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Remember that you don't have to — you get to
Thinking of God
Larry Sheehy
Larry Sheehy

Several years ago, I read a story about C. A. “Pop” Farley, who served many sessions as a counselor at a Christian summer camp. Later in life, he discovered he had cancer and eventually planned his own funeral, asking a friend to relate that at each session of camp, they worked to instill in the campers the principle, “You don’t have to – You get to.” His inspiration likely came from a poem by an unknown author. One verse read: 

They used to make me go to church,

Clip on tie, starch the shirt.

I never heard the preacher's words

All slouched down in that pew.

These days going to church is something 

I don't have to do, I get to.

Attitudes are important if we want to live a good life, pleasing to God and influential to others. The poem suggests two contrasting attitudes. First, what is required of us is necessary, but also an irritation, to be avoided if possible. Second, every responsibility is seen as an opportunity to do good.

Attitudes are either good or bad, reflecting the nature of the heart. Solomon wrote, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

Attitudes can be changed if needed. Martha Washington (1732-1802), America’s original First Lady, wrote, “I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”

This agrees with Solomon’s claim. William James (1842–1910), seen by some as the greatest philosopher of his generation, wrote that “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.” 

Keeping in mind that the idea that “we don’t have to,” means we aren’t forced to do God’s will, consider some primary questions for Christians and many unbelievers to think about.

First, we don’t have to be Christians — we get to.

What should it mean to us to be Christians? Among other things, including salvation, followers of Jesus, etc., it means we belong to the kingdom of God, the church of God and other terms in the New Testament referring to the people of God.

According to Matthew 13:44-46 likened the kingdom to both hidden treasure and a fine pearl, worth everything we have to purchase. The apostle Paul claimed that the church was bought with the blood of the Son of God, easily the costliest price imaginable. Some see the church at best as a burden, and at worst, as totally unnecessary. The cry goes up, “Jesus – Yes; the Church – No!” But one isn’t possible with the other.

Some view Christianity as that which demands our money and time, while restricting our personal desires. How much better to see the blessings of Christian and the church? After all, in Christ, we have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3).

Second, as Christians, we don’t have to worship God, we get to! 

What a joy it can be to worship the Lord in every way we possible. Who can forget the declaration of the psalmist, that he “...was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). And how important is the admonition from the letter of Hebrews, “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another ....” (10:25).

There are other areas where the principle lesson of these thoughts applies. Bible study, prayer, giving to help others, et cetera. Let’s pray God will help us see the privileges we can enjoy as his children.

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