Category  |  Obedience

Life to the Full

When I stopped by to visit my sister’s family, my nephews eagerly showed me their new chore system, a set of Choropoly boards. Each colorful electronic board keeps track of their chores. A job well done means the kids can hit a green button, which adds points to their “spending” account. A misdeed like leaving the back door open results in a fine being deducted from the total. Since a high-points total leads to exciting rewards such as computer time—and misdeeds deduct from that total—my nephews are now unusually motivated to do their work and to keep the door closed!

The ingenious system had me joking that I wished I had such an exciting motivational tool! But of course God has given us motivation. Rather than simply commanding obedience, Jesus has promised that a life of following Him, while costly, is also a life of abundance, “life . . . to the full” (John 10:10). Experiencing life in His kingdom is worth “one hundred times” the cost—now and eternally (Mark 10:29–30).

 We can rejoice in the fact that we serve a generous God, One who does not reward and punish as we deserve. He generously accepts our weakest efforts—even welcoming and rewarding latecomers to His kingdom as generously as old-timers (see Matt. 20:1–16). In light of this reality, let us joyfully serve Him today.

Giving in to Jesus

They call it “The Devil’s Footprint.” It’s a foot-shaped impression in the granite on a hill beside a church in Ipswich, Massachusetts. According to local legend the “footprint” happened one fall day in 1740, when the evangelist George Whitefield preached so powerfully that the devil leaped from the church steeple, landing on the rock on his way out of town.

Though it’s only a legend, the story calls to mind an encouraging truth from God’s Word. James 4:7 reminds us, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  

God has given us the strength we need to stand against our adversary and the temptations in our lives. The Bible tells us that “sin shall no longer be your master” (Rom. 6:14) because of God’s loving grace to us through Jesus Christ. As we run to Jesus when temptation comes, He enables us to stand in His strength. Nothing we face in this life can overcome Him, because he has “overcome the world” (John 16:33).

As we submit ourselves to our Savior, yielding our wills to Him in the moment and walking in obedience to God’s Word, He is helping us. When we give in to Him instead of giving in to temptation, He is able to fight our battles. In Him we can overcome.

Soaking Up God's Word

When our son Xavier was a toddler, we took a family trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. As we entered the building, I pointed to a large sculpture suspended from the ceiling. “Look. A humpback whale.”

Xavier’s eyes widened. “Enormous,” he said.

My husband turned to me. “How does he know that word?”

“He must have heard us say it.” I shrugged, amazed that our toddler had soaked up vocabulary we’d never intentionally taught him.

In Deuteronomy 6, God encouraged His people to be intentional about teaching younger generations to know and obey the Scriptures. As the Israelites increased their knowledge of God, they and their children would be more likely to grow in reverence of Him and to enjoy the rewards that come through knowing Him intimately, loving Him completely, and following Him obediently (vv. 2–5).

By intentionally saturating our hearts and our minds with Scripture (v. 6), we will be better prepared to share God’s love and truth with children during our everyday activities (v. 7). Leading by example, we can equip and encourage young people to recognize and respect the authority and relevance of God’s unchanging truth (vv. 8–9).

As God’s words flow naturally from our hearts and out of our mouths, we can leave a strong legacy of faith to be passed down from generation to generation (4:9).

Driven by God

A few months ago I received an email inviting me to join a community of “driven people.’ I decided to look up the word driven, and I learned that a driven person is someone highly motivated to succeed and who will work hard to achieve his goals.

Is it good to be a driven person? There is a test that never fails: “Do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Many times we do things for self-glory. After the flood in Noah’s day, a group of people decided to build a tower in order to “make a name” for themselves (Gen. 11:4). They wanted to be famous and avoid being scattered all over the world. Because they were not doing it for God's glory, though, they were erroneously driven.

In contrast, when King Solomon dedicated the ark of the covenant and the newly constructed temple, he said, “I have built the temple for the Name of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:20). Then he prayed, “May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands” (v. 58).

When our greatest desire is to bring glory to God and walk in obedience, we become driven people who seek to love and serve Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Let our prayer echo Solomon’s. May our “hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands” (v. 61).

Table Rock

A large, illuminated cross stands erect on Table Rock, a rocky plateau overlooking my hometown. Several homes were built on neighboring land, but recently the owners have been forced to move out due to safety concerns. The homes have been shifting atop their foundations—nearly three inches every day—causing risk of major water pipes breaking, which would accelerate the sliding. Despite their close proximity to the firm bedrock of Table Rock, these homes aren’t secure.

Jesus compares those who hear and obey His words to those who build their homes on rock (Luke 6:47–48). These homes survive the storms. By contrast, He says homes built without a firm foundation—like people who don’t heed His instruction—cannot weather the torrents.

On many occasions, I’ve been tempted to ignore my conscience when I knew God asked more of me than I had given, thinking my response had been “close enough.” Yet the homes in the shifting foothills nearby have depicted for me that being “close” is nowhere near enough when it comes to obeying Him. To be like those who built their homes on a firm foundation and withstand the storms of life that so often assail us, we must heed the words of our Lord completely.

Doing What He Says

I needed an underground water tank and knew precisely how I wanted it constructed, so I gave clear instructions to the builder. The next day when I inspected the project, I was annoyed when I realized that he had failed to carry out my instructions. He had changed the plan and therefore the effect. The excuse he gave was as irritating as his failure to follow my directives.

As I watched him redo the concrete work, and as my frustration diminished, a guilty conviction swept over me: How many times have I needed to redo things in my life in obedience to the Lord?

Like the ancient Israelites who frequently failed to do what God asked them to do, we too often go our own way. Yet obedience is a desired result of our deepening relationship with God. Moses told the people, "Be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you . . . . Walk in obedience to all that [he] has commanded you" (Deut. 5:32–33). Long after Moses, Jesus urged His disciples to trust Him and to love one another.

This is still the kind of surrender of our hearts that leads to our well-being. As the Spirit helps us to obey, it is refreshing to remember that He “works in [us] to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).

Tactical Distractions

It became painfully clear the first time my wife and I collaborated on a writing project that procrastination was going to be a major obstacle. Her role was to edit my work and keep me on schedule; my role seemed to be to drive her crazy. Most times, her organization and patience outlasted my resistance to deadlines and direction.   

I promised to have a certain amount of writing done by the end of one day. For the first hour, I plugged away diligently.  Satisfied with what I’d accomplished so far, I decided to take a break. Before I knew it, my time was up. In trouble for sure, I thought of a way out. I set about doing a couple of chores my wife despised and which always netted me praise when I did them. 

My plan failed.

I sometimes play the same games with God. He brings specific people into my life He wants me to serve or tasks He wants me to accomplish. Like Jonah, who went another way when God gave Him an assignment (Jonah 4:2), I need to set aside my own feelings. I often try to impress God with good deeds or spiritual activity when what He really wants is obedience to His priorities. Inevitably, my plan fails.

Are you dodging duties God makes clear He wants you to tackle? Trust me (or Jonah): Real contentment comes from doing it in His strength and in His way. 

Important Reminders

Anthropologist Anthony Graesch says that the outside of a refrigerator reveals what’s important to people. During a research study of families in Los Angeles, Graesch and his colleagues noted an average of 52 items posted on the fridge—including school schedules, family photos, children’s drawings and magnets. Graesch calls the refrigerator “a repository of family memory.”

The Lord may use a tangible item like a photo, keepsake, or Scripture verse to remind us of His faithfulness and the call to obey His Word. When Moses addressed the Israelites just before they entered the land of Canaan, he urged them to keep all the commands God had given them.  “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road . . . write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates”  (Deut. 6:7, 9). 

Giving God’s word a visible place of honor in their homes and lives was a powerful daily reminder to “be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you . . . out of the land of slavery.” (v. 12).

Today the Lord encourages us to remember that as we obey His Word, we can depend on His faithful care for all that lies ahead. 

Not a Simple Story

Life seems straightforward in the laws of the Old Testament. Obey God and get blessed. Disobey Him and expect trouble. It’s a satisfying theology. But is it that simple?

King Asa’s story seems to fit the pattern. He led his people away from false gods and his kingdom thrived (2 Chron. 15:1-19). Then late in his reign, he depended on himself instead of God (16:2-7) and the rest of his life was marked by war and illness (v. 12).

            It’s easy to look at that story and draw a simple conclusion. But when the prophet Hanani warned Asa, he said that God will “strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (16:9). Why do our hearts need strengthening? Because doing the right thing may require courage and perseverance.

Job got the starring role in a cosmic tragedy. His crime? “He [was] blameless and upright” (Job 1:8). Joseph, falsely accused of attempted rape, languished in prison for years—to serve God’s good purposes (Gen. 39:19–41:1). And Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks (Jer. 20:2). What was the prophet’s offense? Telling the truth to rebellious people (26:15).

Life is not simple, and God’s ways are not our ways. Making the right decision may come at a cost. But in God’s eternal plan, His blessings arrive in due time.