Once you actually understand that Jesus wants us to live life as He did – taking up our cross daily and following Him – you come to a profound and disturbing realization: you realize that you are incapable of living such a life. Utterly incapable.
Who could possibly live life as Jesus did? Who is adequate to live with such selfless devotion to God and man? The good that we wish to do, we do not; and the evil that we wish not to do, we do. Only the man who has never seriously attempted to imitate Jesus fails to appreciate just how impossible that task is.
What then do we do? We recognize that with God, what is impossible becomes possible. As we’ve heard, “With God, all things are possible.” Therefore, let me explain what “with God” means.
Can you turn an apple seed into an apple tree that bears apples? No, but you can plant a seed, water it, and nurture it. From that seed and your care, God will give you a tree that bears fruit. This process is a partnership – a partnership of God and man.
Obedience to God requires just such a partnership. That is, if you want to succeed in obeying Him, you must cultivate your personal relationship with Him. You cannot obey Him at a distance; it has to be up close and personal. This closeness is not optional. It means planting yourself in Him so that you might bear fruit for Him. And you must, day by day, keep yourself planted in Him. For if you remove from ground the apple seed you have planted, it will stop growing…and it will not bear fruit.
You plant yourself in God by trusting that He is, and that He rewards those who seek Him. This connects you with God the way an apple seed connects with the soil. In this connection, you will find the strength to keep His commandments. And in keeping His commandments you will find life.
If you doubt that He is, or if you doubt that those who seek Him find it a rewarding experience, you will find yourself inadequate to keep His commandments and you will not find life.
Therefore, believe Him and don’t doubt Him. Accept and dwell on thoughts that increase your trust in Him; reject thoughts that cause you to doubt Him. Live close to Him – not at a distance. Live in Him and with Him – not just for Him. Without His presence, you cannot obey Him; with His presence, however, you can do whatever He tells you. It’s that simple.