When my oldest son was about 2 years old, he and I became engaged in a stand-off. He was a "very busy little boy" (which is nice mom code for "really naughty") and extremely strong willed. The stand-off occurred because it became obvious where he got his strong willed tendencies. Neither one of us was going to give.
He had slipped into the bathroom undetected, and when I found him, he was surrounded by Q tips. He had discovered the unnecessarily large package and thought it would be great fun to decorate the bathroom floor.
In retrospect, I could have been one of those fun moms who ran to get the camera (before cell phones mind you) to capture this oh, so funny moment, but at that point it wasn't funny. The humor was wearing thin with such scenarios and after all who could pass by the great teaching moment.
The lesson fell a little short because I was under the assumption that since I was the parent and he was the child, this would be easy. I expected him to obey the simple instructions that I gave him: to pick up every last one of the Q tips and put it back into the bowl I had set in the middle of the room. I couldn't have made it any clearer.
But the stand off ensued and although it's a bit fuzzy now I am pretty sure he ended up being sent to time out after what seemed like a very long battle, and I was the one to put every last Q tip into the bowl.
Looking back on that experience now, it seems ridiculous that he thought he needed to be so stubborn about doing such a simple task. Neither he nor I could probably explain why, but obedience seemed to be out of the question. It almost seemed painful for him to let loose of the control he thought he had to submit to my authority, even though time and time again it ended up being costly for him not to,
I often think back on that moment and picture me in the same situation. I'm not surrounded by Q tips, but by the things that I know God wants me to do, or often not do. The instructions are clear and it is in my best interest to obey. Only in this scenario, God doesn't expect obedience out of His own stubbornness and desire to win the battle, but because his motive of love is much more pure than mine.
My son did slowly learn that it was in his best interest to obey, not just his parents but others in the position of authority. But it didn't come without a struggle. Thankfully he became one of the best men I know. He has a tender heart, is unbelievably creative, honorable and ethical, and his strong willed nature drives a tremendous work ethic.
The obedience he has learned over time has served him well. I'm sure he, like all of us, however still struggles with his obedience to the Lord because it is honestly painful. Even as adults, it's hard to let loose of the control we think we have and submit to someone's authority.
The concept of obedience has really been on my mind lately and I feel like God has been looking at all of my Q tips while wondering when I'm finally going to start doing what He tells me to do. I'm tired of the internal battle it's become, the mess it creates, and the pain that comes with it. Most of all, my disobedience is holding me back.
That's why my "One Word" for 2017 is OBEDIENCE.
A few years ago, while in a ladies Bible Study, we studied the book "My One Word" by Mike Ashcraft. Instead of making several resolutions that overwhelm us and ones we aren't truly committed to, we learned to pray for one word that encompasses the area of growth we feel God wants us to pursue in the coming year.
The first year, my word was TRUST. The second year, it was INTENTIONAL. This year, it's interesting to see how learning to trust God and having the desire to be intentional in living my life for Him has funneled down to the root of obedience. I can trust Him all I want and have all the intentions in the world, but if I'm still choosing to ignore what I read in His Word, we're going to be in a constant stand off.
Since obedience can be hard for me, I had to create my own "infomertial" and identify why obedience to God is important. I had to have valid points to turn to when it got hard. Points that would stand up against any arguments or rationalizations I could throw at them. Here's what I came up with:
1. God deserves our obedience. Period.
We don't obey because we will be rewarded or saved from harm, we simply obey Him because He is God.
1 Chronicles 29:11 says, "Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all."
Because of who God is, we can't separate His majesty from His love. We all respond better to authority when we feel cared for and God loves us more than we can understand. It's response to His love that needs to drive the desire to please Him with our obedience.
"When we preach the love of God there is a danger of forgetting that the Bible reveals not first the love of God but the intense blazing holiness of God, with His love at the center of that holiness." Oswald Chambers
2. It is in our best interest to follow God's instructions.
Every box of prepared meals come with instructions on the container, which were designed by the creator of the product to insure a great outcome. The steps are clear and if the cook totally disregards the instructions and takes an entirely different approach it, it could be a disaster.
That's how it is with the Bible. It is written by the One who made us. He knows what we are designed to handle, what will cause us pain if we get off track, what will make us happy, healthy, prosperous and successful. If we ignore those instructions we get bogged down and affect our best outcome. Maybe not immediately, but regrets and pain often come.
Most of all, our obedience creates holiness. Holiness, or becoming more like God, is what we were created for and it's our ultimate goal. When we don't walk with God and follow His instructions, we work against this goal and it hinders our relationship with Him.
Both athletes and those driven professionally, identify what helpful behaviors they need to add into their lives as well as the destructive ones they need to eliminate to meet the goals they have set for themselves. We do well to use that same model in the spiritual realm.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Jesus (John 15:5)
3. If we live a life of obedience and discipline, we bring honor to God through our actions. If we claim to have a relationship with God we become His representatives. When we choose to behave in ways that are contrary to His teachings then we cause confusion, distrust, and damage to those we are connected to.
On the flip side, our service to God can become the focus, and suddenly living a life of holiness becomes less about God and more about us. We can loose sight of the goal and become disconnected. We are reminded in 1 Samuel 15:22 that "to obey is better than sacrifice."
"One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons." Dietrich Bonnhoffer
The problem with obedience is that it often costs us something. Something we don't want to give up. We fall for the deception that God is keeping something good from us instead of protecting us from being hurt. It takes a lot of trust and a willingness to die to our own desires.
Now with the motivations outlined, I set out to find examples of people who have modeled obedience, even when the cost seemed high, to serve as an incentive. Two powerful testimonies suddenly came my way.
The first is from Rosaria Butterfield who spoke of what obeying God's Word cost her. After realizing some truths from Scripture about her lifestyle, she decided that she needed to walk away from her companion and the life they had built together. She was willing to do the hard thing and testifies to the ways God has blessed her choice to follow Him.
The other is a story of a young man whose father purposefully injected him with a vile of HIV virus in retaliation to an ongoing custody battle. After untold suffering, Bryyan Jackson tells about a dark moment of contemplating suicide when he was 13 years old. He "found" a Bible and read about God's plan for salvation through Jesus Christ. He made the seemingly impossible choice to forgive his father. With that forgiveness came the freedom and peace that he was so desperate for and has provided him with a deep purpose to share that hope with others.
My own biggest struggle with obedience comes in the area of forgiveness as well. I've been fooled into thinking it will serve as a protective shield from further hurt so it's really hard to give up. It often seems unfair since I can convince myself that it's justified. These arguments don't hold up to the reasons I have come up with for living in obedience since God clearly tells me throughout His word that I need to forgive as He has forgiven me. I'm either going to choose to do it or not.
Hearing the testimonies of these faithful followers of Christ serves as a great example that obedience is the best choice and that if they can do it, so can I.
Jesus' example of obedience in Scripture gives us the ultimate example and He ensures us that we can indeed do it with God's help through the power of Holy Spirit.
My word is OBEDIENCE. It can be a part of living a simply uncluttered life if I let it. Obeying the Word of God can actually be quite simple. What I hope to do is clear out the loopholes I try to add in to avoid doing what needs to be done. I encourage you to choose a word of your own so that 2017 can be a pivotal year for us all!
"To have Faith in Christ means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you."