What God Asks of the Christian


I think most Christians are overburdened.

busy, frantic, moving peopleBeyond needless guilt and shame that were instead eliminated forever by Christ’s finished work on the cross (“Christian, you are free!”), I think too many of us are crushed under the weight of all the religious work we think we must do—and some religious moralists can’t cease telling us we should be doing.

When you examine the actual lives of Christians in the early Church, little is said about what ordinary Christians actually did. Sure, the apostles seemed to be active and involved in missionary voyages and church management stuff, but for the most part, Joe Christian just went about his daily tasks.

Daily being key.

Jesus showed his disciples to pray thus:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
— Matthew 6:9b-13

What was the bread? Today’s.

Later in that same chapter, Jesus adds this in verse 34:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”

What is the focus on? Today.

He also said this in Luke 9:23:

“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

When is that cross taking-up? Daily.

The more I study the Scriptures and live them out in this life, the more I am struck by the truth that what God asks of us is to live in today. Leave tomorrow to tomorrow.

The immediacy of the Christian life is an attention to this moment, this present, this person before us, this situation now, and these resources we have in hand. By forcing Christians to live in the present moment, God becomes more real, and our dependence less on what we have stored up and more on what He can do through us, despite our lack of preparedness.

This is not to say that Christians should never prepare. Only that our preparedness be rooted in the now, in the daily putting of one foot in front of another based on where God is leading us at this present time, even if we cannot see the desitnation. That is the essence of walking by faith, not by sight.

What we can always do in the moment:

  • Pray
  • Love others
  • Have a good word at the ready
  • Use our spiritual gifts
  • Use our natural gifts
  • Commune with the Lord
  • Be faithful

You and I can always do those things. And we should always be ready to do them.

But beyond that, we can say little about where we will go and what we will do.

In many ways, what I have learned of God is that He expects nothing more of me than the use of the natural and spiritual gifts with which He has given me, used in conjunction with the resources currently before me, for the purposes He has put before me in this moment. When viewed that way, the life of the Christian gains an immediacy that keeps us rooted in the present and the now God has placed us within. So much of the weight of doing great things for the Kingdom falls by the wayside in light of the immediacy of what is before me at this second.

The cashier at the grocery store who seems harried—can we speak calm joy into her life in this present moment?

The elderly women who can’t wrestle the bag of cat food into her car—can we do it for her?

The youngster who is crying—can we listen to her story?

The door left open on that person’s car—can we close it?

The customer service rep who deals with hotheads all day—can we be the one respite of peace in his day?

The angry arguers—can we be the mediator of their battle?

Can we?

And what about our own families? In what ways are we serving them in the present? In the little things. In what way is doing our job well a help to them? Or attending to their needs in the now?

I find that so many of us Christians are so geared to do ginormous things for God that all the little things right in front of us go ignored and forgotten. And yet that is sometimes the only thing asked of us.

Amid all this doing is grace. God is full of grace for us, his broken, flawed, clueless people. He is always giving us opportunities, and sometimes we get them done right, and other times we blunder on. He loves us nonetheless.

Christian, I believe that what God asks of us is simply to live in the here and now. The day’s own trouble is sufficient for the day. Do what you can in the moment with what you have been given, and do not second guess or lament missed opportunities. You are dust. That dust can do anything at all is miracle in itself.

Rest in God. Lay down all your troubles. Do what you can, when you can, with what you have, and leave the rest to God. Know grace. Be at peace.

So Why Does It Matter?


This week, we’ve looked at the problem of the frantic, overscheduled, overworked lives we Americans face (“When the Truth Strikes Out” and “It’s Never Enough Until Your Heart Stops Beating“). I’ve blogged on this issue many times in the past (see the end of this post for related posts), but I don’t see it getting any better. If anything, the Church and parachurch organizations act as if nothing has changed. Yet we now…

…spend more time away from home performing our jobs.

…spend record amounts of time commuting or shuttling our kids here and there.

…have more time-pressed, dual-income families than ever before.

…work harder for less money, often necessitating multiple jobs.

…have no time for social groups that help maintain the fabric of our society.

…feel more guilty than ever that we can’t mirror the perfect family that well-meaning Christians tell us we must be.

Why should any of this matter, though? Why should Christians address the underlying causes for these problems?

As someone keenly aware of the state of disciplemaking in this country, I believe it matters because all these things work to undermine the Great Commission. Dude, it's like moving! Whoa!I believe these trends and changes in our society actively work against the Gospel.

I don’t know how far we must sink before Christian leaders in America wake up to the fact that most of their charges are one exhale away from spiritual death. Our collective hypnosis must end.

With so many distractions and so much rushing to and fro, how can any of us expect to develop a truly deep walk with Christ? When dad spends twelve hours a day away from home, how can he be expected to be a true spiritual leader in his home? By the time he eats dinner and tosses a ball with Junior for fifteen minutes, the day’s over. The weekend consists of doing all the things that didn’t get done during the weeknights. Sometimes prayer goes out the window. Bible study? Forget about it. Developing a rich community of faith with others? How? Who has the time?

Folks, these are serious problems that strike at the very health and mission of Christ’s Church in this country. Yes, many of them are of our own making from long past, but now they’re entrenched in our culture, and like ticks embedded in the skin, they’re not easy to remove without an infection resulting.

Jan at The View From Her asked why Christians are demanding more and more Christian movies and TV shows. Isn’t it all just preaching to the choir?

That question fits here because I feel that our discipleship in this country is so poor we’re failing to create disciples who can stand on their own two spiritual feet. They need constant propping up in order to walk the path of Christ. So instead of developing an inner life filled with the Spirit, they surround themselves with pleasant Christian messages they believe will strengthen them.

Unfortunately, that misguided belief resembles going into battle clad in pillows rather than armor. Yet in a frenzied environment packed to the gills with this activity and that, we flop to the couch with nothing left and turn on our sweet little Christian movie before we doze off.

Folks, it ain’t workin’.

The American Church won’t shake the censers of heaven with our prayers if we toss off prayer between bites of doughnut and sips of coffee listening to Christian radio during morning rush hour. We’re not going to build strong communities if we pull in from work at 7 PM, change clothes, and wolf down dinner, only to realize it’s 8 PM already and we missed yet another church-related event. Delusional people think they can pull that off.

Perhaps that’s our problem: we’ve lost touch with reality. Or perhaps we’ve got too much reality and have lost touch with the Lord, instead. Either way, we’re in trouble if we blithely soldier on without question.

Call your pastor up some night and ask him about this. Ask him what he thinks all this bustle and overwork might be doing to his flock. Then ask why it is that no one questions it all.

If all of us do this, then some outside chance exists that some leaders will start thinking beyond the rathole issues that distract us from true discipleship. Perhaps then we’ll see important Christian voices confronting these problems.

Previous posts on these issues:

When the Truth Strikes Out


Once again, they’re doubling the size of the local daycare facility. They doubled it just a couple years ago. In a town of about 3,000.

The latest statistics show that the average American is rapidly approaching working a ten hour work day. Couple this with a daily commute of close to an hour, and you have a country in which people just aren’t home.

Five years ago, the majority of families we knew were single-wage-earner households. Now, almost none are.

Into these statistics wade several parachurch organizations that tell us exactly how Christian families should look:

  1. The father works outside the home.
  2. The father is the spiritual leader of the family.
  3. The mother stays home with the children and, preferably, does not work.
  4. If she must work, she works from home.
  5. The father must always be the primary breadwinner.
  6. Unless parents wish to abandon their children to the spirit of the age, they best homeschool.


On the surface, those are all nice ideas. The problem comes when the parachurch organization uses them to gauge the spiritual health of a family, or to tell certain families they aren’t cutting it. They’ll use Bible verses in their accusations, often in a haphazard manner, to prop up their assessments.

I’m troubled by the “you’re in, you’re out” nature of some of these diktats. When I examine these standards, I have to ask how they reflect most people’s realities. If they don’t, then I would hope that, like a good change-agent, the parachurch organization would address the problems and seek solutions.

I would hope.

Let’s look at one issue above and see how it works in the real world.

I’m all for paternal leadership in the home. I think that’s as God intends, but with an understanding that a godly wife can often hear the Lord as well or better than her husband from time to time. (I’m sort of a wishy-washy complementarian with a few select egalitarian leanings. )

But I simply must ask this: what kind of leadership can we expect of any man if he’s out of the home most of the waking day? Where's Dad?With the growing amount of time spent at work and in the car during the commute, should we be surprised that a father’s authority at home gets taxed by the very lack of his presence most of the day?

Now, you would think that an organization whose whole reason for existing is to uphold paternal leadership at home would be doing something–anything–to combat this trend that takes men out of the home all day. You would think.

But then you’d be wrong.

Last year, I wrote several e-mails to a well-known parachurch organization about this very issue. I asked them what practical means they were taking to help families keep their men at home. They wrote a reply reiterating their standard, but ignored my question concerning their plan to help Christian men meet that standard. When I followed-up with an e-mail asking if the organization was meeting with corporate leaders across the nation in order to advocate for shorter work weeks so that employees could spend more time at home helping their families, I got a rather terse response saying they weren’t doing anything like that.

In the end, they still had a standard, but no way to make it practical in the lives of men struggling against the business world’s expectation of increasing hours (and with no increasing pay to compensate, either).

I asked that same organization about the tendency for businesses today to hire women over men because they can pay women less (and because government quotas with money behind them abet this plan, especially when it concerns minority women). This puts men out of work, and subsequently, many men find themselves having to take jobs that pay less than their wives. The second fallout of this is now both spouses have to work in order to make what the man made before he got RIF’ed. What was the organization’s solution? Silence. The practical steps they were taking to combat this? Nothing.

After a while, one can go through every single standard an organization like that upholds and find that, while they love upholding it, they possess no means to help anyone else meet that standard. How tragic!

Imagine that NASA discovers a planet just beyond Pluto whose surface contains an unusual liquid that bubbles up from within that planet’s core. NASA scientists have almost conclusive proof that a few drops of this liquid, if harnessed, would forever power every energy-using device on Earth. Then NASA issues a press-release stating it has no intentions of sending any craft to that planet to retrieve this precious liquid. They’ve already told their scientists not to pursue further spectral analysis. Nor will they let any other scientists examine the data on the liquid so that it might be synthesized on Earth.

Do you think folks would be furious?

Where’s the fury then when Christian organizations demand a certain way of living, yet offer no means or help to make that living possible?

Truth is never meant to be used as a cudgel, but as a means to help others live life more abundantly. If the guardians and wielders of truth only use truth to shame others and make them live in a perpetual state of guilt with no possible escape, hasn’t the truth struck out?

Christians MUST offer truth to the world. But to do so in such a way that it becomes another set of shackles isn’t New Testament Christianity.

I believe that one of the reasons people today don’t consider Christianity a viable truth comes from our perpetual offering of that truth with no practical expression. For you or me to understand truth, it must intersect our lives. It can only transform us when it indwells us. And to indwell us, it must have a way for us to live it.

I keep wondering who the Christian leader will be who holds out a standard and then helps everyone meet it. I hope that Christian leaders interested in godly families will speak out against the economic forces threatening to destroy us.

And so I keep wondering and hoping…