O-B-E-D-IENCE…obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.
This simple song occasionally heard in a children’s classroom of a Sunday morning carries with it some pretty profound truths.
I wasn’t the rebellious teen. My sisters were: one older, one younger. But I found a thrill in something else: obedience. I didn’t have the natural desire to fight the system or question why. I always desired peace and I actually found that I got farther faster by doing what was asked of me, so I obeyed.
But obedience isn’t difficult when things are going smoothly. And for much of my childhood and teenage years, life was just that, smooth.
But the summer of my 23rd birthday, the Lord allowed for me to embark on a painful, challenging experience that forced me to understand obedience at its most difficult – when life hurts. The trudging forward, one foot in front of the other, eyes fully open to the power in the words “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5) type of obedience. The Word of God seems to come alive when we’re most aware of our deepest need.
It was then that I learned something pivotal. Belief must precede obedience. Look at the words of the song: in order to show your belief, you obey. Too often we slip through many years singing the songs, reading the verses, and engaging in the relationships and ministries only to fall apart when the disastrous circumstances of life inevitably come. Why was I so deeply rocked at my core? I don’t like the answer, but it’s true: my belief was weak.
This is what I have learned about obedience thus far in my short 29 years: believers can’t promise other believers a carefree life via the system of obedience. I used to think that obedience kept me free from all trouble. That is simply not true, and believing that God will rescue you from all impending trouble for obeying Him is a dangerous path, rooted in your own selfishness and ultimately destructive in nature.
But we as believers can promise something far greater. Herein lies the beautiful partnership between our belief and obedience.
When we believe that God's love for us is deeper than any human love, that He cares for us more intimately than anyone ever could, that we can humble ourselves before Him and trust Him to continue the good work that He has begun in us (and that none of this is really about us anyhow), then we can obey out of right motivation and we can be okay with the circumstances of life.
Right obedience occurs when we understand that, while we can’t “control” the Lord through our obedience, the Lord does have to discipline differently those who are willing to obey vs. those whose hearts are hardened toward Him. (Proverbs 15:5)
Right obedience occurs when we understand that we will one day stand before the judgment seat of God and give account for how we’ve lived our lives – not to determine whether or not we’ll inherit the kingdom of heaven – but rather to display how deeply and intimately we trusted the Lord during our years on this earth. And while I don’t know that we’ll be overly preoccupied with this in heaven: we'll be rewarded according to what we've done with our lives. (Revelation 22:12)
Ultimately, right obedience occurs when we understand the message of the Gospel and are so compelled in our love for God that we desire to serve Him by doing what He’s asked – even when life doesn’t make sense. (1 John 2:4-5)
God is good; we can trust Him. God is faithful; we can rely on Him. God is love; we can believe Him. And if we believe Him, it’s our pleasure to obey.