Obedience is Simple, But Not Easy

“God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.”

Rick Warren

We are creatures of comfort. Case in point, right now as I am writing this, I’m sitting on my couch in my nice warm robe, with my cup of coffee, wrapped up in my soft throw blanket, and sitting in front of the toasty fireplace on a cold day. I am rocking comfort like a boss. Don’t hate me. But sitting on my right is my Bible study book I am currently working through, “Discerning the Voice of God,” by Priscilla Shirer, and it has me thinking about obedience.

I don’t know what mental images or feelings the word “obedience” conjures up for you, but for me it’s not comfort or warmth or easy. In the dictionary obedience means “compliance with an order, request or law, or submission to another’s authority.”

Let’s put this definition in real life. Obedience is required on the job, driving in our cars obeying the speed limit, or a child going in their room to clean up their mess like their parent asked them to do (praise hands for all the parents out there!) Obedience is not always comfortable, in fact, sometimes it is downright challenging. Obedience is not easy, but it is simple. Jesus puts it this way, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” (John 14:15).

Priscilla Shirer brought up this point: “God speaks to be obeyed.” Conveniently in God’s sovereignty, He has me walking through something where He is expecting me to be obedient. Coincidence? I think not. Here is my chance to walk out what God is teaching me.

Obeying Like Abraham

The Old Testament has real life people, imperfect people like us, who get it right and also fall on their faces. Our ultimate example of unfailing, perfect obedience is Jesus, of course, but Abraham has something to teach us as well.

In Genesis chapter 12, God gives Abraham a command, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” (vs. 1-3).

Right off the bat, God commands Abraham to leave his comfortable life, the town he grew up in, all he has ever known, to go to a foreign land God will show him. God also promises a blessing (side note: we are recipients of this blessing). What does Abraham do? “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him,” (Genesis 12:4a). Simple obedience.

Fast forward to Genesis 22:2, Abraham is given another command, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” How does Abraham respond? “Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him,” (Genesis 22:3). This is not easy obedience, but Abraham makes it simple.

Now we might be tempted to look at Abraham and think he obeyed flawlessly in every circumstance. There are many chapters in between 12 and 22 where Abraham and his wife took matters into their own hands, and suffered some consequences.

We are the same way. What gets us into trouble, is that we have our own agendas or we can’t wait on God to work His perfect will in His perfect timing. Make no mistake God is always at work; He is sanctifying us, and molding us into the image of Jesus. God works all things together for good, our greater good, and His greater glory.

So what is the key to Abraham’s obedience that we can take into our everyday lives? I believe the key is that Abraham had faith in who God is, in God’s character. Abraham trusted, and he loved God with all his heart, soul and mind. He knew down in the depths of his soul that even when God asked him to do something that sounded crazy and even contrary to all that God had promised, if God said it, then it was trustworthy. The book of Hebrews adds insight into Abraham’s thought process, “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back,” (11:19, emphasis mine).

This is how we walk out our relationship with God. It will require obedience simply because He is God and we are not. This brings us to the motivation of obedience. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”(John 14:21).

It is a love relationship. Notice how many times in this Scripture that Jesus says the word “love.” God so loved us that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross, taking our place and our punishment. We respond by surrendering our lives, loving Him by obeying Him. As we obey Him, Jesus will reveal Himself to us.

Who do you know God to be? If you’re not sure, look at Abraham. Did God not fulfill His covenant? Look to the cross of Christ. Yes, God did fulfill His covenant, and He will accomplish His purposes in your life too.

Yes, it is hard to obey especially when God is calling us to obey Him in the midst of the unknown. Like Abraham, we walk through this life learning to trust God in the small things and in the big things. We may not do it flawlessly, but with each time we obey in victory, we gain new strength for the next time. And when we see God’s faithfulness to us over and over again, even in our failures, we grow to love Him more. Let’s pray for that ever growing love, and let that love move us out of our comfort, self-sufficiency, rebellion or fear, and into the refuge of God alone through faith in His Son and by the power of His Holy Spirit. Let’s walk with simple obedience. Why? So that we can bring God glory by being like His Son. Not my will, Lord, but Yours be done.

“God speaks to be obeyed.”

Priscilla Shirer

Letting Go

My son purchased a watercolor paint set for me for Christmas (it was what I asked for). So the other day, I found some time to sit down, find a YouTube video for beginners and begin to learn how to paint with watercolors.

Now let me just tell you right now, that I am a bit of a control freak. I am a color within the lines kind of person. I would also never consider myself an artist, so to take on this endeavor is a real stretch for me. I’ll admit also that I sometimes have delusions of grandeur. I have a vision of what I would like, but to create that vision is as elusive to me as winning the lottery.

To stare at a blank piece of paper, come up with my own design, this typically would cause me to break out into a sweat, but I was determined. This time would be different. I was going to adopt the mantra of “Frozen” and “let it go!”

This got me to thinking about how us control freaks could adopt this “let it go” attitude in our daily living and relationships. I mean we all know that perfectionism is a myth, right? Nothing is perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, perfect parent, perfect church, or perfect job. No, perfection flew out the window when Adam and Eve sinned in the perfection of the Garden of Eden.

We can choose to pick our battles, because that is what the pursuit of perfection does, it boxes us into a corner. We become like a child, full-blown into the terrible three’s, throwing a tantrum, demanding our way. We may not have control over our circumstances or in our relationships, but we can control how we react to them. We need to “let it go.”

Instead let’s let go and shift our focus to the One who is perfect. Let’s pursue to be perfect, that is growing into the likeness of Jesus Christ. When we want to know what true perfection is all we have to do is look to Jesus. Jesus is, after all, the Perfecter of our faith. Let Him show you what it means to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.

Rejoice today in the fact that because He is the perfect, sinless, Son of God, He was able to pay our debt in full by dying on the cross. We no longer have to work ourselves into a frenzy trying to reach some false ideal of perfection, instead we can let it all go and rest in His perfection.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:21

It’s a new day, the perfect day to begin to pry our fingers off of our perfect ideas, our perfect plans to get started on our diets and workouts, how we want our children to behave, or how we want our husbands to work on our to-do lists around the home. You have a blank piece of paper today, take a deep breath, let it go.