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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Finding Joy in Obedience




Do you know this story?  I know I do, and if I honestly admit it, at times, it is my own. God tells me to do something that I find terribly difficult, and I find a reason not to listen. If God is the greatest reason for my life, then my obedience is not an option, and it does not just happen. It is born of deep commitment to God. It certainly calls for my personal sacrifice. When it is born of sacrifice, obedience speaks my willingness to submit to God’s desires instead of my own. Often obedience contradicts the desires of my heart.

            We all can find reasons not to obey. “It is too hard for me to do that! I can’t give it up, Lord! I don’t have time to study the Word and pray. Lord, what would others think of me? What if I fail you, Lord? I can’t see how my doing this will help, Lord. I don’t feel the need to do that, Lord.”  The excuses mount until God’s voice echoes like distant thunder. With our backs firmly turned, and our hearts grown cold, we suddenly declare, “I refuse to do that, Lord.”

            Refusing God means the loss of God's presence in our lives. David, when confronted by Nathan for his sin with Bathsheba, immediately repented. “Do not cast me from your presence,” he cried out to God, “or take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). He understood the danger of being separated from God was the loss of God’s presence. His cry for forgiveness speaks of his loving respect for God and his commitment to God’s desires (Psalm 51).

            Solomon refused to listen to the Lord, and allowed his weakness for the things of the world to destroy his relationship with the Lord. Near the end of his life, he looks back on wasted years and declares in Ecclesiastes, Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)! The life of Solomon is a sad account of how he blew the undeserved opportunities God had given him. Chuck Swindoll refers to Ecclesiastes as a “graphic portrayal of a life lived apart from God.”
 
            Jonah ran from the Lord’s instruction to witness to the depraved city of Nineveh, and he ended up in the belly of a whale. It took disaster to bring Jonah a repentant heart. Even following repentance, Jonah argued with the Lord and his obedience was less than perfect.

            The Lord yearns for me to have an obedient heart—one that listens to the conviction and direction of the Holy Spirit as David listened—one which, unlike Jonah,  follows God’s will without argument. I certainly do not wish my life to be likened to Solomon’s—one lived apart from God. It is our responsibility for holiness of heart and obedience to God to be the most important disciplines of our lives.

            Disobedience stems from pride. Longing for personal acceptance by others, it says “no” when the sacrifice involves humility. However, true obedience reveals respect for the cost of Jesus’ sacrifice, and goes where disobedience never will— into the very heart of God. This is where the joy of obedient sacrifice is discovered.

            “Remember this,” Paul wrote, “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (II Corinthians 9:6-8).
           
            God loves a cheerful giver who invests richly in His kingdom through obedience in every area of his life. My compliance to God’s will speaks of joy in my own sacrifice. If I invest with joy, I shall receive the grace of His total supply.  I shall discover His joy in giving—the joy of giving as He gave His life for me.

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