The Difficulty of Serving God

I remember the first time I picked up the game of golf. I think as a boy, no matter who tries to call golf a gentleman’s sport, there’s something very raw and primitive about whacking a little ball with a steel club. So at first, golf was very intriguing to me. My best friend played it pretty often and my very first job was at a country club where I spent my entire working time around the game of golf. And most of the guys who belonged to the country club were out of shape old guys who rode carts to and from the holes. So being an athletic 16 year old, I thought not only wouldn’t I have any problem picking this game up, I should probably do very well at it. golfWell, as like many of you know, that is a very ignorant thought to have about golf. So the first time I ever played a hole, and my first time swinging a club, I remember hitting the ball with some force, but I also remember losing the ball very quickly into the thick of the woods. “Okay,” i thought, “that was my first try, it will get easier as I go on.” Well, it didn’t. In fact, it got severely worse, because the more I tried to convince myself that I should have no problem playing this game, the harder and harder it got to hit the ball with strength and accuracy to make the ball go where I wanted it to go. And so I became very impatient and frustrated. Well, impatience is your worst enemy on the golf course. The more you try and tell the ball that you can hit it and hit it well, the more the ball says back to you, “I own you.” And the first round of golf I ever played, I played with my best friend. And this is where we get to the most irritating detail of the whole story; he was good. To be honest, he was very good. And it ticked me off. I am extremely competitive and I want to win at anything I play, and my best friend who was skinnier and shorter than me was rocking my world at golf. So as we went on from hole to hole with barely ever breaking double digits on my score per hole, my friend started to notice my frustration with golf. So like any good friend would, he decided to help me. “Hey Todd, if you keep your head down when you swing, you will not hit the top of the ball when you make contact.” Um, I’m sorry, I don’t remember asking him for advice. But the advice continued. “Try interlocking your fingers when you hold the club.” “Make sure your thumb is pointing downward on the club when you swing.” “Angle your feet more towards where you’re aiming.” “Sit your tee up higher and maybe you’ll get underneath the ball more.” etc, etc, etc. Being corrected when it’s so clear that you absolutely stink at something is one of the most humbling experiences. And I hated it. I kept my mouth shut and listened to his advice (didn’t heed it), but I remember thinking, this will be the last time I ever play this stupid game. But more than 13 years later, I tell you today that I love the game of golf. I am still far far away from ever being considered good at it, but I now know what to expect when I play and I don’t take myself too seriously. And every now and then I actually seek out advice so I can correct things in my game. I’ve come a long way haven’t I? Well, all that to say this; as I golfed that very first time with my friend when I was 16, all that advice he took time to give me was all a waste because I was more concerned about my ego than I was correcting my swing and improving at the game of golf. What would have been the best approach is very easy to see now. Realize I stink at golf and take his advice to heart and maybe improve myself so I could actually enjoy myself on the course.

I bring up that stupid analogy to make one point. Advice from someone who knows how to do something correctly should always be heeded and given heavy consideration. But many times our egos get in the way and we remain mediocre at something we should have figured out a long time ago. With the exception of maybe Tiger Woods, no one picks up the game of golf in one day and succeeds at it. It takes practice doing the right things over and over to improve so you can do it excellently. So the topic I want to discuss today is the topic of serving God.

Any time I think about the topic of serving God, I picture the narrow, difficult road mentioned in Matthew 7:14. The gate is narrow, the road is narrow and the path is difficult. Great! Hard to be optimistic about doing something that even Christ Himself calls difficult. narrow pathAnd that’s where I was for so long in my Christian life. I rarely put time into understanding the word of God, I rarely spent time praying to God and I rarely spent time discussing my spiritual walk with other believers. And guess what, just like golf, I stunk at it. Oh, I kept hearing advice. I grew up in a Christian home with two of the most godly people I know; my parents, I pretty much went to church every week where I would hear 2-3 lessons from the word of God every Sunday, and I even enrolled into Bible college to further my understanding on the word of God. But somehow after 2 decades of being given advice on one single topic, I still stunk at serving God. How did that happen? Is the path that narrow and difficult where so much time can be spent preparing for it, and yet the path gets no easier and the attitude gets no more optimistic about staying on that path? Either that was the case or I was doing it all wrong.

Well, advice from godly people is never something to be discredited, but if Christ calls the path of serving God narrow and difficult, shouldn’t I be heeding advice from the One who perfectly served God on that narrow path; Jesus Christ? And I truly think Satan is doing a bang-up job at getting our minds to focus on the narrow path instead of the tools necessary to serving God successfully in the Christian life. The text I want to highlight for this thought is found in 1 Corinthians 1:4-9. The Apostle Paul seems to be talking to a church who reminds me of my friend giving advice to me on the golf course 13 years ago.  The Corinthian church wasn’t the church who was doing a good job. They were the church with dissension and the church who was listening to philosophy instead of the words of Christ. Therefore, Paul, like any friend and brother, saw the need to give this church sound advice to help them on their endeavor. So I find the instruction and encouragement he gives the Corinthians very interesting in the beginning of the first chapter. He starts telling them how thankful He is to God that the Corinthians have been given every tool necessary to serve God successfully in the Christian life. Pardon? Paul, why are you highlighting that instead of highlighting how much they have dropped the ball while trying to serve God? Well, maybe because Paul was an encourager and always thought it best to urge someone forward, and maybe it was because he was right. In verse 5, Paul tells them they are “enriched in everything by Him (Christ) in all utterance and knowledge…” And then in verse 7, he tells them, “so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul, buddy, this is the church that is stinking. Either they don’t have what your telling them, or they have no idea how to use it.

The exact thing Paul was telling the believers in the Corinthian church is the same thing I needed to hear in my mid-twenties while on the difficult, narrow road searching for the easy, broad road instead. You see, just like the Corinthian church, I have been given every tool necessary to live the Christian life and serve God successfully. The only reason they didn’t and the only reason I didn’t is because I chose not to use them. Just like the advice of my friend when I was golfing. He was right! If I had humbled myself and actually listened to what he was saying, I could have corrected my swing and started to hit the ball correctly. But my ego got in the way and I saw the difficulty of the sport and my lack of success instead of the solution to correct it.

So does that mean that serving God and living the Christian life is actually easy? Well, no, I didn’t say that. But the message Paul was giving to the Corinthians is that they have the tools to do it and do it in a way that pleases God. So let’s look at the tools Christians have been given, because they’re powerful ones. The first one is salvation and a relationship with God. Yeah, wow! If that doesn’t make us think wow!, we need to re-read from the Scriptures just how lost and how doomed we were because of our sin. But because of the love of God and the sacrifice of Christ, we have literally been bought out of the bondage of the slavery of sin. Yes, we still sin. But no, we don’t have to. Our Master is now God and we are no longer under the rule or power of Satan. And not only that, but we can talk to God any time we want. We don’t have to make an appointment, we don’t have to get on a waiting list, and we don’t have to call ahead. Whenever we want to talk to God, we can right there on the spot because He has granted us a relationship with Him. Unbelievable. That alone is enough to live for God. But God didn’t stop there, He also gave us His Holy Spirit.SplittingOfTheRedSea-700686 Yeah, like I mentioned in my last post, the Spirit of God dwells inside of us to help us to serve God fully. So we actually have the power of God living inside of us. The same power that created the world in 6 days, the same power that separated the Red Sea, and the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, is not only accessible to us, it’s inside of us 24/7. Nope, that’s not the end. God also decided to give us His Word. The Scriptures, the Bible, the Daily Bread, all those terms we’ve used for the Word of God should never take away from the fact that we have the Word of God! As if salvation, access to Him, and His power weren’t enough, we also have been given His Word which plainly states exactly how we can live and please Him successfully even while on the narrow road. And there are so many more. If we had time, we could talk about the joy we’ve been given, the hope we’ve been given, the Christian friends and families we’ve been given, the church we’ve been given, the Christian authors we’ve been given, etc, etc, etc.

So why are Christians constantly getting beat down on this quest to serve God? Why did the Corinthians? It’s simple really, we don’t use the tools. How often to we truly talk to God? How often to we truly take time to study (not read) His Word? How often do we feed the Spirit of God and seek to use that power in our lives by simply making a request for it? I think, if you’re anything like me, it’s a little embarrassing to think about. And to continue my thought on the flesh vs. the Spirit, the flesh is dominating the Spirit because we simply don’t take the time and energy to use the incredible and awesome tools we’ve been given, to not only defeat the flesh, but to live for God excellently. Mist over cliff-edge pathAnd maybe like me, you wake up one day to a morbidly obese flesh, a dying love for God, and you’re sliding down the rocks of the narrow path because instead of looking forward to the prize of being like Christ, you’ve been gazing over the side of the hill towards the easy, broad road thinking, “Now that, I can do!”And all Satan has done is told you over and over is “Serving God is difficult! Serving God is difficult! Serving God is difficult!” And maybe all you need to have happen today, like the Corinthian church is be reminded of the tools you were given. That you’ve been enriched in everything, in all knowledge and you have come short of no gift as you eagerly await the revelation of your Savior, Jesus Christ.”

2 Responses to “The Difficulty of Serving God”

  1. Just wanted to tell you that I was truly blessed by this post. Well written, scripturally insightful, well-balanced, and edifying. Thank you!

  2. This post really blessed me. Thank you for this post. This is well written through the Holy Spirit. 🙂

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