The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.
Yet you have not called on me, Jacob,
you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel.
Why is following Jesus sometimes so hard? Why does living in free grace sometimes feel like so much work?
Yes, it’s true that we have a sinful nature and there is an internal battle against our old self. That definitely makes it harder than it should be. Just ask Paul. He knew the struggle of living contrary to what you want and know to be right.
And yes, we live in a world suffering from the consequences of sin. Consequently the world doesn’t work as it should. We struggle in ways God never intended when first he created. So that also makes it more difficult to live the life of abundance and freedom that Jesus offers.
But reading Isaiah 43 I also wonder if some of the struggle isn’t what God wants from us. He actually says in Isaiah 43:22 that his problem with his people is that they haven’t wearied themselves for him. It’s as if God’s expectation is that it should be somewhat hard; that his people should sometimes wear themselves out in pursuit of him.
But why? I thought grace was free. I thought relationship with God was a gift. What is the point in making it something that we have to struggle with at times?
It reminds me of some other words of Paul I was just reading last night.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
Strict training. Paul is talking about following his calling—he refers to being compelled to preach the Gospel—and so talks about the work of following well; the training involved.
Back in Isaiah 43 God goes on to say that while he has not wearied the people with demands for sacrifices but they have wearied him with their sin. It seems that God is saying that they have sinned and sinned and they have not worked at all to repair the relationship.
What do you think? Is that it? Is that what God is talking about when he says of the people, “you have not wearied yourselves for me” or does he mean something else?
How do you balance the free gift is salvation with the work sometimes required to experience it?
Please share your thoughts, observations, and questions.