As Believers we know that being obedient to God’s plans benefits God’s Kingdom and us, but that does not mean obedience always comes naturally. Often we find excuses to avoid following God’s will, or alter His instruction in some way. Yet it is His will that keeps us in alignment with His Kingdom purpose and brings us protection and provision. Obedience can be difficult, but the reward is well worth the choice!
Obedience, what it is and what it is not…
As children, we were expected to obey the instructions of our parents/guardians, grandparents, teachers, babysitters, and likely several other adults or older children. A verbal rebuff was enough to return some children to the path of obedience if they strayed, but for others this might not have been so easy… Because children often try to push boundaries. They test the waters and if they meet little resistance—or even at times strong resistance—their obedience can go out the window.
We are God’s children, and while many of us are grown, not all of our childhood behaviors have changed. Some accept the gentle rebuff when we stray from God’s path and rush back. Others want to test the waters, to push boundaries and see where the line of obedience and disobedience rests. But no matter how we personally react, as God’s children obedience remains important. Because obedience aligns us to the will and path of God, it protects us through this alignment and placement, and it allows provision to come so we can do all God asks us to do.
But what is obedience? Does obedience in the world differ from obedience to God?
Obedience in the world can often feel stifling. It lays out what we can do and say, where we can go and how we are to act, and be it through free will or force, we are expected to obey. With children this is typically meant for their good, teaching them how they should be as adults and keeping them safe. With other forms of obedience this can vary from good to pure evil with some opportunities to choose obedience and many more where the choice is taken…
But obedience in God is different. We can choose to accept, refuse, or twist the instruction of God. We can see obedience to Him as a blessing or cursing. And we can walk in obedience, partial obedience, or full-on disobedience. But it is through our obedience to Him that we find freedom. It is there that what is written in our books in Heaven can be made fully manifest. It is through obedience that we not only understand our God better, but are able to see His wonders, love, and kindness in action!
“So Samuel said: ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.“—1 Samuel 15:22
Full Obedience, Partial, and Disobedience
Obedience, full obedience, puts us in alignment with God, protects and provides for us and our call. Unfortunately, many of us are experts at whittling this down to partial obedience or even full-on disobedience; and it is not even usually done maliciously…
For example, let’s say that God tells us to give eight dollars to someone on the street. Full obedience would be to give that exact amount and leave it at that, but it is easy for us to get slightly off track. Depending on our experiences, the way we view the person, our financial state, etc., we can easily find ourselves giving less or more than that amount…
One person God tells to do this might only have that eight dollars on them and still need to get groceries for their family. They may consider the figures in their head, haggling until they fail to give the full eight dollars. Perhaps convincing themselves that God never said eight or that it was not even God who spoke at all… forgetting that it is God who provides. Forgetting that obedience can lead to blessing…
Another person might have millions of dollars and so, upon hearing that they are supposed to give eight dollars to someone, consider the amount too small. They might haggle and even convince themselves that God must have meant some zeros to go behind the eight… until suddenly they are not giving this stranger eight dollars but eight-thousand or even more… forgetting that God knows our needs and the needs of others. That obedience protects not only us, but those we interact with!
Now, this example could just as easily have had the first person being too generous or the second too stingy, but generosity or stinginess is not the key here. The key is obedience, because it is easy for us to believe that we know best. We do not see the purpose behind the eight dollars. We do not understand how straying from that will affect us, that person, and perhaps even dozens of other people down the road. Only God sees how every choice of obedience or disobedience affects the future!
When God tells us to do something, we see only a small window into the situation, which we then filter through our own experience, our judgment and assessment of the situation. And while as children of God we DO have the Holy Spirit inside us to guide us, we may often prefer the sound of our own voice over His. Our own judgements and assessments over His.
God sees the whole picture, and full obedience to His will is like praising Him or giving our tithes… it is saying that we believe He is alive and that He is perfect! It is a way for us to put our trust, hope, faith, and love in Him!
But it is not always easy. Take Ruth’s obedience to Naomi in the book of Ruth. Naomi asked Ruth, a stranger in a strange land who accepted God’s ways, to sneak in the night to lay at the feet of a man! Had Ruth been seen, had Boaz not been the man of God he was, Ruth’s reputation and future in the land could have been destroyed! It must have been hard to be obedient to Naomi. Ruth did not know the blessings it would bring even though the risk was great… but Naomi was led by God, and Ruth, understanding this, decided to obey. To walk in obedience. And it was this obedience that not only brought redemption to Ruth and Naomi, but allowed Ruth to be in the lineage of kings and the King of kings!
Over and over again in the Word we see stories of people who were given a choice. Obedience or disobedience. And it was always obedience that led to alignment, protection, and provision.
From obeying God and crossing the Red Sea to disobeying God about crossing over the Jordan River, Moses and the Children of Israel knew everything from the blessing of obedience to the bitterness of disobedience. While there are times when God provides more than one chance to be obedient to His plans, sometimes, like with the crossing of the Jordan River, there is only one chance—at least within that generation. God’s mercy and grace allowed the generation after Moses the ability to be obedient and cross over into promise, but Moses’ generation lost their chance through disobedience. This may seem harsh after their obedience in crossing the Red Sea, of following after Him… but the mindset of Moses’ generation was not aligned to the level of obedience and trust the call would need. So God, in His mercy, allowed the next generation that same chance for obedience… and they took it!
We can be like the generation Joshua led—the generation that followed after Moses’ generation. We can see a glimpse of the promise and not focus on the obstacles, but on obedience!
Even when we think that we lack finances, skills, time, or whatever it may be. Even when we believe that we are not the right age, gender, or person to do what the Lord is asking us to do. We can still say YES and walk in obedience, trusting in Him! We can set our gaze on our God and decide that He is well able to do anything! That in Him we are more than conquerors! We CAN walk fully in obedience, opening the doors that align us with His will, that provide protection in all He has us do, and sets forth provision for every step of the journey!
Let us accept God’s ways with obedience.
Let us trust that He is more than capable.
Let us walk in faith knowing that when we do the little thing, He does the big thing!