Disclaimer: Before I become the focus of anyone’s theological condemnation, let me affirm the truths that following God’s will can be painful, difficult and fatal. Jesus told us following Him means we must bear our cross daily. At the same moment, living the Spirit-filled life also sets us free, brings us joy, is an easy yoke to bear, and gives us Jesus Himself, a fountain of living water. Several New Testament exhortations to persevere and endure literally mean for us to “stand up under” the pressures and trials (e.g. 1 Peter 2:19.) So in this paradox it is possible that God’s will for me can lead me to brutal martyrdom, and to peace and simplicity. There is no mutual exclusivity between suffering and joy.
So with that out of the way, let me honestly admit, I’d rather be the leaf floating down the stream than the salmon swimming up the stream. Life is hard enough, ministry has relentless challenges; sometimes I am compelled to ask “why is it so hard?” And since I’m a principled man, I think it makes a lot of sense that when given the freedom to choose – when neither selection is “right” nor “wrong” – there is nothing wrong with choosing the simple path. Perhaps even the easy path.
Is it not accurate that God gives us choices, and we can choose to be blessed? For instance:
- God has made us stewards, and gives us great freedoms in our stewardship. But we also know that giving generously is a blessing to others and to ourselves. And it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35.)
- The Lord promised Abraham that He would bless His descendants, and thereby all who bless Israel will be blessed and all who curse her will be cursed (Genesis 12:1-3.) I choose blessing Israel!
- Christ’s best known sermon included the Beatitudes which are all about how to be blessed.
I’m aware that the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to salvation – but sometimes we make spiritual matters far too complicated and difficult when Jesus regularly brought clarity to the world for His disciples.
This might seem a simplistic example, but God created our world with physical laws, including gravity. This means that it’s a lot easier for a human, when stepping off the edge of a cliff, to fall rather than fly. It’s more natural. No one is surprised by falling. Yet many followers of Jesus assume that once we are talking about the spiritual world, it makes sense to attempt to violate spiritual laws – at least if we pray a lot about them.
If there is truth to the premise that when we discover where God is working we should join Him in His work, that might mean that if we’re toiling fruitlessly we should ask ourselves whether it is hard soil that God has called us to labor in, or whether we are flapping our arms in the wind with futility as we fall toward earth.
Sometimes living out God’s calling and staying in His will is hard. Sometimes an easy path is not from the Lord. And sometimes Jesus offers us a simple path of blessing to follow. Should you be swimming upstream or downstream? I don’t know the path that God has called you to sojourn – just make sure that you’re on it.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30