For God’s Sake

Everyone knows the 23rd Psalm:  “The Lord is my shepherd….”[1] It’s probably the most beloved chapter in the entire Bible. We love the first two verses that continue, “… I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.” Green pastures and quiet waters sound lovely. I’d like that! That’s all about me enjoying life.

But how many people notice the second half of verse three? “… He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.” That’s all about God. Not us. His name. Not ours.

We had some good friends over to dinner last night. They do a lot of ministry in China and other southeast Asian countries. We were kept on the edges of our seats as they related stories about how God is working in that part of the world. The sick are being healed, the Word is being taught, people are coming to the Lord in droves. The kingdom of God is advancing.

Even in spite of the huge growth the church has experienced over the last few decades, Asia remains a hard place to be a follower of Jesus. Christians pay a high price for doing ministry on the front lines. We are at war with the powers of darkness. Wars have casualties. At the same time our friends experience the joy of God’s presence, they also experience pain. Spiritual attacks are direct and personal. Advances come at a cost.

It occurred to me that this is exactly what David was talking about. God guides us along the right paths… not just any paths, but the ones He has chosen for us. And it’s not for our comfort or fulfillment or happiness. It’s for His name’s sake. God is the one who becomes famous. He’s in the spotlight. It’s all for Him.

Nowhere does God deceive us into thinking that life with Him will be easy. Paul had it right when he exclaimed, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others” (1Cor.15:19). Sometimes my husband and I joke that we must be doing what God wants, because we run into so much opposition when we do it! While of course that isn’t always true—being out of God’s will can cause much grief as well—Satan doesn’t like it when we’re being effective. We can expect to be fighting battles.

The amazing thing is that while we seek God’s glory, we do become fulfilled. There is a joy that can only be discovered in losing our lives for the Gospel. We’re doing exactly what we were created to do, equipped to do, called to do. And we are doing it hand in hand with the Lord of the universe!

[1] Bible quotes from Today’s New International Version

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