“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.