Pop-quiz: How would you answer the following question? When it comes to obeying God, I:
A) ignore it and hope that He forgets about me if it is something way too hard
B) get angry at God, especially if the instructions are not what I expected
C) hesitate and wonder if it really was God, then ask Him to clarify or
D) do whatever He said even if it seems strange!
No matter how you answered that question, take heart because there is hope even for those of us who gravitate toward disobedience not because we lack faith in God but because we don’t believe in ourselves. Let’s look at some examples from God’s Word that will show us exactly how God enables us to choose obedience even when our heart does not want to obey. For example, at one time or another in our walk with Christ I am sure all of us can relate to scenario A- when we would rather ignore what God has told us to do. I remember a time when God told me to bake someone a cake and bring it to their house. I thought that was a little strange so I did not do it. Later that week I found out that the particular day He asked me to do this was the birthday of a daughter the family had lost and the mother was struggling to make it through her grief. Had I obeyed God and brought her that cake, she would have been encouraged by His love in the midst of her grief. The prophet Jonah had a similar struggle with obeying God. He didn’t like God’s instructions to him to go preach to the Ninevites so instead Jonah ran from God. The book of Jonah opens with: The Word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. (Jonah 1:1-3) If you know the story, Jonah eventually complies with God’s instructions, but his heart isn’t fully engaged in his obedience. Jonah gives us an example of reluctance obedience. God’s will is still accomplished, but the wayward prophet does not get to rejoice in the work of God which he was able to be a part of. Oh, how I pray that I would not be reluctant in my obedience to God. He has such blessings in store for us when we let our hearts fully surrender in obedience to His instructions. What is God asking you to do that you may be trying to ignore? Let not only your actions say yes to God but your heart as well so that you can receive the blessing of your obedience once His work in you is complete.
What if you have been in a place where scenario B was your response? You got angry at God because His instructions were not what you expected. I know in my life God has directed me to forgive someone who, in my opinion did not deserve forgiveness for the hurt they caused my loved one. And not only did God ask me to forgive them but to love them too! I was appalled and a bit angry because I was thinking to myself: “But don’t you love me, Lord? Don’t you see the hurt they caused? Don’t you know the damage that is done?” Eventually God was able to persuade me through His Word that my unforgiveness and anger toward that person was like leprosy in my heart, and He truly did want me to heal so that I could minister to my loved one. I wonder if you know the story of Naaman in the bible. His story is told in 2 Kings 5. Naaman is a prominent man, leader of the army of Aram. But he has a problem. The man has leprosy. He is told of a prophet in Israel who can cure him; so he goes to Elisha expecting the prophet to make a big fuss over him and heal him in some dramatic way. He arrives in style only to be told by Elisha’s servant that he should go to the Jordan and wash 7 times and then he would be healed. Naaman’s response is recorded in 2 Kings 5:11-12, But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. Naaman is eventually convinced by others to do what the prophet told him and is cured of his disease. His example to us is one of persuaded obedience. Maybe you are in a position right now to be persuaded into obedience. If God is asking you to do something that you did not expect, let His Word, let your loved ones, and let the Holy Spirit persuade you into obedience so that healing will come to you.
Then we have scenario C in which you hesitate to obey God because you just aren’t sure if it was Him. I know I have been in this position so many times. I feel like God tells me to do something and then I wonder if I heard right. I remember when God asked me to come to go to a new church. I thought that was crazy! I had only heard bad things about the church and it was so big! Surely I didn’t belong in the place God was sending me. But, in His mercy God gave me confirmation by having me meet people from that church, as well as having me ‘accidentally’ run into someone who was delivering cookies from that church in my neighborhood and was lost on my street. Another story in the bible gives us the assurance that we are not alone. You may know the story of Gideon. He was told by God to be a mighty warrior and save Israel. Gideon’s response to this is recorded in Judges 6:17, Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.” The messenger of God gives Gideon the sign by burning up the sacrifice Gideon places in front of him but still, Gideon is hesitant to obey God. Later on, we find that Gideon tests God not once, but twice with fleece. Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as You have promised– look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as You said.” (Judges 6:36) And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew–a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew. (Judges 6:39-40) Can you imagine testing God like that? Gideon is the prime example of hesitant obedience. Perhaps God is calling you to something you do not feel qualified for and you are hesitating to obey Him. God is as patient with you as He was with Gideon. But it was Gideon’s full participation that finally won the victory for Israel. And maybe God is just waiting to bring that victory to you too if you just stop hesitating and participate in what God is already at work doing.
And finally we have what we all strive for. I like to call it obedience with conviction because it is an obedience that operates out of belief in who God is. I wish I could say I have firsthand experience in this kind of obedience, but I have only been on the receiving end of it. During a period of spiritual attack, the enemy had constructed great walls of doubt and defeat in my heart. Thankfully, two obedient servants listened to God’s instructions. One was a man who I knew as an acquaintance years ago. He showed up at my house during dinner one night only to knock on my door and tell me that God gave him a message for me to keep following Him. Then a few days later, a lady I had never met before came up to me at the store and wrapped her arms around me to tell me that she was prompted to tell me not to give up. And in their blessed obedience, those wonderful servants of God were the instruments He used to crush the walls of defeat and despair that had consumed me. This amazing result of obedience is also found in God’s Word. I have a new love for the story of Joshua and Jericho. How crazy it must have seemed to just walk around the heavily walled city for seven days. Yet, they did it and God showed up big time! They obeyed and He brought down the walls in a heartbeat. Friends, let us strive to see the amazing results that God allows in our lives when we obey because we know who He is. In Christ, we have the freedom not to have to ask why but just to trust Him. When we let our foundation of obedience grow solid even through reluctant obedience, persuaded obedience or hesitant obedience, eventually we will come to stand on the ground of full obedience with conviction. The beauty is that God accepts us wherever we are on the obedience pop-quiz but oh, what walls can come tumbling down when we can all get to scenario D, not only in our personal lives but in the world around us.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:11