“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?”
Recently I’ve been contemplating the truth that God’s commandments, His callings on our lives, and those things He works in us and through our circumstances, all of it is for our good – and “for our good” does not always mean “for our immediate happiness.”
There is a prevalent thought in society that everyone deserves to be happy, or that God wants our happiness above everything. And while, yes, happiness can be a good thing and God does ultimately want our joy, the reality is that those things we set our sights on and believe will make us happy might not actually be good for us.
It’s like with kids. There can be a lot of things they think they want that parents know aren’t good for them. It might be something dangerous or destructive that could hurt them or damage something they love. It might interfere with character development or hinder growth as a person, causing relational, social, spiritual, or academic issues later, impacting their enjoyment of relationships and/or a career they might have enjoyed. It might train them in habits that work against their physical or emotional health. Or maybe it isn’t something bad at all; it just isn’t as good as something else you have for them. Like a child pinning their happiness on going to the local swimming pool when you’ve planned a vacation to Disney World.
God wants our joy. Not temporarily, but forever. He wants it to last and He wants it to be the fullest it can possibly be. He doesn’t want it shadowed with regrets or held back by brokenness. So He outlines those things that protect us and direct us toward joy by directing us to Him. The God who loves us greatly. The God who is powerful and wonderful and greater than we can imagine. The God who fills all in all, and who wants us to experience His fullness, His joy, His peace in us. Because that experience is far greater than anything else we think might make us happy.
The verses quoted above tell us we are required by the Lord to fear Him, to walk in His ways (not ours), to love and serve Him with all that we are, and to keep His commandments that are given for our good. What I love is what the passage goes on to say: “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day” (Deuteronomy 10:14-15). This highlights not only His greatness and His authority, but also His love.
He has all of this. He has everything, rules everything, and has no particular need of us. Yet even so, even though there wasn’t anything He needed from us, He freely chose to set His heart in love on us, His chosen people. Which in the Old Testament was represented by the nation of Israel (and even then, those of a different heritage were welcomed in if they committed to following and worshiping the Lord alone). And in the New Testament, God’s chosen people are those who have trusted in Jesus, believing in the salvation offered through the sacrifice He paid for our sins and His resurrection from death that won the victory.
His authority and His love are what underscore our call to follow in obedient faith. Faith that He knows what He’s talking about. Faith that He is good and loves us. Faith that He will not lead us wrongly or fail us. And faith that He will give us the strength and power we need to be able to walk that obedient path.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
“For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29).
We need Jesus and the power of His Spirit to bear fruit and flourish in this life through obedience to God’s commandments and His personal calling as to our roles and service. We still work hard, but we can do so with the freedom of knowing it is not all up to us. It isn’t about what we can handle; it’s about how big and great and wise and good our God is.
It can be really hard to make the choice to obey, to trust, to even hear what God would have us to do in a situation. Because it can hurt. Or feel impossible. It might even feel mean for Him to ask it of us. But please know, He desires your joy. That’s what He’s after. Your good, your joy, and His glory that will be revealed through His faithfulness and power as worked in your life. Whatever that looks like for your particular story, it will be glorious and it will be worth it. Because that is the God He is.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be full.”
“I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.”