Is Following Jesus “Complicated”?

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I like throwing out the word “complicated” when questioned about anything, because it basically gives me license to be ambiguous and lazy, while seeming spiritual. You know exactly what I’m talking about.  You’ve been in these types of conversations:

“So when are you going back to school?”

“Well, I’m not sure. Life is pretty complicated right now.”

Or…

“Are you going to propose? You’ve been dating for 3 years!”

“I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to take that step. Our relationship is a bit complicated right now.”

Or maybe….

“Are you going to take that job?”

“Well, there are so many things that I want to accomplish in my life. I’m just not sure if this is my calling. I’m praying about it, but the situation is very complicated.”

But is it actually complicated?

Is God’s plan for our lives a secret? Does God enjoy watching us sitting around, doing nothing, waiting for the writing on the wall?

I believe that God is sovereign.  I believe that God cares about every detail of our lives. I believe that we should pray and wait on the Lord. But I also believe that in our selfish sinful nature, we have used these concepts to justify our laziness and selfishness. Yes, I said it. Life does not need to be as complicated as it seems.

Sure there are Bible verses we can quote until we are blue in the face. I’ve heard many people justify making zero plans for their lives using James 4:13-16.

James 4:13-16

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 

This obviously is not telling us to quit planning and making choices. In many of his letters, Paul told the churches that he would be visiting on such and such a date. He knew that God could change those plans and that God was in control, but he still had to do something. We shouldn’t boast in our plans, but we should still make them. When we read this passage, many of us stop reading too soon. If we read this in context, we get a big dose of “It’s not really complicated”.

James 4:17

17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

 

This simplifies our lives. So what, you don’t know what school to go to? So what, you don’t know who “the one” is? So what, you don’t know what your fulfilling dream job will be?

The real question is not what I should do about all the things I don’t know. The real question is what I should do about what I DO KNOW.

  • Relationships become easier when I stay sexually pure, always tell the truth, guard my heart, and view dating as a step towards marriage.
  • Choosing where to go to school becomes easier when I follow Biblical financial principles, study hard, plan for how I will provide for my family, and seek godly council.
  • Choosing where to work becomes easier when I choose to take responsibility for my finances, recognize that every occupation is a mission opportunity, work with integrity, and humbly accept what work is available.

Before we settle for sitting in our easy chair and waiting for a special sign, we should start with reading the Ten Commandments. You can know without a doubt that obeying God is His will for you. Obeying God isn’t really complicated. You just have to get over your “specialness” and do it. Non-moral choices are much easier to make when the correct moral ones are already being made.

Paul was a tent maker. He didn’t receive a special call from God to make tents on the side. Paul just knew that he needed to provide for himself. Paul examined the work that was available for a hated ex-Pharisee and determined what skills he had. He made a choice, because he knew the good he ought to do. So he did it.

One of our biggest struggles with making choices is that we over-spiritualize everything. We over-spiritualize doing what we love, and we over-spiritualize doing what we hate.

On one side of the pendulum we are waiting for an amazing fulfilling calling that rocks our socks off and makes us look good. We can think that God would never want us to just have a normal job and average family, because we are too significant. Consider the story of Naaman (2 Kings Chapter 5). He has a terrible disease and is told that God will heal him if he washes in the Jordan River. Instead of being thankful and doing it, he complains about how dirty the river is. He complains about how it’s not good enough for him. It’s too simple. He likes things complicated. The message his servant gave him then is still relevant to us today.

2 Kings 5:13

13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”

 

Learn from Naaman. You are never too special and too spiritual to get a normal job, drive an old car, go to a community college, and marry an average person who loves you very much. If we are willing to do big things for God, then surely we can accept doing the small things. It may be God’s will for you to do something less glamorous, less fun, and less interesting than you expect. Are you willing to be faithful in the small things?

The other side of the pendulum is the tendency to over-spiritualize doing what you hate. It’s the martyr syndrome of never being happy unless you are miserable. You have to be suffering for the Lord, and withholding things from yourself, because you are too spiritual to have human needs.

Consider these verses:

Ecclesiastes 9:7-10

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

 

Did you get that? Read verse 7 again.

 

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, FOR GOD HAS ALREADY APRROVED WHAT YOU DO.

 

What a relief. It’s okay to go to a certain school because you just really like that school! It’s okay to marry that faithful Christian guy because you love him. Obviously, we need to take verse 7 into context, and recognize that God doesn’t approve of the sin you do. He approves of working hard and enjoying your life. Don’t get stressed because you are a plumber and you wonder if God really wants you to be a roofer. If you would rather be a roofer, then go be a roofer…but don’t make it a fluffed-up spiritual issue.

Some decisions that we make involve careful thinking. Some choices are more complex than others, but most choices do not have to be as complicated as we make them. They may be stressful, and they may be difficult, but they are not usually a web of confusion. We need to obey the commands that are already clearly spelled out in the Bible, pray, seek godly counsel, and then do whatever we want to do based on the direction we feel God is leading us to go. Remember that we are saved by grace through the blood of Jesus Christ. We are not saved by our perfect life choices. In closing, here are a few more verses to consider:

Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

Luke 14:28

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?

 

1 Timothy 5:8

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

 

Proverbs 18:22

He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.

 

Proverbs 19:20

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

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