We know the story, because if we honestly admit it, it is our own. God instructs us, and we find a reason not to listen. If God is the love of our life, then obedience is not an option, and it does not just happen. It is born of deep commitment to Him. It certainly calls for personal sacrifice. When it is born of sacrifice, obedience speaks willingness to submit to God’s desires instead of our own. Often obedience contradicts the desires of the heart.
There are many excuses that are used for not following the Lord’s instruction.
“It is too hard for me to do that! I can’t give it up, Lord!”
“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 declare, “I refuse to do that, Lord.” God’s calling is irrevocable (Romans 11:29). We are accountable for it. Refusing God is a dangerous game to play. If we don’t respond to His nudging through Scripture or through circumstance or through the voice of another we leave ourselves open to His scourging. The Holy Spirit will get our attention.
The Bible is filled with examples of those who refused to listen to God’s instruction. Some responded quickly, and others just refused. Yet others after responding were not completely obedient. King David, when confronted by Nathan for his sin with Bathsheba, 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 Him. Near the end of his life, Solomon looked back on wasted years and declared in Ecclesiastes, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)! Solomon’s life is a sad account of how he blew the undeserved opportunities God had given him. Chuck Swindall declares that Solomon’s life was “one 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 a near death experience to bring Jonah to receive a repentant heart. Even following his experience and repentance Jonah argued with the Lord. His obedience was less than perfect.
The Lord cries out for us 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. We certainly do not wish our lives referred to as Solomon’s—one lived apart from God—one that blows the opportunities that God extends. Without holiness we will not see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). We will not experience the joyful fulfillment of His purpose. Holiness rises from a changed heart which continually and unreservedly surrenders to God’s molding. Will we listen and respond with every fiber of our being, or will we refuse? It is our responsibility to obediently allow the Holy Spirit to refine and purify our hearts.