Is obedience compatible with self-fulfilment?
Secular—and even Christian—self-help books teach us that the first step to success is to create our own dreams and vision. These self-improvement motivational books form a sizeable collection in any large bookstore. They teach us how to be rich, successful and fulfilled.
Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book, “The Purpose Driven Life”, goes against the grain when he said, “It’s not about you.” We do not start off with our dreams to achieve fulfilment.
He asserts: “The starting place must be with God and his eternal purposes for each life. Real meaning and significance comes from understanding and fulfilling God’s purposes for putting us on earth.”
True, we can only find real fulfilment when we acknowledge we are inadequate and trust that God’s way is best:
“I know, LORD, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course”
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight”
However, does it mean that God comes with a big stick and makes us toe the line when we decide to follow His will? Do we have to grit our teeth and silently endure as we walk in His will?
Theologian John Piper teaches otherwise: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” According to him, we should find our greatest joy and satisfaction when we walk in God’s will.
Piper argues: “But not only is disinterested morality (doing good “for its own sake”) impossible; it is undesirable. That is, it is unbiblical; because it would mean that the better a man became the harder it would be for him to act morally. The closer he came to true goodness the more naturally and happily he would do what is good. A good man in Scripture is not the man who dislikes doing good but toughs it out for the sake of duty. A good man loves kindness (Micah 6:8) and delights in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2), and the will of the Lord (Psalm 40:8). But how shall such a man do an act of kindness disinterestedly? The better the man, the more joy in obedience.”
I remember the lyrics of this familiar song which is so meaningful: “There is no peace, no joy, no thrill like walking in His will, for me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Though there is a yoke involved when we follow God, it is one we would gladly carry.
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). When we earnestly seek God, He will awaken in us “sanctified desires” which conform to His will and give us great joy. We must be careful not to misinterpret this verse—spiritual intimacy should not be used as a means to arm-twist God for our selfish desires.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfils the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
The above passages in the Psalms is in keeping with The Westminster Shorter Catechism: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
One day, when our work on earth is done, we will join the multitudes in heaven to sing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain”. We will not only be glorifying God then but enjoying His presence and an unprecedented, matchless experience of thunderous worship.
Even as I write this post, as the thoughts flow, I derive great satisfaction and fulfilment.
“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and to earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I suggest that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
– C.S. Lewis.
Following God requires self-denial. But it is not without great reward, joy and fulfilment.
Obedience and fulfilment come in a single package.
FAITHFUL TO OUR CALLING
Knowing that God keeps us faithful till the end is not enough. We have to seek to understand His will for our lives and then live it out. In these end times when evil abounds, it is all the more important that we live intentionally and purposefully.
STEPPING INTO OUR DESTINY
When we step out by faith to embrace God’s calling, we need to focus on His promises rather than obstacles.
STEPPING OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE
Discomfort awaits the faithful. To bring out the best in us, God may lead us to places where we get stretched like a rubber band.
WHY BEING CHOSEN IS NOT ENOUGH
God in His sovereignty may choose us but that’s only part of the equation. What else is needed?
HOW TO QUICKLY ACCESS PORRIDGE
ABOUT Author: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (December 2008 – October 2011). He can be reached at his blog, Porridge for the Soul
For a quick overview: http://bit.ly/1ijiXHp
For the source article, go to: http://limpohann.blogspot.my/2012/09/fulfillment-versus-obedience.html
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