“You show that you are my intimate friends when you obey all that I command you. I have never called you ‘servants,’ because a master doesn’t confide in his servants, and servants don’t always understand what the master is doing. But I call you my most intimate friends, for I reveal to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father.” (John 15:14–15, TPT)
Obedience. It’s something that we (hopefully) have learned and practiced since childhood. Parents, teachers, and coaches alike condition children to obey through rewards and recognition. I don’t know about you, but I was a fairly compliant child. Except when I wasn’t. I found it easy to obey when there was something in it for me—a sticker on my chore chart, allowance, and good grades. But if there wasn’t a motivating factor with a shiny prize at the end, I didn’t always want to obey. Maybe you can relate, friend?
Obedience is not just about our outward behavior. For me, as a child, I obeyed when I felt like it and usually to avoid getting into trouble or to earn a reward. But it usually wasn’t motivated by a heart full of love. It was actually rooted in fear of being “bad” or doing things wrong. A child who obeys to avoid punishment or negative consequences may for all intents and purposes appear to be a child who is kind and gracious. But God knows our hearts. And friends, my heart was very sick. I found it much more convenient and appealing to obey when I wanted to and then lie when obedience wasn’t appealing. You can only imagine how exhausting that was!
Friends, obedience is not meant to be painful or to catapult us into suffering. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Our God is a God of love, peace, and kindness. Everything He asks us to do He was willing to do himself. Our Savior is the perfect example of obedience. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8).
Although obedience was never meant to painful, it often can be—because we are humans and struggle to remember that our flesh has been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). Jesus’ obedience brought Him to death on the cross. Likewise, our obedience will lead us to death—the death of our flesh and our selfish desires. We are a forgetful people, and we fail to remember that we walk in new life with Him. When the enemy attempts to trap us into thinking that our flesh and our own ways are better, we can believe the lie that God is not for us.
Disobedience stems from a root problem of unbelief. If we believe that God is good and that He is for us, we will gladly and gratefully respond to His great love with obedient and willing hearts. But we often take His love for granted, and our rose-colored lenses prefer to see that our ways are somehow more effective and beneficial than His perfectly sovereign plans for our lives.
In Genesis, we read of how God asks Abraham to sacrifice his own son. Isaac was a miracle child, born to elderly and previously barren parents. Why would God ask Abraham to do such a thing? How could a loving God require this from His servant? Yet Abraham went without delay. He obeyed without question, trusting that God would reveal Himself, even in this confusing situation. God’s response through the angel surely brought great relief:
“‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’
And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.
So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The Lord will provide,’ as it is to this day, ‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.’” (Genesis 22:12-14)
I don’t know about you, friends, but I often want to know the answers to all of my questions before I obey. But that is rarely, if ever, the way God works. He provides just enough light for each step of the way. If Abraham had chosen to hesitate, doubt, and question God, he would not have had the opportunity to see Him provide in a miraculous way. He would have missed the opportunity to enter into an even deeper intimacy with His Heavenly Father. But God knew. He knew what He was asking, and Abraham chose to trust Him, even without knowing. So it comes to this: will we trust God or not? Because when we trust Him, we obey Him. And when we obey Him, we get to know Him, which is the greatest prize there is.