Do you ever wonder what God expects of us? As a people-pleaser, it is in my nature to do so. I am wired to wonder. Wonder what pleases Him, what He wants from me, wonder if He thinks I am living out my faith the way He expects.
I know I am unconditionally loved and accepted infinitely beyond what my finite mind can fathom. That is not the issue. I still know God can be “pleased”, so this behooves me to know and understand how and why.
Exodus 33 gives me the example of Moses pleasing the LORD. Verse 13 says, ” If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you.” And God responds back to Moses in verse 17 saying,” I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and know you by name.”
That gets my attention! It reveals to me what is possible in my life of faith, that I can know God intimately, profoundly, and it is mine for the asking and seeking. Yet when I get to Deuteronomy 28:47, I see a measuring stick. This peaks my personality trait to know and understand things. I see in Scripture a description of what pleases God and what He expects of the Israelites, and therefore me as well.
This verse speaks of serving the LORD joyfully and gladly. Well, that is helpful because it allows me to examine my life of faith. Do I serve the LORD, and am I doing it “joyfully and gladly “?
The Hebrew word for serve in this verse means to labor, but it also means to worship. So I learn that I am to serve the Lord through serving others inside and outside the church walls. I can use my spiritual gifts to minister to my church family but it should not stop there. Serving others can be achieved in my workplace, in my community, and in my home. By being a reflection of God to others, I am serving Him. By loving and helping others, I am actually serving God.
I can also “serve” the LORD through my obedience to His commands and instructions from the Bible. This in turn helps me transform in Christ-likeness, which helps me to better serve others.
It is interesting to me that the definition also involves worship. When I worship the LORD, I am serving Him. Attending my local church among other believers, and in my own home as I have my quiet time, or as I go about my day listening to worship music, these are all opportunities to worship the Lord.
Lastly, as I am incorporating serving the LORD into my life, am I doing so with joy and gladness? I am provoked into asking myself if these two adjectives describe my experience with faith? The answer is “yes and no”.
There are definite times in my life when these two words describe my service to God and my faith. But there are also times when my emotions are flat and my service is on automatic pilot, and even times when I don’t feel like doing anything at all!
What makes the difference in these times? I have found the more time and focus I spend with the LORD, the more joy and gladness are reflected in my life of faith. I also believe the more I conform to His Word, the more joy and gladness will automatically mark my faith.
But there is one more variable I have experienced in my walk with the LORD. When I am going through a difficult time in life, when I am struggling with a trial, it is challenging to feel joy and gladness. Mourning and sadness are better descriptions. In the depth of a season such as this though, I was aware that my faith should reflect my God more than my circumstances, but achieving the goal is not the same as knowing the goal.
This issue became such a conflict and challenge for me that I spent an immense amount of time studying the Word to find and fight my way through to joy and gladness, while still in the midst of my season of suffering. It was a long and difficult journey, but I learned some invaluable lessons that changed my life and faith. I was able to break free from the despair and anxiety that plagued me and enter in to life again with the Lord experiencing joy and gladness.
This experience, and these lessons, are shared in greater detail in a book I am working on and hope to finish soon. All this to say, I know, I understand the challenges of living life with joy and gladness. This may be what God expects, but He is also merciful and understanding when we are in times of despair. He is patient and kind as we fight our way through dark times. The most important part is to not give up, but to keep fighting for what we know we can have. If Jesus was able to overcome, so can we because we have His Spirit inside us to help us.
So even when we are unable to FEEL joy and gladness, the fact that we are fighting for them counts! We know the expectations, but more importantly, the possibilities with the LORD! Joy and gladness are ours by right through Christ, it just may take some time finding our way there….