This article appeared in ChristianityToday.

How would you complete the following sentence? The goal of my life is ____________.

The goal of football is to score touchdowns. The goal of running a company is to increase profits or stock value. What’s the goal of your life? Matthew 25:14-30 provides the best answer: to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

A man with a goal in life is active because he knows what he’s pursuing. Let’s live lives that the Savior deems “Well done!”

God delights and communicating himself in his ways to every man who is prepared to receive him. God can work in you only to the extent that you are submitted to him. We all have some “self” left in us. Every believer is granted the Holy Spirit the moment he receives Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14). The amount of influence the Spirit has on you depends on the extent of your surrender: the more self, the less God; the less self, the more God.

When I was with the LAPD and arrested someone, sometimes I was present when the jailer fingerprinted the prisoner. He would roll each finger in ink and then roll it onto the page. The jailer needed the finger absolutely yielded to him to get a good print. If there were any smudges, he would have to throw the card out and start over.

Often the prisoner would try to help and would smudge the print. The jailer would get angry and order him to relax every muscle and trust the jailer to do all the work. Some prisoners were unable to simply yield, and the process took a long time compared with those who yielded and completed the process easily.

That’s the picture of how God wants to work with us — life gets better when we relax and let him work through us. He’s patient, willing to work on us throughout our entire lives, teaching us to yield to him. But we have to let him do it. Self wants to help; self wants to get the credit. It chafes at the idea that God will do all and self can do nothing — except yield.

In our efforts to “help,” we have smudged the edges, putting the ugly print of human pride and self-effort where only our Lord should have received the glory. Jesus said that for us to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must be like little children (Matthew 18:3). He meant that our surrender must be one of simple, childlike trust in our Father. He will accept our surrender and fill us with his great power and fellowship. 

Too many men today are doing life like it’s a preseason football game. We think that because we’ve received Christ and can’t lose our salvation, there is nothing left but to seek our own pleasures and obey some set of rules that someone somewhere told us. We do the best we can, but it really doesn’t count, does it?

No one likes preseason football. God told us to snatch people from the hands of Satan and bring them into his loving arms. He’s told us to protect and provide for his children and to care for the less fortunate. Life is the playoffs, not the preseason.

And when the game’s over, we’ll get only one shot to hear Jesus say, “Well done, my son!” So let’s do the work that God gave us and, with it, experience the joy and reward of serving our Lord.