It doesn’t only matter that we serve the Lord. It also matters why we serve the Lord.
Sadly, a recent testimony prompted me to remember this often-overlooked truth.
When I first came to the Lord, I never considered that there might be a right and a wrong way to follow God. I mean, God is God! He is true! He made us, He is our Father, He rescued us from our own self-destruction! He is a perfect Leader, a perfect King, the One Person we can follow whole-heartedly and without reservation because He will never fail in any way! How could you ever follow Him wrongly?
I have heard many beautiful testimonies about that precious moment in which we first come to Christ, as we say. “I suddenly realized that God had made all of this, that He was real, that there really was a Creator of all things.” “I realized that there was a truth. He had been there all along, and He was really true. And if He was true, I should follow Him.” “I realized that even though I was entirely broken and hopeless, I wasn’t too broken to follow Him. He would save me, and I could be His.” “I realized that even though I had been running from Him all this time, He had given His life for me, and I was just overwhelmed with love and thankfulness.” “I realized that everything I had counted on was nothing. That God was everything. And that all I wanted to do was spend the rest of my days serving Him.” So many variations of a moment in which we come to realize one thing. We belong to God. And we are ready to live for Him.
But I have also heard many chilling testimonies about a different kind of moment that is a cause for great concern. “And I heard about a God who loves. A God who has plans to prosper me and not to harm me. A God who has good things in store for me. This was a God I wanted to hear more about.” “I heard the laughter and the joy. I heard about peace. And I thought – that’s what I want. More joy, more peace, that’s the God I want to follow.” “I don’t like that whole sinner-saved-by-grace thing. The God I serve says I’m a new creation and I walk in victory in all things. Every day is epic. Life with God is the greatest adventure ever. That’s what I always tell people. That’s what I invite them into – the greatest adventure of their lives.” So many variations of a moment in which we come to realize one thing. God can do great things for us. And we are ready to live for Him.
But you know what? The person who sets out on the narrow path because God can do great things for them may find it very hard to continue on the narrow path when it’s not great. Because God does always do great things, but He will not always do them in the way that we expected. And if all of these great things are the foundation of our relationship, it will be a rocky path through the wreckage when it crashes down. Many find, in that moment, that they got off on the wrong foot. Many find, at the bottom of that wreckage, that they belong to God, and they are ready to live for Him. But not everyone does, and the risk is great.
And that’s just the truth.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’…”(Luke 14:28-30, NIV)
Jesus was not just offering us some casual advice when He spoke these words. If we don’t make diligent, daily efforts to rightly establish our why…to serve God because He is God…to forsake all our earthly benefits…to literally count all things as loss for the sake of the great gift of eternal life in Christ…Then a day will certainly come when we will find ourselves utterly bankrupt in our undertaking, unable to finish, and of all souls most to be pitied.
If indeed they have escaped the corruption of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, only to be entangled and overcome by it again, their final condition is worse than it was at first. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and turned away from the holy commandment passed on to them.(2 Peter 2:20-21, BSB)
At the end of the day, every single thing is either for me or for God. And it better be for God!