By Anna Light
Lately, I keep coming across the subject of obedience. Exciting, right? But when I’m reminded of a single word or concept more than a few times, it stops being a coincidence.
For a long season of my life I felt the Lord calling me to do something specific for Him. I kept putting it off. For years I made excuses, but His quiet whispers continually led me back to this task. During the last year I finally began to work toward accomplishing His calling, and in that time I have learned valuable lessons about obedience and disobedience.
Perhaps you are like I was, living in the neglect of a known duty. The Lord has placed something on your heart to do, but you haven’t done it. For some, it might be that you’re living with a destructive habit or sin God has asked you to give up. No matter where you find yourself, I pray these thoughts will strike a chord in your heart and inspire you to take the first step into obedience.
Why We Disobey
In 1 Samuel 15 Saul was told to completely destroy the Amalakites and take no plunder. Instead, he saved the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord – a noble gesture. Making a sacrifice to the Lord was a good thing, and part of the religious custom of that day. I’m sure King Saul thought his motives were pure and that the Lord would be pleased with him. But the Lord was not pleased. He spoke through his prophet Samuel: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22
I realized how often I do this in my walk with Christ. God asks me to do something, but instead of simply obeying, I do something else. Not bad things. I may, in fact, do very good things—even making sacrifices. But if it is not what God has asked me to do, it is not obedience.
When you read through the Old Testament, it is amazing how many times the Israelites sacrificed great offerings to God and yet were totally disobedient to Him. The problem was they considered their sacrifice sufficient, and sadly, we do the same thing.
There are three reasons that might lead us to this disobedience.
We think our idea is better. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we assume responsibility to carry out something the Lord did not tell us to do. Perhaps we don’t want to look like a fool to others, so we allow our pride to get in the way of our obedience. Or, like King Saul, our motive might seem pure in doing more than God has asked, but we are side-stepping what He really wants from us: our obedience.
Distractions and Laziness
Distractions—that we allow—and the laziness that controls our motivations are huge barriers in our obedience to God. The problem is that, although God desires our obedience, we more readily act on things that are easier and more comfortable. There are ways to make obedience less difficult, (we’ll get to that soon) especially when you start taking those steps toward obedience, it’s going to take work. Unfortunately, many are unwilling to put in the work. We do other things that are easier, thinking maybe God will be pleased since we did something. I’m often guilty of this. I joke that you’ll always know when the Lord has asked me to do something—my house is clean, refrigerator organized, toilets scrubbed, and dusting complete. I’m great at doing other things and avoiding the one thing He’s asked me to do.
Fear of the unknown, failure, ridicule, success, or change are all fear-based reasons that might cause us to disobey. We may want to accomplish a calling of God, but our fear keeps us from moving forward. It’s too hard and overwhelming. We don’t know where to start. We don’t know what we’re doing. Fear can drive us to make substitute “sacrifices” instead of simply obeying.
The Intimacy Problem
Disobedience drives us away from relational intimacy. Just as Adam and Eve hid in the garden after they disobeyed God, we hide from His presence when we are living in disobedience. My personal relationship with Christ suffered greatly. Every time I attempted to seek the Lord and spend time with him, the reminder of what I hadn’t yet done was so distracting that I began to avoid those intimate times. I was always looking for a new word from God, a new touch from Him. Each time I approached, I sensed His loving, patient, yet firm tone saying: I have already told you what to do. It hasn’t changed.
For me, I’ve fallen prey to all these examples. I’ve realized my disobedience was an act of rebellion against God. Of course, none of us would admit to outwardly rebelling against God, but our actions speak in volumes what our intentions never could. That is why obedience can never come from good intentions. Obedience must come from something much stronger, from the very core of who we are: our hearts.
To be continued next week.