Chapter 10 – Obeying God

 

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

– Hebrews 11:8, NIV

Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to obey God’s call on our lives – in both the big decisions and the little everyday situations. God challenges us out of our comfort zone, away from what we’re used to. He causes us to take steps of faith, leading us out into new areas that we have not seen or understood before. He causes us to depend on Him as our Shepherd, without leaning on our own understanding – this is a part of what following Him is all about. It’s not easy!

Abraham obeyed God in blind faith. How much must that have cost him – giving up his homeland and his friends to travel to some unknown place, simply because God said “Go”. How many people must have mocked him for this decision, or called him unwise, or even called him a lunatic, or begged him to stay… His priority was obedience to God, and he trusted God even though God had not yet revealed the whole plan. He knew that following God’s will is worth so much more than human affirmation or human comfort or human security. What do we prioritise?

Abraham still obeyed God even when God told him to give up his beloved son (Genesis 22:2), even though God had promised him this son many years in advance – a long-awaited heir through whom Abraham’s descendants would be counted. Abraham was willing to sacrifice to God the most important thing in his life and the one who would carry his name down through the generations, God’s gift for whom he had waited all that time, not knowing what God would do afterwards. Abraham knew the character of God and knew that regardless of what may happen God is still always good, always loves His people, always wants the best for His people and for His Kingdom. So Abraham prioritised God’s will over his own understanding and was willing to obey even the most difficult and painful of commands.

I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible.

– Teresa of Avila

I wish I had the faith to be obedient to God to the same extent. Often when God challenges me to do something, I either ignore Him or argue with Him – I like my own plans; I like my comfort zone to expand only little by little and under my own control; I don’t like to give up the safety of my own plans to obey God when I don’t know the ending, or to follow His call when I know it will cost me. I like to have the security of knowing the full plan before I take the first step – so it can be difficult to obey God’s call when He doesn’t always work that way. Perhaps you can relate to this a little! Often my first instinct when God challenges me to do something or change something is to argue with Him, to tell Him all the reasons I can think of as to why I shouldn’t obey. But hey, GOD KNOWS ALL THE REASONS. He knows our situations from every angle, so when He commands something He is aware of all the things that we might consider good enough reasons for disobedience. We have no need to remind Him, but instead (in faith) should obey!

May we surrender to God our arguments with Him, and our human understanding. May we give over to Him our pride, so that the concept of potential humiliation cannot hold us back. May we surrender to Him our plans, our time, our finances – so that these cannot be reasons as to why we should refuse to obey Him. May we surrender to Him our faith, so that He can increase it enough for us to obey without question. It is ok to question God and to ask Him why – so long as ultimately we surrender to His will, and obey.

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!

Hebrews 12:9, NIV

We obey those whom we love and respect; those whom we know love us and have our best interests at heart. Children obey their parents because they respect them and know that their parents do not want to hurt them but want to teach them to do what is right and to know how to deal with situations well. If we love and respect God, and know that He loves us and wants the best for us, then why do we so often choose not to obey Him? May we surrender to God our love and respect for Him, and invite Him to increase it. May we surrender to Him our awareness of His love for us and His plans for us, so that we will trust Him enough to obey Him. May we ask Him to teach us to obey and to give us the strength to obey as we surrender to Him. A. W. Tozer wrote, “The man that believes will obey; failure to obey is convincing proof that there is no true faith present. To attempt the impossible God must give faith or there will be none, and He gives faith to the obedient heart only.”

Peter was used to obeying Jesus as his Master, and knew that whatever Jesus instructed him was good and worth obeying. So when he saw Jesus walking on the water, he asked Him for an instruction that he could obey (“tell me to come to you on the water” – Matthew 14:28, NIV). He knew that if Jesus told him to do something, it would be something good for him and for the Kingdom – so he asked for Jesus’ instruction instead of simply doing what he may have wanted to do. He wanted to be like the Master, holy and strong in God’s strength, obedient to the Father. May we be like Jesus our Master – holy and strong in God’s strength and obedient to our Father in everything! And may we be like Peter in the sense that we know to obey God in whatever He calls us to do, no matter how strange it may appear or how much it may cost us. May we surrender to God our own will and our own desires, so that he can teach us to obey Him.

We can obey God if we are willing to be disciplined in His love. Disobedience to God’s challenge is unwillingness to accept His invitations and unwillingness to submit to His loving discipline. May we surrender to God our willingness to be disciplined by Him through obedience to His challenge. God challenges us out of our comfort zones to test us, test our faith in Him and our trust in Him – and make us stronger in Him through that testing. Why have any faith or trust in God whatsoever if it is not going to be put into practice, tested and challenged by difficult calls to obedience to Him?

 When we learn to say a deep, passionate yes to the things that really matter… then peace begins to settle onto our lives like golden sunlight sifting to a forest floor.

– Thomas Kinkade

When I was about 12 years old I felt that God was calling me to go to Bolivia for a while after secondary school. I knew that I would have to wait and work towards it for five and a half years: it cost me! Over the years in between I worked various little part-time jobs doing different things and put on several fundraising events to raise the money, and could not spend money on expensive things like the rest of my friends. I also studied Spanish for five years and read books about Bolivian culture. This was a lot of effort: it cost me! It also cost me when I finally got there – working in a home for teenagers who used to live on the streets can be quite problematic, stressful and exhausting! It was an unstable lifestyle, far from clean or tidy or organised by English standards, and I experienced many uncomfortable cultural differences. But throughout the years of preparation and the time there, God gave comfort in the knowledge that it was His will for me to be there. I grew to really love living in Bolivia and was quite upset to leave in the end.

Obedience to God can be costly, but He brings such fruit in our lives through it! I am reminded of the story of the man who found a precious pearl in a field and sold all he had in order to buy the field (in Matthew 13). I wonder how different my life would be if I had ignored God and not gone to Bolivia. I wonder how many important life lessons I would have missed out on, how many amazing friendships I would never have known, how many strange cultural experiences I would never have encountered. God brought significant change in me through the whole experience, both through the preparation and through being there – and He used it to work in other people’s lives too.

We see all throughout the Bible God calling His people to do seemingly strange, crazy or illogical things for Him, looking like fools or giving up things that are precious to them – for God’s glory and because He told them to do it. Obedience to God deepens our relationship with Him beyond compare, because we learn to truly trust in Him and believe what He says to us, like Jesus did on earth. And even Jesus struggled: when He was in Gethsemane just before His arrest, He knew with His whole being that He should be obedient to the call of the Father, but still He longed for the Father’s will to be changed so that He would not have to suffer so much, if there were another way (Luke 22:42). All of us do the same at times when we do not want to do what God is telling us. Like the rich young ruler whom Jesus told to sell all his possessions (Matthew 19) – perhaps he felt that God’s call for his life was too intense, too difficult for him to handle, because his priorities were not yet focused on the Kingdom. 

The true follower of Christ will not ask, “If I embrace this truth, what will it cost me?” Rather he will say, “This is truth. God help me to walk in it, let come what may!” 

– A. W. Tozer

In Genesis 6 we see how God tells Noah to build an ark to save his family (and the animals God had created) from the flood that was to come. He may have felt humiliated when building the ark since he lived in a desert and nobody expected a flood – but God was faithful and showed His word to be true. Noah was blessed for his obedience to God’s call even though it cost him such immense time and energy, and almost certainly cost him his pride. Obedience to God can be costly, can be humiliating, and can be painful. But God proves His word true and blesses us as a result of obedience – and through it we form deeper relationship with Him.

Obedience to God is stupidity in the eyes of the world. The leaders of the ministry I worked for in Bolivia were challenged by God 30 years ago to move to Bolivia, give up their home and their comforts, and live an uncomfortable lifestyle in an unsafe country without a wage and with children to raise. Several trusted friends encouraged them not to go, for obvious reasons – but obedience to God often is stupidity in the eyes of the world.

May we surrender to God those times when we have obeyed Him and ended up hurt or upset. I know that those ministry leaders in Bolivia have had some very challenging and hurtful experiences there, and perhaps at times they felt angry at God for calling them somewhere and then failing to make it easy to live there and to get through the different struggles. I know I have felt this way at times in the past! Perhaps you can relate. May we surrender to God the times when we wonder why God hasn’t seemed to come through for us in the ways we expected – as if He didn’t keep His side of the deal once we had given things up in order to obey. May we surrender to God our views and our understanding, our assumptions and opinions, and let Him shape them into His own to lead us to obedience regardless of the outcome. May He teach us to recognise that in all situations, at all times, He is good and He is trustworthy.

Allow me to repeat myself yet again: it costs us to make simple choices to honour God, even in seemingly small things such as spending time in prayer – why would one choose such a thing? Because God’s will is worth it; obedience to Him is so worth it. May we surrender to God the ways in which we respond to His instructions, His invitations, His calling on our lives. May we surrender to Him our obedience, and allow Him to lead us into deeper love of Him as we seek to obey Him daily.

God’s commands are designed to guide you to life’s very best. You will not obey Him, if you do not believe Him and trust Him. You cannot believe Him if you do not love Him. You cannot love Him unless you know Him.

– Henry Blackaby

 

God my Lord, my Master, my God…

Thank You that You love to lead us and teach us to obey You.

Thank You that You forgive us no matter how many times we argue or disobey.

Thank You that you know our thoughts and our situations inside out.

Thank You that Your plans for us are always for the good of Your people and Your Kingdom.

I surrender to You my priorities – please shape them so that I obey.

I surrender to You my pride; help me to really live to honour You.

I surrender to You my plans, my time, my finance – I choose to obey You no matter what the cost.

I surrender to You my understanding, that my “reasons” may not hold me back from obeying You.

I surrender to You my faith – please increase it, so that I obey without question. 

I surrender to You my love for You and respect of You – please build on it, so that I obey more freely!

I surrender to You my awareness of Your love and plans for me – help me trust You enough to obey.

Please teach me to obey You and give me the daily strength to do so!

I surrender to You my views, assumptions and opinions.

Please shape them into Your own and lead me to obedience regardless of the outcome.

Let Your word penetrate my being – I surrender to You.

Teach me Your truth, loving God!

I surrender to You the way I live as a result of obeying what You say to me.

Please shape my understanding.

May I live in Your ways, following Your voice rather than my own thoughts and understanding.

Amen

 

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