I think that many of you are like me, we would prefer if someone else would deal with our life challenges for us. But in life it does not work that way. There are things that only you can address. Just today I had to go to the bank to remove my name from a custodial account for one of my adult kids. There may have been other ways, but I was told that I need to visit the bank in person to make this happen. The Bible reminds us that this is also true as a follower of Jesus.
I was reminded of the importance of embracing the personal responsibilities for the follower of Jesus. I know of situations where the couples are fighting with the responsibilities of being a couple. I also know of situations where the father or mother are fighting against the responsibilities of being parents. And I know of professing followers of Jesus that are fighting against the responsibilities of being a child of God. All of these battles are a battle of the individual’s will. They fight to maintain the freedom; all the time missing the blessing that the Lord has for them by embracing their responsibility.
The Apostle Paul touches on this in his writing to the believers in Philippi and us. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:29–30) If you would like more insight into the context of the passage you can watch my teaching on it here (Living as Citizens of Heaven). Paul’s point is that we need to surrender to the Lord’s working in our lives. It is only then that we realize the blessing of what the Lord is trying to do in our lives.
What he is trying to get us to grasp is that God is working in our lives through the great and easy times and through the not so great and hard times. I want you to notice the contrast above between the blessing of being a follower of Jesus and the challenge of suffering for Jesus. If you spend any time reading in the New Testament you will know that Paul lived what he is preaching. He is also speaking to those that saw him embracing the suffering first hand as he preached the gospel in Philippi (check out Acts 16) What Paul knows intellectually is that God is working in our lives all the time. But it is easy to forget this vital truth when the tough times come. He is also one that understood it experientially.
Many times we look at difficulties in our lives as some form of God’s judgment upon us. We also view the setbacks in the lives of others as their fault. Now whether it is their fault of not, the Lord is able to use this situation for His glory. The Apostle Peter reminds us that there are times, like in the life of Job, we are not responsible for because the Lord is allowing it for some unknown reason. “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:17)
The bottom line is that only you can make the choice to embrace the challenge that you are facing in life. Facing your challenge requires that you take responsibility to do what you must do. It is not something that you can put off onto someone else. No, it is very rarely easy or enjoyable but this is the place where the Lord works in our life. If you continue to live for yourself, you will actually be fighting with God. You should know how that is going to work out!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson