If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:36 (NIV)
I once knew a man who was very active in the church, teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir, and serving on committees. A former music teacher, he often filled in when the choir director was out of town. And when a new Christian school was launched, he donated his time to give instrument lessons and form the fledging musicians into a band.
Arden was a man I looked up to, but not because he was so involved and had such a dynamic personality. He challenged me to think, to dig deep and analyze why I believe what I do. He didn’t offer pat answers to the questions of life or spout Christian clichés and platitudes that miss the mark and don’t satisfy.
And he loved God. He didn’t have to say it, you just knew it from how he lived his life. Nearly every time I saw him, he exuded energy and was bursting with joy.
Then one year we almost lost him. Doctors determined his heart was weak and, without a transplant, there was nothing that could be done. So Arden spent many months at home, resting.
I missed him. I missed his energy, his ever-present smile, his outspokenness, his way of getting me to think and not accept things just because someone said so.
But God worked a miracle because Arden eventually returned to church and was able to do much more than doctors had predicted. I asked him when he returned if the recuperation time at home was difficult for him.
“Weren’t you just itching to be busy?” I asked.
“No,” he answered. “I could truly relax because there wasn’t any pressure to perform.”
The pressure to perform. Arden passed away several years ago, but I never forgot that statement. I use it to gauge my motivation for doing what I do: Do I teach Sunday school because it’s expected of me or because I love to teach, I love God and His Word, and instructing others fills me with satisfaction and joy? Do I write a weekly column, produce a daily radio program, and speak to groups to feed my ego and glorify myself? Or because it’s a way of telling others about the God I love? And because I believe teaching, writing, and speaking are callings from God?
Do I go to church every Sunday because it’s expected of me or because I want to worship God with other believers? Why do I try to set aside a quiet time everyday? Because that’s what was told I should do or because I hunger and thirst after God?
The list goes on. Sometimes the introspection reveals that instead of seeking after God, cultivating a relationship with Him and serving Him out of love, I’m merely playing at religion.
God’s Son died to give us freedom – freedom from sin and from the shackles of religion, from the pressure to perform.
He longs for a growing relationship with us. We cultivate this relationship, first, by seeking Him, then by serving Him.
“You will seek Me and find me when you seek Me with all of your heart,” He tells us (Jeremiah 29:13). We seek Him when we talk to Him (prayer); when we read, study, and think about His Words to us (the Bible) – and it doesn’t have to be a read-the-Bible-through-in-one-year thing; and when we are still before Him, listening in the quiet for His voice.
Then, we serve Him by serving others, using the talents He’s given us to reach out to a hurting world.
Don’t succumb to the pressure to perform. Seek a personal relationship with God first, then serve others with a heart full of love overflowing – just like Arden.
Help me, Lord, to truly put You first in my life. Free me from the shackles of empty religion to grow a loving, fulfilling relationship with You. Amen.
Read and meditate on Galatians 5
(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.