On Monday I (Helen) had the opportunity to teach on the topic of “Obedience” for EN VIA, the discipleship program for community members in the San Antonio del Mar area. You might remember that Michael taught on “Hearing God’s Voice” to this same group a week and a half ago. In a lot of ways, EN VIA is like a “mini DTS” for people in the community who wouldn’t be able to participate in YWAM’s Discipleship Training School. Obedience is a topic that many DTSs cover, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard a teaching on this topic (at least, not that I remember), so it was a challenge to prepare. In addition to never having heard this topic taught, I had preached the day before, and taught on the Character of God in a Grade 6 class and in a High School class that morning, so I was really relying on God to come through for this teaching, and I’m so thankful He did. He is faithful.
As I prepared for this teaching, the idea God kept highlighting to me is that obedience is an act of trust and love. When we are young children and our parents ask us to do/not do something, we’re obedient (some of the time!) because we trust and love our parents. We believe they know more than we do, that they have greater wisdom and life experience, and we know they have our best interests at heart – we know their character, so we obey because we trust and love them. For us to be obedient to the things God asks of us, it is so helpful to know His character. What is especially helpful to know is that God is omnipotent (Luke 1:37), omniscient (Psalm 139:1-6), and omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12), or all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere at all times. Knowing these aspects of His character should help us trust Him, because everything is within His control, nothing surprises Him about the future, and He is always with us. He has a plan for each one of us, but He also knows exactly how His Kingdom is coming, and He is working all things for His purposes to be accomplished. God is a good and loving Father, and we can trust Him when He calls us to obey Him, even when we don’t understand the “why” of what He is calling us to do.
Many believe that obeying God will lead to earthly blessings – that as a result of obedience, we’re guaranteed health, wealth, and an easy life – and that those who are disobedient will receive punishment. But this is simply not the case. There are so many examples in the Bible that show us obedience to God does not necessarily equal prosperity. Look at the prophets – Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah – all were obedient to the Lord, and they had extraordinarily difficult lives as a result. In Kings and Chronicles, when we look at the examples of the kings that reigned in Israel and Judah, we see many kings were wicked, but God was merciful to them and to their kingdoms (look at Jeroboam II, for example). In the New Testament, we read of Stephen, a man who shared the Gospel with boldness and was used powerfully by God; as a result of his obedience, he was killed (Acts 6-7). And of course, think of Jesus. He is the only Person who has ever succeeded in being perfectly obedient to God, and He was crucified. The New Testament never promises an easy life as a reward for obedience; in fact, in Mark 10:29-30, Jesus is recorded as saying we can expect persecution in our lifetime as we commit to following Him.
So if we don’t get earthly blessings from obeying God, why obey? Our obedience to God should not be out of a heart of “what’s-in-it-for-me,” because we are not guaranteed an easy life when we obey God. We might be disappointed if we obey out of selfish motivations. Rather, we need to understand that by obeying God, even when it means our lives become more difficult, we get to participate in what He is doing in His Kingdom. We may never understand why He asks us to do all of the things He wants us to do, but we have to trust in His character – that He knows the big picture, and that what He asks of us is for the good of His Kingdom. It is a privilege to obey God. It is a privilege to participate in His Kingdom.
While Mark 10:29-30 promises we can expect persecutions in our walk with God in this world, it also promises eternal life. In the thick of life, it can seem a pat answer to say “look forward to eternity,” but when we experience hardship despite our continued obedience to God, this is our hope! In addition, as we are obedient to God, our faith grows as a result. In Numbers 13, for example, we read of the spies being sent into Canaan. Were they obedient to God’s directions? No! They were told to spy out a small portion of the land (the hill country), but because they were disobedient and surveyed well beyond the part they were instructed to spy out, the spies (save Caleb and Joshua) didn’t believe they could take the land. Had they been obedient to God’s instructions, their faith would have been greater, as they would have had more hope in their ability to enter the Promised Land victoriously.
In what ways is God calling you to obey Him? Maybe He’s asking you to end an ungodly relationship. Maybe He’s asking you to reexamine your business practices, and to change how you participate in the world of commerce. Maybe He’s asking you to be generous in a way that will be stretching and self-sacrificing. It might not be easy, and it might not contribute to your grasp of the “dream life,” but in your obeying God, you get to trust and love Him with your life, and you get to participate in His Kingdom. I haven’t always been perfectly obedient to the Lord, but I can promise you, the times when I have been obedient have been worth it, no matter the cost, and nothing in this world is worth disobeying Him.