Sometimes when God is calling us to choose between disobeying Him or obeying Him, He is really saying, “Do you want to be happy now or later?” Disobeying Him now = present happiness but sorrowful future. Obeying Him now = present sorrow but happy future. (Note: I said sometimes. Obviously, other times obeying God can result in immediate happiness, and the sheer act of obeying can produce a happiness all its own.)
I think this because there was a time in Jesus’ ministry that He basically said this. (Good reason, eh?) He was pretty popular/infamous at the time, and He was teaching “a large crowd of His disciples” and “a great number of people from all over … who had come to hear him and be healed” (Luke 6:17-18). In other words, Jesus was simultaneously speaking to people who were already sold-out believers (disciples) as well as seekers who had come to see what He was all about and what He could do for them. In other other words, the crowd’s complexion was not unlike any church congregation across America on any given Sunday.
As Jesus looked out over the crowd, He knew who was a first-time visitor and who was a whole-hearted follower. He spoke to the disciples first (Luke 6:20). Although the rest of the crowd could certainly hear Jesus, what He was saying was not for the seeker or the unbeliever.
To the believers Jesus started proclaiming blessings (Luke 6:20-22), but they weren’t necessarily blessings that they would’ve been excited about. “Blessed are you who are poor…blessed are you who hunger now…blessed are you who weep…blessed are you when men hate you…”
How are those blessed situations? Being poor and hungry and sorrowful and hated are terrible things to be. They feel awful. We run from those things. We work to not be those things. We pursue relationships and vacations and corporate success so we won’t be those things. Surely a good God would not lead us to such things.
Then Jesus flips the coin and starts proclaiming cautions to the believers (Luke 6:24-26). “Woe to you who are rich…woe to you who are well fed now…woe to you who laugh now…woe to you when all men speak well of you.”
What’s the deal? That Jesus sure is a killjoy. Who in their right mind would sign up for a life like this? Why is Jesus so down on enjoying life now?
The general idea is if we live the good life now, which involves pleasing others to get the good life, we will probably have to sacrifice some things of the Lord to achieve it. Conversely, if we live for the Lord now, we’ll probably upset some people, and that’ll make our lives difficult.
In fact, choosing to live for God now may even upset us. Why?
WE WANT THE GOOD LIFE NOW!
But before we go writing off the Lord and pouring all our energy into earthly happiness, we have something else to consider.
Jesus promises that if we choose to delay our happiness and honor Him now, our reward will be “great in Heaven” (Luke 6:23).
So we have a decision to make. What’s more important to us? Temporary earthly happiness or eternal heavenly happiness?
It is that black and white in the pages of Scripture. But trust me when I say I know it feels grayer when real life happens. There are a lot of situations when we feel like waving the white flag. We can’t see Heaven for all the pain we feel now. We don’t feel like we can live another day choosing the Lord over our happiness. We don’t have what it takes to remain faithful to Him.
What do we do then?
Psalm 120:1 says, “I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.”
I really think it is that simple. When we find ourselves living in the gray, all we can do, and all we must do, is ask the Lord to help us be faithful to Him. In the words of Home Depot, we can do it; He can help.