Tuesday, March 08, 2005


What's the use?

Have you ever been in a situation when you've gone out of your way to do what you believed to be the right thing, even at the cost of great personal sacrifice, only to find out that your life got more rather than less difficult? You bet I have! Sometimes it really seems that the immediate reward for a good deed is a black eye. If you're like me, you've been sorely tempted to throw up your hands and say, "What's the use? I get into trouble no matter what I do. Why bother trying to do what's right?"

If you're not a Christian--if you haven't put your trust in the righteousness of Jesus Christ to save you from your sin--you're quite right to say "What's the use?": your good deeds aren't going to do you a bit of good in getting you in right with God. In fact, God is going to look at your good deeds and say, "You have the audacity to bring these filthy rags before me and say that I ought to justify you on account of them? Do you think that any amount of good works bring you even close to attaining my standard of pure holiness?" So, if you are intent on trusting in your own goodness, don't even bother. You may as well live like the devil, but don't take any pride in that: you will receive the reward for your deeds in the end. If you wish to learn of a far better way, read on.

On the other hand, if you have put your trust in Christ's righteousness rather than in your own, you have every reason to do what's right: that is, what God commands in the Scriptures. For one thing, you'll be doing what pleases God. Given that he graciously paid the price for your sin on the Cross, surely you want to do what pleases God! But more than that--far more than that!--God has made many great and precious promises that he will bless those who obey his Word. Isn't that amazing: God blesses his Elect for doing the very things that he's commanded them to do! What grace, kindness, and condescension!

Now, there are those who teach that the Christian can expect even more: that if he has sufficient faith, he can expect immediate blessings from the hand of God. True, there are times when God chooses to deliver his blessings very quickly indeed, but perhaps even more often he chooses to have us wait on him. Why is this? Is it because God is slow to hear or act? Quite the contrary. It is because he wants us to enjoy not one but two blessings: not only the desired blessing itself but also the blessing of trusting and waiting on our faithful God.

It was this twofold blessing that our father Abraham enjoyed. After receiving wonderful promises from God, including the promise of a son begotten of his wife Sarah, he had to wait many, many years for any of these promises to reach fruition. He had to watch himself and Sarah grow old, with his wife advancing beyond her childbearing years. Although he was not always as trusting or patient as he ought to have been--witness the story of his son by Hagar, Ishmael--he did on the whole trust God, and due time received the son of God's promise, Isaac. During the decades of waiting, Abraham could have said, "What's the use?" and given up on God's promise, but instead he stayed the course and reaped the twofold blessing. Likewise, when we are tempted to say "What's the use?", let's take care that we stay the course, continuing to trust the God who always blesses obedience to his Word, not only in this life but far more so in the life to come.

[For some of the thoughts in this article, I am indebted to Charles Spurgeon's little book entitled God Promises You.]

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