I remember taking swimming lessons as a kid and learning how to tread water. It was kind of exciting to be able stay in one place in the water without sinking. But the novelty wore off quickly; soon I realized that treading water was a way to use a lot of energy to go nowhere.
There have been times I felt I was treading water in life. I was doing my work, I was spending time with my family, I was doing everything I would normally do. The problem was I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. I felt stuck, flailing around and wasting energy without actually accomplishing anything. There wasn’t so much anything going wrong as much as just an absence of things being right.
There are plenty of possible explanations for this, of course. But just last night in Bible class we discussed a verse that I think gives a valuable perspective on our lives and how to live them without just treading water. The verse is Ephesians 2:10: We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Just so we’re clear, this verse has nothing to do with how we’re saved or get to heaven. Jesus already took care of that, without any of our help. Like it says in the verses previous to this, It is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)
What this verse does tell us is that part of our lives lived thanking God for saving us by grace is doing good works. And what are those works? They’re not climbing Mount Everest or walking up some church steps on your knees. God never said he wanted those works. He wants us to obey his commands. He wants us to live for him in everything we do.
And “everything” we do just so happens to be lots of plain old, ordinary parts of our everyday lives. In my case, doing my job, being a husband, being a father. It’s my vocation, if you like that word. It’s living out the life God want me to live in the situation he has put me.
When I do that, guess what? I’m no longer treading water. I’m living in thanks to a God who sent his Son to save me. I’m living out the works that he prepared in advance for me to do. I’m living with a purpose — not a made-up one that I chose, but one that God chose and placed me into. I’m living with his purpose, not on what I think my own should be.
This is a perspective I pray God would give me every day.