The Most Important Thing
For followers of the Messiah the question over life’s priorities is perhaps both the easiest and most difficult question there is. I guess many would consider the most important thing: “being faithful to God,” and perhaps quote Paul: “It is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthian 4:2). Don’t we all long to hear Yeshua say to us one day: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)? Life isn’t about money, success, or recognition, but rather being faithful to God. Easy answer, right? But is it, really? Doesn’t this answer beg for clarification? What use is such an answer if we don’t know what “faithful to God” entails? That’s what makes the question so difficult.
We resolve this difficulty in various ways. Some, maybe most, don’t think about it. They do what they do because they do what they do. Subconsciously, there is likely much more going on, since such people may not realize they are fulfilling an unspecified set of expectations, which may be derived from their upbringing or due to the influence of one or more peer groups. Going along with whatever crowd we are a part of may not be a problem unless it conflicts with what it means to be faithful to God, which we wouldn’t know until we have adequately worked through this question.
Another way to resolve the difficulty is to limit faithfulness to God to one’s sense of calling. If you are able to satisfactorily answer the question, “To what prime role has God called you?”, then as long as you put significant time and energy into that role, you may be at peace with the question. But is our service to God limited to some prime role we have? That’s besides most people not having have a strong sense of calling to begin with. But even if you do, how do you know you are being adequately faithful?
Maybe faithfulness to God is not wrapped up with the roles we play after all, but rather in the spiritual and personal aspects of life. For some serving God is limited to the moral realm: staying out of trouble; being honest; staying away from sin, especially sexual sin. It’s not so much the roles we play, but how we play the game (of life) that counts. As long as we behave ourselves, God is happy with us. For some faithfulness has nothing to do with behavior at all. All we need to do is “believe.” They think as long as we have faith in Yeshua, nothing else matters.
But limiting spirituality to the confines of morality alone or disconnecting it entirely from the everyday details of life in the name of faith is completely unbiblical. People of faith are called to be faithful to God in all sorts of ways in every area of life. The verses quoted at the beginning are a small taste of the overwhelming testimony of Scripture on this topic. Yeshua said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). Yeshua came to accomplish a task. That included living a perfectly moral life, but also doing the teaching he did, the signs he performed, and the death he died. His faithfulness to God included everything. The same is true for the long list of other exemplary Bible characters throughout the entire Scriptures. While faith in God and the Messiah is key, they were commended for their faithfulness.
We still haven’t resolved the difficulty. I will offer two guidelines that I believe are indispensable in answering this question. There is no formulaic one-size-fits-all answer for this very important question. However, these two guidelines will provide you with an essential foundation to help you live a life of faithfulness to God.
First, you need to see yourself within God’s overarching narrative. That’s fancy talk for finding your place within God’s story. The prevailing mood today is meaninglessness. For many, human life is nothing more than power and desire. Many Yeshua followers, knowing this is untrue, opt to disengage from life, trying to live in an alternate spiritual reality. But this is not what following Yeshua is all about. He calls us to be part of his rescue operation of the creation. An operation in which everyone has a unique complex role to fulfil, work that is the “food” (essential life nutrients) Yeshua speaks about.
When we begin to understand the overarching story revealed in Scripture, we will better perceive the grand vista of God’s purpose for life. This opens vast possibilities for the gifts and talents God has bestowed upon us as well as provides the necessary definition and limitations for those almost infinite possibilities.
But even with definition and limits, how do we know what we should be doing, so that we can be genuinely faithful to God? This is where faith, the second guideline, comes in, but not in the irresponsible detached way I discussed above. Faith doesn’t simply make life better. Nor it is a free pass, dismissing us from all responsibility. On the contrary! Faith is our intimate and personal connection with God. The context in which Yeshua speaks about his work as food is his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, and which begins with “And [Yeshua] had to pass through Samaria.” (John 4:3). Note we read, “Had to pass.” What was the basis of the necessity to go into that region? Knowing how it turns out, we know God had a special assignment for his Son to do that day. That’s why he took the normally avoided road into Samaria. Yeshua’s faithfulness to his Father led him to go off the beaten track in order to fulfill an unusual assignment.
No formula could ever result in what Yeshua did that day. “But that’s Yeshua,” you might say; he is the Son of God! True, but are we not to follow his example as did so many others in the Bible, who through various means discerned (not guessed!) God’s will? Their faithfulness was derived from their intimate relationship with God.
How do we get to that place where we too have such discernment? That’s something that God is more keen to give us than we will ever be ourselves. Yeshua said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Following Yeshua is not just another way to describe a passive so-called faith, that is nothing more than mental agreement over his identity and history. It’s an intense relationship of purposeful attention to his promptings via the Holy Spirit. It’s something nurtured through an honest and intentional pursuit of Yeshua and his ways through the Scriptures, prayer, godly community, along with a willingness to obey him whatever the cost.
It is as we lovingly respond to his desires in every area of life, both big and small, that we can anticipate hearing the words one day: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
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