Tuesday, May 2, 2017

When Obedience Is Hard

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 

Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:18-23 NIV)

I really don’t care much for hospitals. I visit them on occasion when I have to to see people.  Most often, it’s to the Emergency Room when a student breaks a bone or has concussion symptoms after colliding with someone while playing Ultimate Frisbee. But I’m not a very good patient and so I would rather avoid them if I can.  It’s ironic actually.  I once wanted to be a hospital social worker and served in a hospital for my college internship.  But my interest lay in the fact that my father had such a bad hospital experience, and I thought I could help patients and families facing similar situations.  But I soon learned this was a reaction, not a passion, and I pursued campus ministry instead.

Over the years my lack of affinity for hospitals has not lessened. In fact, I think it has grown.  I would just rather avoid them if I can.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because tomorrow I am having an outpatient procedure that will determine if I need to have further surgery.  To say I am unexcited about the prospect is a gross understatement. But it is what needs to happen, so I am going along with it, without enthusiasm or passion.  

There is a lot of emphasis in our culture on finding your passion, and doing things you’re passionate about.  That is fine to a point, but what about the things one needs to do for which there is little excitement? What about cleaning the house, doing laundry, caring for a colicky baby?  What about doing homework instead of watching a movie, or saying “no” to something that might be enjoyable but is wrong?  What about taking up our cross and following Jesus wherever He leads?

Peter’s first thought is not unlike mine: Why me and not someone else? Why are you calling me to do the hard things when others get off easier?  If we are human, there is no excitement or passion for suffering.  If given the choice, we will avoid it every time.  But obedience is not based on passion or excitement, but rather on submission of our wills to the Lord.  And, as Peter discovered and as will we, there are going to be times when following Jesus is going to be very hard and the only thing that will keep us following upon His heels is our submission and sheer will to be obey Him.  There will be no passion to drive us other than our love for Him.  There will be no excitement to entice us.  

It is a dangerous and false notion that everything we do in life should flow from our passions.  Like my visit to the hospital tomorrow, some things are just necessary regardless if we are excited or not to do them.  
Today, recognize the path upon which Jesus leads you will not always be an easy or enjoyable one.  There will be many difficult times and, like Peter, you will find yourself wondering why you must go where He is leading.  In those times, remember He knows what He is doing and where He is taking you.  It may not be what you want, but it will be exactly what you need, if only you will submit and obey.

© Jim Musser 2017

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