What We Can Expect from Obeying God
God never intended for us to be harassed about the decisions we make each day. Sometimes when we pray, we immediately discern the will of God. Other times, we must wait, trusting Him to show us when and how to move forward. At still other times, He spends a great deal of time preparing us to step forward through an open door. But when the opportunity comes, we hesitate with feelings of worry and doubt. Then there are situations that result from a relaxed attitude about purity and holiness.
I cannot begin to count the number of times I asked a person why he or she allowed sin to gain such a stronghold. One man confessed that he had been around a certain type of sin most of his life. He did not have a clue about its influence on him until he realized that he did not have the joy and peace that he believed a Christian should experience. He had moments of happiness but nothing that lasted. He noticed that every time he tried to pray, his mind filled with images that were sinful and wrong. The enemy knows when we have withheld our obedience to God. Like a well-trained warrior, he moves in for the attack, but often his approach is not a full frontal assault. It is subtle and hidden, like a landmine just below the surface. The mistake we make is in assuming that we can ignore God’s commandment to obey Him and not suffer harm.
The bottom line is that there is never a time when it is OK to disobey God. We should obey Him regardless of what we think or how we feel. It is a matter of choice, but one that many Christians do not yet understand or submit to. Far too often, people evaluate their circumstances according to what they perceive will profit them: How will this help me get ahead? or Will this move be beneficial to my future? We say we believe God is all-wise and knows what is best for us, but often we end up looking for advice from people around us and not from the only One who knows everything we need to know. We need to consider only one issue: Is this God’s will for my life?
Disobedience is not always wrapped in a sinful-looking package. Yes, it is sinful to disobey God because it hurts the heart of Someone who has a plan for our lives. It damages our fellowship with Him and leads to feelings of guilt and shame. But far too often when we hear the word disobedience, we think of a sexual sin or some habit that is just dead wrong. However, we disobey God when we refuse to do what He has gifted, trained and called us to do. Our refusal to be open to His plan can bring misery and regret. On our own, we do not have significant insight into the future. All we can do is make choices based on what may or may not take place. When all is said and done, only one Person has absolute knowledge, and that is the Lord. And He has promised to provide the guidance we need:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.
We can worry, fret and fume about an issue that God has already dealt with and has moved on to another point. But if we trust Him, we will obey Him each and every time. Being obedient does not mean that we will never face difficult decisions. It means that when we do, we will resolve that He has gone before us; and because we have committed our lives to Him, the way we travel will be straight, sure and manageable. The prophet Isaiah reassured us:
The Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58:11)
Notice that both passages of Scripture speak of physical health and well-being. That is what obedience does for us. It disposes of the raw emotions that tie us up in knots inside.
You may be living in complete obedience, and yet you are battling a serious illness. Your situation does not mean you have done something wrong. On the other hand, if you believe in God but refuse to trust Him completely or to obey Him, then you are going to feel stressed, pressured, out of control and fearful. Disobedience can be as simple as not trusting Him to take care of your immediate need at home, in your community or on your job.
On many occasions I have talked with educators who confess to feeling utterly burned out. They have short emotional fuses and are tired. When I ask them if they have shared all of this with the Lord in prayer, many look surprised and comment that they felt He was already aware of their needs. Part of the obedience process is learning to open your hands to Him and give Him your deepest cries of frustration. Healing cannot take place when you are holding on to hurt or frustration. Lay it on His altar and allow Him to restore you. There are many facets surrounding obedience but only one way to accomplish it, and that is through surrender to the One who loves you and has a plan for your life and circumstances.
Friends are God-given resources, but they may provide unwise counsel and wrong information. The very thing they feel is the best for your life may not be what God wants you to do. Therefore, it is always best to listen to their counsel, especially when they are committed believers, but also to pray and ask the Lord to make His will absolutely clear so you will not take a wrong turn-mentally, emotionally, spiritually or physically. You can avoid a lot of heartache by obeying God.