Obedience that Pleases Christ
J. R. Miller, 1905
It is not enough to begin; the test of a true life is in its perseverance unto the end. A good beginning is important. The trouble with many people is—that they do not begin at all. They listen, ponder, dream, and resolve—but never take the first step. That is the way thousands of men, with splendid possibilities, fail to make anything of their life, miss their chance. Nothing is more important than promptness in doing the duty that comes to one's hand. Not to do it at the moment—is to lose the opportunity of doing it at all.
But it is not enough to begin. The paths of life are marked at every step with unfinished work. It is perseverance which alone wins the prize. Jesus said to certain people who had believed on Him, "If you abide in My word, then are you truly My disciples." To abide in Christ's word—is to be always faithful to it. The one great duty of discipleship is obedience. The word abide has the thought of home in it, and suggests also a willing and loving obedience, hearty, trustful, joyous.
Jesus said of His own obedience, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me." Obedience was bread, life, to Him. We must abide in Christ's word. It may sometimes cost us a great deal to obey—it would be much easier to listen to the voice of ease or self-indulgence. But the question of ease or selfish inclination must never be considered. The only question is: "What is the Master's plan for my life?"
The highest and noblest success possible to any life—is its realization of the divine purpose for it. Whatever else we may do, whatever great thing, whatever praise we may win from men for our fine attainments and our splendid achievements, if we miss filling the place God made us to fill, and doing the work God made us to do—we have missed the true glory of our life. The most triumphant word anyone can say at the end of his life is, "I have accomplished the work which You gave Me to do."
It is most important, therefore, that we find the will of God for our life—and accept it sweetly and gladly. There are those who are always at odds with their circumstances. The people they have to live with or work with—are uncongenial and disagreeable. The conditions in which they find themselves are uncomfortable and distasteful. So they chafe and fret and are full of discontent. All this unhappiness could be cured—if they would accept their circumstances and get their own spirit in proper accord with the will of God.
When Paul could say, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances," he had found the secret of sweet and joyous living. You cannot change the people about you and make them agreeable to live with; but you can learn to keep sweet yourself, however irritating others may be! You may not have power to make your surroundings pleasant and congenial—but you can bring your own mind and heart into such patience, such cheerfulness, such self-control, such peace—that in whatever circumstances you are in, you shall be content. "I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need." Philippians 4:12
Many people are unhappy because they cannot do the large and fine things which they see some other people doing. But we should remember that the things that God has given us to do, however small they may be—are really the greatest things we can possibly do. Self-surrender to God, though our fondest ambition is laid down—is in God's sight really the noblest thing we can do with our life. Because we cannot achieve the great things it is in our heart to do, our life need not therefore be a failure; the folding of our hands in trust and resignation, may be a greater act in God's sight, and a greater blessing to the world—than the finest work those hands might have done.
At least, if we would reach the highest and best possibilities of Christian discipleship, we must put ourselves in full harmony with the will of God for us. We must be content to let God use us how and where He will, and to do what He would have us do. Many people make almost nothing of their lives, do little that is worthy or beautiful, because they are not willing to do the plain, lowly things that are ever waiting close to their hands—but strive always to find great and conspicuous things to do—so as to get praise of men. If you would leave behind you when you die, a beautiful story of good done, things which have made the air sweeter, and the world better and happier—do what the Master wants you to do!
If we would make our discipleship what we should make it—we must keep SELF out of it. We cannot live for ourselves—and live for Christ. Then we must also learn the lesson of love for others. Self-seeking is nowhere else so unseemly, so unlovely—as it is in Christian life and Christian work.
With Christian work it is true, that only a godly man can do it well. If we would reach the great possibilities of discipleship, we must seek purity of motive, holiness of life, devotion to lofty ideals, and self-forgetfulness in striving for worthy ends. We must be godly—if we would do good. We must realize the Christ in our own life—before we can show others the glory and the beauty of the Christ. Then if we would fulfill our discipleship, we must concentrate all our energy and strength upon it. We must make it the first thing in our life to be Christians. That is what Paul meant of himself when he said, "To me to live is Christ," or when he said again, "This one thing I do—I press toward the goal." He did a great many things—but in them all he was living Christ, and reaching toward the goal of perfection. We can do this in the surest way by giving Christ our days one by one, as they come.
A business man when asked the secret of his success in doing things so well, replied, "I do not know, unless it is that whatever I am doing any moment, however small a thing it may seem to be—I bring all my mind and heart and strength to it." The poet bids us, if we write but one line—to make that sublime. Let us learn to bring all the strength of our life—to the smallest details of our duty. Let us make the moments beautiful, and then the hours will be radiant and the days glorious!