Do It Anyway – by Jason Caywood
Have you ever experienced periods of time when you felt as though you had no inner impetuous to take action? Seemingly no motivation to do even the most basic tasks related to your job or responsibilities in your primary personal relations? Yes, examples have already come to mind, have they not?
Usually, we who live in these supposedly enlightened modern times analyze these experiences in psychological terms and by categories of emotion and mood and chemical balance in the human brain. That is certainly a valid avenue of enquiry as often depression is part of what is happening in a person (or could be happening). However, psychological categories and analysis will not always explain what may be happening to me or you during one of these periods. Indeed, they may be more symptoms of a deeply embedded internal obstacle.
The primary target of the biblical witness is the human will. God speaks to us as creatures who have dignity and worth and actual ability to choose when the Spirit graces us with knowledge of the truth. This is evident on every page of Scripture and is assumed throughout by every writer in Scripture.
Four examples immediately come to mind which illustrate periods of time when someone was perplexed or bereft of drive to act or feeling as though there was little reason to press on with normal life. I give the examples of Job, the story of the healing of Naaman (see 2 Kings 5), the call of the prophet Jeremiah and the Lord’s exhortation to Peter after the resurrection.
We have all probably heard of Job or have read the book in Scripture that chronicles his famous story. In it we hear the expression of his loss, grief and pain and in the end observe his encounter with the living God. His personal loss was tremendous and the hardship of that obvious. As readers we sympathize with him and hope that such things never happen to us!
He was perplexed and angry and grieving the loss of his children. This series of catastrophic losses to his family and property was deeply disappointing to him because it contradicted what he expected of God; he had no way of understanding how God could have allowed these things to occur to him. He could not simply pick up the pieces and start living with any sense of normalcy again and demanded answers from God as to why this had happened to him and his family.
Now it appears obvious to us that Job was depressed but that he was processing his great loss even as he tenaciously held onto his faith in the Almighty God. He knew what we find confirmed at the end of the book: That God was in the end going to hold him responsible for how he chose to respond to this situation—just as God had always done so before in the times of prosperity.
And then in God’s response we hear that message: Job, will you trust me, or will you dare to judge me for how I govern the world? God was appealing to his will in the midst of his perplexing and devastating loss. The answer for Job was to trust in the God who had granted him knowledge of himself and whom he had served diligently. God’s word to Job was (in effect), “Do it anyway—trust me through this.”
The story of Naaman is extraordinary for many reasons. He was a high-ranking military man of Aram who had leprosy and thus his capacity to live with his family normally or to continue to serve in his military position had been fatally compromised. He was desperate to find healing for this disease and upon the recommendation of a Hebrew slave in his household he came to Elisha to gain a physical healing.
Elisha shocked this proud man by telling him to go bathe in one of the small rivers in Israel. This was offensive to Naaman—too simple and crude a solution to his problem. He had in mind some other more appropriate means by which to be healed but given the fact that he had no other alternative he ended up following the directions of Elisha—as nonsensical as they seemed. An appeal was made his will and he had to make a choice to submit himself to a foreigner from a people group dominated by Aram. The message to Naaman in his desperation to find healing was (in effect): “Do it anyway!”
Jeremiah received his call to be prophet of God at the crucial period just before the final phase of exile of the Israelites from Judah by the Babylonians (see Jeremiah 1:1-10). This was a time of national catastrophe that no one wanted to happen and almost everyone had deluded themselves to think was somehow going to be diverted. Jeremiah was commissioned to go tell them that the faithful response to the God of Israel was to give a full surrender to the Babylonians! God was executing his prerogative under the covenant to bring disaster, death, destruction and exile to his own people and would not relent from carrying that out.
This terrible commissioning by God was accepted by Jeremiah. He did speak out obediently and publicly in accord to what was shown to him and he was specifically directed to say. For this he was persecuted and almost put to death. However, he was rescued, and his enemies were prevented from executing their plans to have him killed and thus silenced.
However, Jeremiah reached a point in his mind and emotions when he could no longer submit to the hardship that came with his commission to speak to the rebellious people of Judah and their leaders. He turned on God and stated that God had deceived him! (See Jeremiah 15:10-21; 20:7-18). This was not what was supposed to happen to him if he said yes to the prophetic calling. This was, of course, not true because God had plainly warned him of how the people would respond to his message and to him before he even started to speak publicly.
God reprimanded him for this sharp accusation and mercifully promised his protective hand to be on him. He was told that he had a choice to make: Either continue to obediently speak the word of God as it was shown to him or experience the wrath he had already warned the people about on himself. The message of God to Jeremiah was (in effect): “Do it anyway! Your life depends on it and I will be merciful to you if you obey me.”
Simon Peter is the most famous of the twelve apostles trained by the Lord. His story is well known to anyone familiar with the Gospels. Peter was noted for his great zeal for the Lord and willingness to put himself out there and to speak up—sometimes with little forethought or discernment.
The Lord Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection and again along with the other apostles (see 1 Corinthians 15:5). In another post resurrection appearance (see John 21) we get a glimpse of Peter when he was taken aback by a statement of the Lord to him. After the Lord asked him twice if he loved (agape) him Peter could only say he had strong affection (phileo) for Jesus. This must have been humiliating for him to answer that he was indeed only “fond of” Jesus but the Lord knew the truth and Peter needed to say it out loud. Finally, Jesus asked him, “Are you fond of me?” And Peter spoke honestly that he was.
This is a beautiful account of restoration but what we may overlook is that the Lord was also commissioning Peter to serve him. Each time Peter answered in the affirmative the Lord gave him a directive to serve the needs of other believers. And then when he told him plainly that he would eventually die for his faith he wanted to know what would become of other apostles (John specifically). The Lord said plainly that what happened to others was not to be his concern but rather, “[You Peter] follow me!” The message of the Lord to Peter was (in effect): “Do it anyway! Your to attend to what I have called you to do and be faithful in that.”
In each of these cases, as in our own reflections on what we experience, we can and need to take our emotions seriously and learn to understand them—for they are communicating important information about how we are responding to those around us and to our concrete circumstances. However, regardless of what we feel or how our moods tend to shift (or even the reasons for these shifts) God is always appealing to our will. The Holy Spirit is speaking to me and you and asking us to choose to respond to him in each moment and in each situation and to open our hearts to listen.
I assume that the year 2020 has been trying for you for one or more reasons. In a way and by a means I have never seen in my own lifetime, in 2020 God has shaken the foundations of things which we all count on and exposed the emptiness of our idols. I myself have certainly been pressed hard and experienced high levels of stress due to multiple dynamic factors—most of which have been beyond my control to do anything about. I have at times been sorely tempted to think that what I do to serve God is not making any difference. Thus my motivation to continue has ebbed rather low and not flowed up much. My emotions have been strong and turbulent and conflicted.
Can you relate to this? I suspect that many of you can. Thus, I have written this reflection and I conclude by exhorting you all, “Do it anyway!” Be faithful in the circumstances you find yourself. Endure and pray and wait for the Lord’s provision. Learn from the hardships instead of protesting against them.
Choose each day to be steadfast in pressing on into what God the Father has called you to do and to the people and communities where you serve. The Lord Jesus is glorified in our endurance and steadfast exercise of faith. Let us entrust the future to God and be faithful now through obedience to the Spirit.