Copper the rescue terrier-mix has brought quite a bit of entertainment to our family since we adopted him several years ago. Two things we’ve noticed about him: 1) He’s very smart and capable of learning just about any trick, and 2) Food is king in his life and he’ll only do a trick if there’s a reward involved.
Oh sure, you can get him to fetch a ball two, maybe three times in between a reward, but on that third or fourth try, he’ll stop dead in his tracks and look at you like a bellhop with his hand out.
I think I’m the same way with God sometimes. I’ll keep myself sin-free for–wow!–an entire day, and I expect a blessing for my awesome gift to God. Of course it’s a bit more subtle that Copper’s look of expectation. Normally, it’s more like shock when I’ve done so well for many days, then a small tragedy strikes.
We’re called disciples for a reason. We’re expected to be disciplined in our walk with God. It means that when we sign up for this journey, we’re committing ourselves to sacrifice all of the worldly pleasures that held us in chains for so long. We’ll watch friends and family participating in the activities we used to love while we turn our backs and keep our eyes on heaven.
That doesn’t mean this life is without rewards. Our problem is that we only see the immediate pleasure that comes with a life of sin. We quickly forget the underlying pain and frustration of our attempts to keep up with sin in all it’s variations. All sin is like a drug addiction. We don’t remain satisfied with the original habit–the gateway sin. We want a better alternative. And within a few months or years, we want a better alternative again. It’s a game with no finish line. You simply must keep moving faster and faster or you simply die. It’s called “life in the fast lane” for a reason.
The Christian’s life is one of quietly waiting. We are the extreme opposite of the fast-laners who reject Christ and live for worldly pleasure. To be fair, other forms of spirituality and religion also teach a life of quiet contemplation and peace. In our western culture, however, few can argue that the drive for more vice and greater wealth is the prevailing religion.
Our reward is one of absence. The absence of emptiness, of desiring more, of the torment that eventually comes with the realization that you can’t have it all. Our reward is peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding. No, it has no flavor, no sound, no color. Peace is a reward of absence. We live our lives in a void, surrounded by the noise of this world. It is a difficult task to convince those lost in the noise to join is in our world of absence. But that, my friends, is our calling.
When you look to God today and this week, do not do so with an expectation of reward. Understand that the reward is already yours. You simply have to sit quietly and realize all that is absent from your life.