What’s the hardest work you’ve ever done? Perhaps it was when you were asked to do something at school or at work that was beyond your skill level. Perhaps it was some really physical work on a blistering hot day. Perhaps it was giving birth.
But none of those things are the hardest work you’ll ever do.
The hardest work is to receive; specifically, to receive Jesus and his grace.
This might seem a strange thing to read. After all, receiving should be easy, right?
The Jews loved to do work in order to improve their standing with God. That’s why, they asked Jesus,
“What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29, NIV).
Of all the hard works the Jews performed in order to feel right with God, this was the one they had the most trouble with. And for many of them, it was way too hard, for they rejected and crucified the one whom God had sent.
John 1:12 makes clear that to receive Jesus is the same as to believe in him:
to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12, NIV).
To receive Jesus really is the hardest work you’ll ever do
But before you receive you have to acknowledge that you have a need. And in that need, then you need to extend an empty hand. To receive Jesus really is the hardest work you’ll ever do.
Some people don’t want to do that work. They want to enter into life through a million and one other ways other than by simply receiving. That’s the reason why Jesus says,
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13–14, NIV).
I have experienced this in my own life. Although I would have never expressed it like this, I know that I grew up with a deep sense that I had to be good enough to be loved. This applied to my parents, and by extrapolation, it applied to God. I had a very real difficulty receiving love.
In my early years, I quickly worked out that I wasn’t going to be loved for my good looks, and that I wasn’t going to be loved for my sporting abilities. For a time I thought I might be loved for my wit and humour and I worked hard at these, but these were a bit “hit-and-miss.” I tried to be loved for my musical abilities on the violin, which while productive, was very hard work. Then I realised that if I worked hard, I could do really well in my academic pursuits, and so I worked at doing the best I could academically. I enjoyed this, and I achieved great things.
But you know what? No matter what I did, I never felt loved. All I felt was a deep, tormented sense of confusion and frustrated purpose. The reason was that I wasn’t willing to receive love, because I thought I had to earn it. I was on that broad road that so many walk, that leads to destruction, that so many unknowingly walk on.
But now I’ve started to learn what it means to receive, with the empty, open hand of faith, the gift of love and salvation in Christ.
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez. Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question.