It’s Not Always Easy
It’s not always easy to smile and be nice, When we are called to sacrifice.
It’s not always easy to put others first, Especially when tired and feeling our worst.
It’s not always easy to do the Father’s will. It wasn’t so easy to climb Calvary’s hill.
But we as His children, should learn to obey; Not seeking our own but seeking His way.
It’s not always easy to fight the good fight. But it is always good and it is always right! – Glenda Fulton Davis
What radical thinking, both for his own time and for ours! But it is particularly offensive to our time, I suspect, in view of the fact that we have created a sort of pick-and-choose Christianity that permits would-be disciples alternately to select or to opt out of the demands of discipleship.
“The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. . . . This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome . . .”
Before proceeding with today’s sermon, I must warn you that it has been given a “rating” for language that will be offensive to some. In this case, I am more worried about adults than children or adolescents. The word that may offend some as it occurs again and again in the lesson is obey, that’s o-b-e-y.
Strange as it may sound to those who are offended by this term, Jesus used both the concept and the very word throughout his teaching career. So that any doubters out there will know that I am not misrepresenting him on this matter, I will quote him only as he is cited by his dear friend John.
First, the concept from his lips: “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). To do the will of someone else is obedience by anyone’s definition. It is surrendering oneself to another as a slave in Jesus’ culture would have been required to do to his master.
Second, not merely the ideology of obedience but the very four-letter word in question came from his lips in statements like this one: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (John 14:23). As if it were not enough that Jesus practiced obedience in his own life, he enjoined it on all who would claim to love and follow him. Because he was able to surrender his will to God, he did not think it unfair to ask those who were going to call themselves his disciples to adopt the same manner of life.
What radical thinking, both for his own time and for ours! But it is particularly offensive to our time, I suspect, in view of the fact that we have created a sort of pick-and-choose Christianity that permits would-be disciples alternately to select or to opt out of the demands of discipleship. The word definitely belongs in the vocabulary of someone who has committed himself to be Jesus’ disciple on his terms. I warned you: The language of today’s sermon may offend some.
We don’t have the experience of slavery to explain how discipleship entails submission, apprenticeship, and obedience. But our culture does have a few relationships left that epitomize how discipleship and obedience go hand in hand. The true devotee of — let’s say — some great musician or painter yields his master a wholehearted submission. In practicing scales or mixing colors, he knows it is wisdom simply to watch, do as told, and learn the techniques of his mentor. It is no different with a medical student interning under her professor, a trainee working with the company’s best salesman, or an athlete under a great coach. In one’s wholehearted surrender to the tutelage of his maestro, professor, or coach, he or she is being discipled to a vocation and career.
It is fundamentally the same in spiritual things. This much is certain: One does not have the right to call himself a “disciple” so long as he is still charting his own course. A disciple is a pupil, a novice in spiritual things who looks constantly to a tutor and coach. Thus Christ’s disciples come to him and ask to learn the lost art of obeying God as he did. And the only way of learning faithfulness from him is to give up your will to him and to make the doing of his will the one passion and delight of your heart.
Did you happen to see the movie City Slickers? Billy Crystal is Mitch, one of several guys who set out to resolve their mid-life crises by going to a dude ranch and helping with a cattle drive. The boss of the drive is a crusty old cowboy named Curly, played by Jack Palance. In a contemplative scene in that otherwise comedic film, Mitch asks Curly to tell him the secret of life. Holding up a single gloved finger, Curly responds, “One thing. Figure out that ‘one thing’ and nothing else matters.”
Do you know your “one thing”? Have you figured out the meaning of life? For Jesus, the meaning of life — his “food” he called it — was his Father’s will. For his disciples, it is to live as he lived and to learn how to obey his Father’s will in the fulness of joy.
Ralph Barton was one of the original cartoonists for The New Yorker magazine. When he was found dead by his own hand on May 20, 1931, he had left a detailed suicide note. He wrote, in part: “I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, and from house to house, visited great countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices for getting through twenty-four hours a day.” Barton never found his “one thing.” Many others who don’t commit suicide never find theirs either, and they have this awful sense of enduring a pointless existence. They want it to end, but they fear death as much or more as they hate life.
There is only one thing worthy of being the single defining commitment for your life. And it isn’t career, fame, or money. It isn’t even being a good citizen and having a family to love and by whom to be loved. It is the duplication of Jesus’ life of single- minded devotion to God, pouring out your life in obedience to him.