“I will listen to what God the LORD will say; He promises peace to His people, His saints— but let them not return to folly (Psalm 85:8).”
I teach English in an intensive program. Intensive means the work is highly concentrated in a short amount of time. This requires a lot of work from both teachers and students. There is a lot of homework and a lot of tests.
Sometimes I know my students are tired of being tested. As a teacher I get tired of giving them, and grading them! But there is something about the intensity of the program they are in that produces language learning quickly, if the students are willing to go along. They can’t coast and succeed in this school.
At my age I am getting tired of getting tested by the Lord. But His program for me is analogous to the intensive English curriculum my school implements every day. As my school has a brief eight weeks to move a student along to a higher level, so God has only our short lifetimes to prepare us for eternity.
There is something about righteousness that does this. The Psalmist says, “Righteousness goes before Him, and prepares the way for His steps (Psalm 85:13)”. If God is going to be involved in our life pathway, then we have to clean up the road before He takes a walk down it. We can’t coast and take easy street. God is aiming for moral excellence in our lives and wants us free from guilt and sin before we take the final step into eternity.
Like a language student, we all begin our intensive program at different levels. Some of us have a long way to go before we gain proficiency. For others, previous life training puts us further down the road to graduation. It may not seem fair, but that’s the way it is.
Maybe this is why for some of us, me included, it seems as if God is forever stern with us and life seems hard. We feel like that when it comes to our relationship with the Lord that we will never “get it”. We just have too much to learn and we don’t understand the textbook or the teacher. It is all just too hard.
We feel this way in our relationships with the Lord because we want to please Him, but we don’t know how. This is because godliness is a mystery. At least that’s what the apostle Paul told Timothy. In fact, he said that the incomprehensible nature of godliness was “beyond all question” (I Timothy 3:16). The story of the ultimate godly person, Jesus Christ illustrated this. His life is a puzzle that can only be understood through God’s revelation.
If living the Christian life is such a riddle, then the only way to solve it is to go to the Author for the right answers. We have to quit struggling and allow for (even ask for) God’s power to work in our lives, the same power that worked in the life of Jesus:
“He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels,
was preached among the nation, was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.”
It’s a cliche, but for many of us for whom the Christian life has become one big effort-filled battle, we have to “let go and let God”. This doesn’t mean we give up our own part in the process. We still have to apply what we know about pleasing the Lord, even if it is limited.
But once we do that, the same power that brought Jesus to Earth, raised Him from the dead, took Him back to heaven and spread His name among the nations is available to us. Knowing this and living according to this truth should be extremely freeing when it comes to living for the Lord.