There are times in our lives that things aren’t going the way we planned. At least for me and my family that has been the case for a few years now. After awhile of doing what you feel is the right thing and in obedience to the call of God on our lives, we expect certain things to happen. I mean, let’s be honest here. Whether it’s biblical or not (spoiler alert: it’s not) we have a tendency to think that when we “do the right thing” then good things will come to us.
That’s just simply not true. The entire testimony of Scripture, if we’re paying attention, points us to the fact that obedience to God does not always equal earthly reward.
Can I just be honest with ya’ll? I’m really struggling hard with this right now. I’ve been really wrestling with some bitterness toward God. I’ve said some unkind things to and about him. I’ve wondered, privately and publicly, why we feel like we’ve done the right things and things haven’t worked out well for us.
You come to a place where you ask yourself:
What’s the point?
Does any of the things that I’ve done in obedience and faith matter?
I’m here to tell you that it does. It matters what you do and how you do things in obedience to God and it matters how you treat people along the way. I want to give you an example of something that happened recently in my family’s life.
Once upon a time, my wife and I owned a CrossFit gym…a “box” as we call it in our CrossFit cultish world. We owned and operated the gym while I was in seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. We worked harder and more hours than I care to remember. It was a really hard time in our lives. We got up way before sunrise, coached and trained all day, sweated and cheered our clients on and then I’d go home and do homework and get like four hours of sleep and get up and do it all over again the next day.
It was incredibly hard.
And incredibly rewarding.
We had more community and friendship with those folks than we have ever had before or since. Our clients were some of our closest friends. As an aside, it makes me sad that the Church doesn’t serve this function as often as it should. Most churches don’t do this very well at all. Anyways…
I told my wife the other day that our time owning that gym was the only time in my life when I felt like I was actually making a difference in people’s lives. Despite all those years as a police officer and even time as a pastor and it was the gym that felt like we were actually changing people’s lives.
Fast forward three years. It’s been a hard three years. Disappointment after disappointment has come about, what has seemed like failure and after failure, pain and tears and lots of questions like:
What’s the point? Does anything I’m doing matter?
And then the other day I got a gift in the mail. It was from a former client and friend from our gym in NC who shall remain nameless. This person had been observing from a distance our struggles over the last three years and so they sent a gift. It was to encourage me/us and to let us know what a difference we had made in their life during their time with us at the gym.
Can I just tell you how wonderful that felt? To know that we had made a real and tangible difference in someone’s life was precisely the encouragement I needed in that moment. So I want to pass along to you the encouragement I received. I want you to not be discouraged. Those little things you do for others are not in vain and they are not unnoticed. Jesus talked about this in Matthew 25:40 when he says,
“The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”” (NASB)
Be encouraged today, brothers and sisters, your work is not in vain. You are making a difference. Your Master is watching and he is pleased.
Soli Deo Gloria!