Obedience: A Many-Splendored Thing!

Songdove Books - Single RoseAnyone who has followed my blog long enough, will know that I have written at various times about how obedience shows the Triune God that we love Him!

Blog posts such as:

Just to present the most obvious posts among those available on my blog.

Before moving on here, one last blog post to be shared covers both obedience and righteousness.

Genesis 15: Righteousness and the Blood Covenant

Joshua 1:7-9  Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.  8  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.  9  Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

Based merely on the titles of the blog posts above, so far my blog has covered the fact that obedience shows God we love Him.  Obedience leads to blessings.  Obedience and righteousness are solidly linked because you can’t live rightly without following God’s ways.

Songdove Books - 10 CommandmentsThe passage in Joshua now, makes an interesting statement regarding entering into an obedient lifestyle.  One could be forgiven for thinking, from reading these verses, that living a life of obedience to God’s commands requires a certain amount of strength and courage.  This would say that even in Joshua’s time, standing strong for the things of God and His ways would go against the grain of society, go against the carnal desire to give up at times, and that the road was not going to be easy.  Obedience to all that God commanded would quite literally be a battle on occasion, and God wanted Joshua to not lose heart, but to keep pressing forward.

Now it is said that for a marriage to be successful, two people must be willing to work at it.  It is said that in today’s society perhaps more than any other in history, the couple needs to put their foot down firmly and with deep, unchangeable resolve if they expect to go the distance.

So it with our relationship with God.  Various nations and people groups down through history have made life very difficult for the Child of God who wishes to follow in obedience to God’s Word in all areas of their lives.  For many, their resolve has been so steadfast that they have died rather than compromise how God had asked them to live.  God is asking us today for that same level of resolve.

Obedience takes discipline, as you’ll discover reading through the Psalms.  King David knew very well the trials that went along with insisting on obeying God rather than man.  This isn’t to say man’s laws should always be disobeyed, but it is to say that at times, whenever man’s laws contravene God’s laws, the child of God is obligated to obey God rather than man.  As you read through the Psalms, you’ll discover how King David handled it in his musical journalling.

The point to be made here, is that God knew in advance that sticking to His commands would require a strength of heart and mind, and a courageous spirit to accomplish.  It isn’t just when we go into battle against the enemy of our souls that we need strength of heart and mind and spirit, but more often than those times of battle, we need to understand that mere obedience to God’s ways will in itself be a battle in today’s world.  The fictional novel that spelled this out the best for me personally, was entitled, “In His Steps“.  It’s an old book, and not a very long one either, following members of a Church, including a newspaper owner as he encounters various challenges learning to do business God’s way and the fallout from that both good and bad.

When we choose to live everyday life obedient to how God asks us to live in the Scriptures, we need to be strong, we need to be courageous, because even within the Church, living such a way is classified as “radical”, “fringe”, “fundamentalist” and other potentially derogatory terms.  We may even be accused of being legalistic when in reality we have learned the secret that obedience causes God to feel very much loved, and He responds to that!

God told Joshua that if he is strong and courageous in carrying out God’s commands and being obedient to them, meditating on them constantly, dwelling on them, and refusing to turn aside from them in any direction, that blessings, success and prosperity would follow.  God even went so far as to tell Joshua not to be afraid or dismayed, but that God would go with Him.

Songdove Books - BUT!This point can’t be missed!  Our obedience to God’s commands is not something expected of us 100%!  We are to have the willingness, the desire, the resolve and the determination to live according to God’s Word.  We are to be doing everything in our power to follow through on that, BUT!  Oh how I love these BUT’s!!!  It is at the point of execution and ongoing disciplined obedience in the face of challenges to that obedience, where God says He will be with us, and that we are not to be afraid when those challenges and battles come.  satan doesn’t like it when a Christian decides to put God’s Words into action in their daily life!  He will throw up road blocks, brick walls, mountains, family, friends and even fellow church buddies, pastors and leaders we would otherwise look up to, to prevent us from living the life God finds pleasing.  We can get scared in those moments.  We can become dismayed and discouraged when those we trusted and looked up to criticize us for choosing a life of obedience seemingly deeper and more radical than their own.  When others who are less disciplined or who are justifying their disobedience see someone taking their faith more seriously and choosing to work it out more determinedly, they will attack.  Their attack is meant to bring you back down to their level so they don’t feel so uncomfortable and threatened by your faith walk.

It truly does take courage to enter deeper into that relationship with God where His command becomes your wish and deepest desire to fulfill for no other reason than to feel His smile over your life, to feel His pleasure, and to sense Him drawing closer to you.  Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.  These commandments are discussed in the blog posts already mentioned and I’d encourage my reader to take the time to read through each of those discussions as part of this discourse.

One thing must be understood throughout this discussion as well. . . Everyone wants to be blessed, to have their way prosper, and to see success in all they do.  Unfortunately, these desires are often not matched up with the desire to live as close to God’s ideals as possible.  Many today feel that they can receive God’s blessings over their lives sheerly by engaging in lists of do’s and don’ts, lists of steps to twist God’s arm, even to the point of demanding that God come through for them because He said He’d come through in His Word.  He did say He’d come through for us, BUT!  There’s that BUT word again!  Almost every single promise God makes with His people in both the Old and New Testament come with the recipient having a part to play in the matter.  Generally, the pattern is this:  God issues a command.  Recipient is expected to obey that command and told what blessings will follow if they do.  If the recipient obeys the command with the sole intention of receiving the blessing, God may choose to withhold it because their heart was not in the right place.  At other times, God will still grant the blessing, but it will come with side effects that the recipient did not anticipate and they will be disciplined for their lack of focus in the right place.

What is this “right place”???  When we seek a life of obedience to God’s Word, our focus is to be on God Himself.  While it isn’t wrong to desire health, needs to be met, etcetera, it is wrong to make those the sole focus of why we are doing what God asks of us.  Our eyes are not to be on the earthly and temporal rewards that may come, but to be on the One Who even wishes to bless us in the first place.  God gets after the Jewish people for following their rites and rituals quite harshly, because their heart is no longer toward Him.  They continue to do all the right things, but they have grown distant from God in the process.  The rites and rituals God gave to the Hebrews in the Torah were meant to draw them closer to Himself, not drive them away, but generations of strict adherence to the rules as the teachings involving why slowly went by the wayside, left a people whose obedience stunk in God’s nostrils!

God doesn’t want us to obey just so we can get.  God wants our obedience simply because we love Him.  It is our love for God that draws Him to us.  It is our gratitude for who He is, His character that drives Him to be the way He is and as a result why He does what He does for us, that also draws Him closer.  The Scriptures say that God inhabits the praises of His people and that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.  We are told to submit ourselves to God in order to make the devil flee.  God both disciplines and blesses His children.  He prunes and provides for His children.  Christ says in Ephesians that He is washing His Bride with the Water of the Word so as to present her to God the Father without spot or wrinkle.  I go into what those spots and wrinkles are in my book, “Dressed for Eternity“.

Obedience is not an easy road, but it is a road that will result in blessing if we resolve to stick with it for no other reason than to put a smile on our Heavenly Bridegroom’s face.  We can ask for blessings.  We can ask for prosperity.  We can ask for success.  But if our lives are not showing the fruit of obedience to God’s Word in our daily behaviour, we can’t expect that God will answer those requests.  God does not reward selfish behaviour.  If God sees that financial blessing will ruin us in some fashion, He will bless us in non-financial ways.  If God sees that certain levels of success will go to our heads, He won’t allow us to reach those levels.

Proverbs 25:16  Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.

Proverbs 30:8-9  Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:  9  Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

Philippians 4:11-13  Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  12  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  13  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Notice again how the final passage quoted above ends with Christ who gives us strength.  If we read the last verse in context, we discover that it is referring to how the Apostle Paul had learned to live.  It was through Christ’s strength that he learned to live with little or with much, financially, socially, and with regards to personal sustenance.  Most times you’ll see Philippians 4:13 quoted out of context, and used in a manner suggesting that ANYTHING we wish to do, we can do because Christ will give us strength.  Now the principle behind such an interpretation may not be wrong per se, but it isn’t the context of this verse.  Once again we see God through Paul telling the Philippian church that God is there with us as we choose to live how He directs us to live.  God will give us the strength to make it through times of lack, times of plenty, times of being a nobody and times of great accolades and recognition, in both favourable and unfavourable conditions.

So take courage dear reader.  Renew your determination and resolve.  Raise your eyes from God’s hand to His face.  Look into His eyes and see His heart.  Desire to put a smile on His face as He sees you actively desiring to show your love for Him through your obedience to His commands.  As He sees your desire, sees your heart, and sees your willingness to step out in true obedience, He will come alongside you.  He will be your strength and give you the impetus you need to follow through in the face of opposition, challenges and battles along the way.  Remember the words of Isaiah:

Isaiah 40:28-31  Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.  29  He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.  30  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:  31  But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Take heart!  As Deuteronomy 33:27 says, underneath are the everlasting arms!