forth by Christ...
Christ left the perfect splendor of Heaven to walk as an innocent among a world literally strangling in it's sin. The true impact of Christ's life was not His love for us, but rather the physical demonstration of His love for us. His actions revealed the undeniable fact that His love was real. Christ never said, "I love those people, and I wish someone would help them." He didn't live inside a vacuum; instead, He made a distinctive choice to engage man at the point of our need. And, at the hands of those He came to save, this distinctive choice would cost Him His very life. Christ's choice raises for us a high standard. His life was one of relevant action and not one of words alone. When sinful man rebelled against His very existence, He did not cower in fear. Come what may...Jesus Christ followed the will of God.
God's will leads us down many roads. Often it will lead us away from those we love. We will be compelled by Scripture and the direction of the Holy Spirit to robustly serve and selflessly sacrifice. Often times, we will be hurt in the process of pursuing God's purposes for our life. Honestly, I'm not even sure that we can really be a true disciple of Christ if we haven't been hurt?
Replacing our meager expectations for the perfection of God's will, relentlessly living out His truth instead of pursuing personal gain via our own agenda, and holding fast to the truth of Scripture instead of living by the theology of our own opinions...these are markers that we are letting Christ lead. These things are hard. They are not for the Sunday morning Christian nor are they for those whose faith is based on the fragile nature of feelings. These things are not for the seekers of happiness and health, but they are for the true disciples of a living God, a people of great faith and devotion who trust only in the perfection of God's will. Our willingness to "make small" ourselves and "make great" Almighty God is a pivot point of true discipleship and of the true disciple.
Dynamic sermons, delivered eloquently from the pulpit, do not make relevant disciples. Beautiful songs of worship, performed by polished musicians and singers, do not make relevant disciples. Those who choose to ascribe the entirety of their walk with God through church attendance find great comfort in the consumerism of the modern day church experience. If the message was passionately delivered and the worship set had the right amount of lighting, then they find it too easy to forget those whose lives exist in a world without the Lordship of Christ, just beyond the front door, but just out of reach... Like little fat well fed babies laid to sleep in the protection of a crib, many modern day Christians find that church is the most effective place to hide from the world, and even from the call of God on their lives. The "vacuum" I referred to earlier is often disguised as large beautiful churches, ornately decorated and meticulously maintained...and often as dead as a piece of petrified wood. Theses churches, and their well rehearsed ministries, can become the "pride" of the congregation. Somehow, we feel good about that being enough. How naive.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
– Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)
The Disciple is of Christ is called to become salt and light to the world...
Satan will move mountains to convince us that happiness is what's important, saftey is what's important, and a painless, carefree life are the distinctive blessings of God's love for us. However, we can't be the salt and the light of God in our world while trying to exist living inside a vacuum. Our walk with Christ is not relevant to the world when we live it cowering behind a church pew, or hidden in a Sunday School class. The perceived greatness of our pastor or church staff has little to do with the relevance of our intimate walk with the Creator. Hiding out from the things that cause fear and pain in the world keeps our focus on God blurry, distant and introverted, and we were not 'fearfully and wonderfully' created (Psalm 139:14) to live a life of spiritual introversion. Our life was created for engagement with a world of sin, boldly making Christ known among the nations.
Let us be encouraged by the flawless legacy of God to protect and provide, and let us be known as His disciples, relentlessly serving God and following the perfection of His will...come what may.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!