“Have To” or “Get To”

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ,
 not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Hi
-Philippians 1:29

LIFE IS AN AMAZING ADVENTURE.  It is full of ups and downs, joys and sorrows.  We all face challenges and hardships we dread or wish we could avoid but can’t—the “have tos” of life.  There are also a lot of blessings and joys along the way—the “get tos” of life.

I wonder—which list is longer?  Are there more “have tos” than “get tos” in my life?  How about yours?  

Is one list growing?  Which one?  Is the other list shrinking? 

Kerry Allen, a good friend and fellow-preacher, shares the difference between “rigid compliance” and “surrendered obedience.  The first, he points out, is a begrudging “have to” attitude toward our relationship with God; the second is a passionate, love-filled “get to” attitude toward God.

What does the Bible have to say about these things?  Are my “get tos” the same as I see in the godly men and women of faith from ages past?  I must confess, that in many ways they are not.  Most of us have lived lives of privilege for a long time.  The down side of privilege is that we often grow soft and make unacceptable demands that reflect our privileged existence. 

For example, over the past couple of decades we have been made more keenly aware of the persecution of believers around the world.   “The persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history, a new report has revealed.”1   We are so protected that we may find this hard to believe.  That protection, however, seems to be evaporating.  We shudder at the thought of facing real persecution and we pray that our brothers in desperate conditions find release from their trials.

Voice of the Martyrs reported some time ago that a Chinese pastor asked us (Americans) to stop praying for the end of their persecution, as he was praying for ours to begin.  Why would he pray such a thing?  What has he grasped that we have not? 

Shortly after the birth of the Church, persecution broke out in Jerusalem.  Acts 5 records the arrest of the apostles by the Jewish Sanhedrin.  After being beaten and threatened, “they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus]” (Acts 5:41-ESV).  When the Church gathered for prayer, they were not praying that persecution would cease.  Rather, they prayed for boldness and courage (Acts 4:29).

Could it possibly be that persecution and suffering are not “have tos” of the Christian faith but “get tos”?  That seems to be what Paul told the believers in Philippi.  For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake. . . (Philippians 1:27-29- ESV).  The word “grant” should  be understood and privilege or gift.

Former missionary Jeff Vines in his book Dinner with Skeptics, quotes Peter John Kreeft: “In fact, it is significant that most objections to the existence of God from the problem of suffering come for outside observers who are quite comfortable, whereas those who actually suffer are, as often as not, made into stronger believers by their suffering.” 2

He goes on to quote Phillip Yancey:  “As I visited the people whose pain far exceeded my own . . . I was surprised by its effects.  Suffering seemed as likely to reinforce faith as to sow agnosticism.”3

I am finding that I have a lot of work to do rebuilding my list of “have tos” and “get tos.”    This is what the apostle Paul is teaching us from his own journey when he writes, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

I am not suggesting that we become masochistic in our pursuit of Christ.  I am saying, that if God, in His providence, ordains that we face persecution or hardship, that we see it as far more than a “have to.”  Rather, if He has asked that we walk through any dark valley, in loving obedience we will embrace it as a “get to” that is shaping us into the image of Christ.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).

1 https://www.premier.org.uk/News/World/Study-shows-Christian-persecution-is-on-the-rise

2, 3  Jeff Vines, Dinner With Skeptics.  (College Press Publishing ©2008), p. 71