Thirty years ago, self-determination was one of my goals. It meant autonomy, self-rule and independence. People all over the world are striving for it because they think it will make them happy. But then I learned that true happiness flows from a different source.
One day, one of my clients produced a Bible from her handbag and read me this verse: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:36). I didn't object to a God of love, but then she started talking about sin: There is no one righteous, not even one (Rom.3:10) - and I quickly protested. "I'm not a sinner! I'm not a liar, a thief or a murderer! To the contrary, I am a nice person. I help others!"
My lovely client was wise and did not argue. Instead, she read from Isaiah 53:6 that all of us like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him (meaning Christ) the iniquity (sin) of us all. And there it was: my own way. SELF-DETERMINATION. What I thought to be a virtue, God declared to be sin. And it bugged me. A lot! The Holy Spirit used this verse to convict me, to show me that self-rule - in the sense of not wanting to submit to a higher authority - was the very essence of sin.
This conviction immediately led to fear. Jesus once said: Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 20:28 and Luke 12:5). So if the God of the Bible truly existed, then I was truly in trouble because then I was guilty. I needed a pardon, and that very evening I turned to Jesus who had paid for my sins in His own body on the cross. I handed over the reins of my life and self-determination turned into God-determination. I thought that was the end of my 'self' determining things. But was it - really?
In regard to trusting God and following His lead it was. However – and this is a big however – when reading the Bible I soon discovered that I still had the responsibility of determining things. For example, Rom.12:2 told me that I should NOT conform to the pattern of this world, but that I should be transformed by the renewing of my mind. It wasn’t a passive thing that would just happen, but in obedience I had to actively do it myself. God is in the renovation business. He wants to renew my mind and my life and has given me all the tools I need. But it’s my responsibility to pick them up and put them to use so that I might run my race here on earth effectively. The Bible puts it this way:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it (1Cor.9:24).
And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown (victor's wreath), but we for an imperishable crown (1Cor.9:25).
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil.3:14).
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done (Matt.16:27).
It became clear to me that my eternal reward is determined by what I do. Just as my eternal destination is determined by what I believe. Once I truly grasped this concept, it changed my whole attitude to the here and now. It's up to me to determine my future! Paul said in Phil.1:21, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. And a plaque in our kitchen reads, Only one life, it’ll soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Do YOU think God's rewards are worth striving for? I certainly do. I gave up self-determination in order to follow Jesus, but then I took it back under God’s guidance to use for His eternal glory because any reward (or crown) I might receive will prove my gratitude and love for Him through my actions here on earth. What a glorious turn-around for self-determination! Praise God from whom all blessings flow…
My apologies for today’s topic not being on literary quests. I have recently had a new vision of the importance of providing for our eternal future and thought I might share it with you instead.
May your future hold great rewards for you - eternally!
With Christian love,