Doing What’s Right...For God’s Sake
“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
GREAT SPIRITUAL PROGRESS OCCURS WHEN WE LEARN TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR REASONS HIGHER THAN THOSE THAT HAVE MOVED US IN THE PAST.
The very act of doing the right thing is important, of course. But even more important than that is our motive for doing it. Jesus repeatedly emphasized the importance of the heart. And we must get to the point where we do the right thing not just for good reasons but for the higher reasons — the highest of all these being the pure love of God Himself.
It is not an easy thing to wrestle with the question “What are we to do?” and keep the focus on God. Even as we consider what God’s will might be from a theoretical standpoint, it’s hard to keep our thoughts from being overpowered by the more immediate concerns that relate to ourselves. How will this or that action affect our feelings? What will make us happy? What will others think of us? What will we think of ourselves? What’s our best strategy? All this fretful selfconcern about the pros and cons of human behavior makes it appear that life is about us. But life is not about us; it’s about God. All the self-centered questions in the world matter very little next to the question of God: what does God desire? And we are never in more danger of acting selfishly than when the thing that God desires happens to be a thing that also accrues to our advantage. It’s hard to keep from wrapping plain old self-will in the mantle of “God’s will.”
At some point we must learn not only to do what’s right but also to do it for God’s sake. Whether obedience seems advantageous or disadvantageous to us personally can’t be allowed to dominate the discussion. Many good things do come to the obedient, and it would be naive to suggest that we shouldn’t be drawn to these. But they can’t be our primary concern. Jesus taught that we get the good things God has for us only by forgetting these things and keeping our focus on Him. We find ourselves only when we lose ourselves, and life is gained in the act of giving it up.
“‘Not as I will, but as thou wilt.’ To be able to say these words and truly mean them is the highest point we can ever hope to attain. Then, indeed, we have broken out of time’s hard shell to breathe, not its stale air, but the fresh, exhilarating atmosphere of eternity” (Malcolm Muggeridge).