There’s a saying amongst many of my contemporaries: “The hustle is real”. It refers to the general struggle of trying to make a living. Unless you’re born with a proverbial silver-spoon, you’ll eventually have to earn a living to pay for bills, fees, hobbies, holidays, etc. Like me, you’re probably aspiring to a certain quality of life for yourself and your family. So, your days are mostly spent trying to transform those aspirations into reality. Our efforts often intensify when we see our contemporaries achieving similar goals or affording the lifestyles we desire because that makes our aspirations seem more attainable. Consequently, we work harder and readily sacrifice more to achieve our dreams.
There are no biblical objections to desiring a good life for yourself and your loved ones, and working hard to achieve it. But a thought I’d never seriously considered occurred to me recently: “God can give me every good thing I desire”. He owns the world, and He’s a good and generous Father“ [Psalm 24:1, James 1;17]. As I reflected on the implications of this revelation, another thought struck me: “Do I really believe this about God?” Not as some religious platitude, but as a fact I can bet my life on. As I reflected on the latter thought, I wrestled with the faith to believe God can fulfil all my aspirations. I struggle to live as someone who expects God to take care of Him: that God doesn’t just want me to serve Him. He wants me to enjoy His blessings too. This realisation is disturbing because it occurred to me that what I believe about God is more important than just believing in Him.
What often fuels my doubts is that it seems God’s way of granting my desires are more arduous than mine. Nevertheless, in God’s economy, I must be willing to lay down my hustle and aspirations to seek God and His will. Not primarily for what God can give me, but for who He is and who I become as our relationship deepens. It’s easy to say but tough to do. For one, the bills and responsibilities don’t go away because I prioritise knowing and obeying God over pursuing my ambitions. In my experience, the sacrifices and choices you’re compelled to make cost you in literal terms. For instance, if you’re going to honour God with your wealth [Proverbs 3:9], you must be prepared to have less for yourself. This becomes more difficult when you’re trying to make ends meet.
What’s more, although God promises to take care of my needs if I put Him first in my life [Matthew 6:33], He doesn’t do it the way I want. In fairness, I know God is more interested in my character than granting my every desire because I can’t truly enjoy His benevolence until I’m transformed [Romans 12:1-2]. It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about my aspirations, or He doesn’t want me to have a good life. Nevertheless, an ungodly character can ruin God’s blessings. Check out how many Christians have been corrupted by fame, power, wealth, etc. These things aren’t intrinsically evil, but they can become idols and wreck our relationship with God if they aren’t surrendered to Him. God doesn’t want that for us. Yet, He still wants us to be blessed [Ephesians 1:3, 2 Peter 1:3]. So, what gives?
I wish I could have more time for God. I’d love the choice to study my Bible, pray, etc., for as long as I want when I want. Similarly, I’d love to go on retreats when I want and give generously without looking nervously at my account, and so on, but this isn’t my reality yet. My hustle and aspirations often dictate my time with God. I’ve got a family, a job, and other responsibilities I must attend to. So, spending considerable time with God requires some sacrifice. Even as I grapple with this, there’s another voice suggesting that I should dedicate more time to my hustle and my dreams. There’s nothing wrong with that unless it means less time for God and His purposes, which is often the case.
The temptation to sacrifice quality time with God is deceptively subtle because there isn’t a prescribed amount of time God expects us to spend with Him. So, there’s scope for excuses or justifying we’ve already done enough. But God looks at our hearts, not our performance [1 Samuel 16:7]. Is Jesus pre-eminent in our lives [Deuteronomy 6:5]? Is He Lord over our time, hustle and aspirations? If so, we’ll do all we can to know Him and obey His commands irrespective of life’s pressures.
I’m slowly arriving at the conviction that I don’t want anything God hasn’t given me because it will cost too much. Essentially, the deal God offers us is: “live life My way, and you and your soul will prosper forever [Psalm 112:1-3]. It’s a choice between life and death [Deuteronomy 30:19]”. But there’s also a sinister counteroffer from the devil. He says: “do it your way and don’t worry too much about God and His agenda”. His way supposedly puts us in control and empowers us to make our rules. But what he often doesn’t add is what he wants in return: our soul [Luke 4:5-6]. That’s a terrible price to pay for anything [Mark 8:36-37].
We sign up for one of these two deals every day. Most of us would baulk at the thought of making a deal with the devil. But he’s shrewd, and we often don’t find out what he’s up to until it’s too late. In contrast, God delights in our prosperity [Psalm 35:27]. He wants us to prosper as our souls prosper [3 John 1:2]. So, there’s a simple litmus test for your hustle and your aspirations: how are they impacting your soul?