New Year Resolution: Stop Settling for a Dog’s Life

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“That’s your Christmas gift,” my wife begrudgingly muttered on our journey home. “In fact, that’s your Christmas gift for the next five years!” Comfortably resting in the back seat of our car was the source of my wife’s irritation: a new dog. J.J.—a nine-year-old miniature Schnauzer in need of a new home because his owner’s dementia was producing neglect—was basking in the affection of my two girls. After a decade of patient and delicate probing, it seems I’d finally found a weakness in my wife’s resistance shields.

J.J. isn’t our family’s first dog, but it is the first family pet my daughters can recall. Not surprisingly, our first evening together epitomized the saying, “It’s a dog’s life.” Indeed, entrance into our house seemed to be a kind of admittance into paradise. J.J. made sure to absorb enough love and care to meet any deficit from his several weeks at the kennel, awaiting a new home. He quickly laid claim to the couch, and soon to anyone’s lap atop said couch. He ate. He slept. He marked his territory. He received gifts. He could be troubled to respond to his name only when it suited him. His every itch was scratched. His new bed was received. His messes were even cleaned. (His incontinence was overlooked—at least for the first night—because it was known that he’d developed bad habits at the kennel.) Life simply couldn’t get better for J.J. It would seem, at least for those first 24 hours, that J.J. had reached the zenith of his hopes and dreams. He was living the ideal dog’s life.

That’s when it struck me. J.J. is a tangible picture of how many of us approach God. We crawl into God’s lap and expect to be showered with love and affection. We accept God’s gifts as if we are entitled to them. We mark our territory and lay claim to God’s blessings. We respond to His call only when it suits us, but we expect Him to scratch our every itch. We know we’ve developed some bad habits, but we also expect God to clean them up for us without the accompanying discipline they deserve. We are happy to give God just enough attention to prompt Him to stroke away our concerns while we permit our comfort to coax us into a deep spiritual slumber. This is the good life, and any Bible study, prayer, or church attendance is primarily aimed at preserving this kind of relationship with God until this ideal arrangement is made permanent and effortless when we finally enter into paradise. In short, our arrival into heaven will only solidify our life of ease. We will finally have reached the zenith of our hopes and dreams: to live eternally as God’s beloved family pets.

Wait. We finally secure our hope of what?! Have we truly lowered our expectations to the point where our blessed hope is to live eternally as God’s family pets? Is our goal, both now and for our future, simply to be near God so that we can enjoy His presence while living a life of ease, free from all cares?

Incredible as the presence of God may be, God did not design us simply to bask in His affection. Instead, God created us to be members of his household—but not as the family pet. Fantastic as dogs may be, they are far from equal members of the family. Nobody would confuse J.J. with my daughters. This is because, in many ways, my daughters reflect myself, and as caretakers of J.J., they clearly have a higher status. Likewise, God created us in His image, and He bestowed upon us a status that ranks above anything else on this earth (Gen. 1:26–27). God created us as royal priest-kings and invited us to participate with God in ruling over His creation. In short, God’s purpose for creating us wasn’t for companionship. God’s purpose for creating us was to create a family who could serve as mediators of God’s presence and who could participate in the family business of creating, structuring, and overseeing God’s creation (Gen. 1:28–30).

Why then have we become content to restrict our created purpose to simply mediating God’s presence? When God redeemed us, He restored our ability to participate in the family business. As the people of God, we are invited to participate with God as He creates, structures, and administers His kingdom—both now and in eternity. This is why we study the Bible, pray, and attend church. We don’t do these things so that we can feel closer to God. We do these things so that we can better understand what God expects of us as we join with God in building His kingdom.

It is time we stop acting like God’s pets and begin acting like God’s royal children (Rom. 8:15–17; Gal. 4:6–7). Our blessed hope is not to live a carefree dog’s life. Our blessed hope is to co-rule with God over His kingdom. Presently, this involves spreading God’s kingdom values and inviting people to transfer their allegiance to the King of this new kingdom (Matt. 28:19–20; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). In a word, it means evangelism. And in the future, after God’s kingdom is fully established, it will involve new responsibilities (Rev. 2:26–27; 3:12, 21). Far from living a carefree life, we will live productive lives that eternally glorify God by the way we govern His redeemed creation (Rev. 21:24–26).

This is a high calling. Are we up to the task? Are we willing to aspire for more than a pet-to-owner relationship with God? Can we aspire to be near God, not simply to bask in His blessing and affection, but so as to better learn to be like Him, in order that we can accomplish what God wants to see accomplished in the advancement of His kingdom? As we enter into a new year, perhaps our resolution should be to refuse to settle for a dog’s life and instead aspire to live up to our created purpose, as God’s royal children, of collaborating with God to see His will accomplished, both now and eternally.

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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