“Obedience” seems to be an uncommon word among believers these days. We sing of God’s love and mercy. We pray. We celebrate His work in our lives—and rightly so! But we don’t talk much about obeying the Lord our God. Maybe obedience is implied in our lessons, devotionals, songs, etc. Or is it that we have focused so much on what God is willing and able to do for us and in us that we don’t think very often about what it means to “Trust and Obey” as the old hymn put it.
The word obedience does have a sort of unpleasant tone to it. It sounds like someone is telling us what we should do or not do. And we certainly don’t like that—even if it is God. And the truth is that obeying God does restrict our daily lives. Whether our take on obedience is positive—“thou shalt do this or that” or negative “thou shalt not,” God has in mind a lifestyle that is different from the one most of us live. That is why God forgives us when we sin. But God’s willingness to forgive when we fail is no excuse for ignoring God’s commands and expectations.
So, does obedience call for us to keep a “score card,” keeping track of our hits and misses? Does it threaten us with God’s anger or punishment if we don’t measure up or at least get a passing grade? If so, then obedience breeds in us the worst kind of legalism. But what if we consider obedience as a way to make God smile? What if we obey because we see how our obedience, lived out in our everyday lives, brings glory to God? What if the root of our obedience is love for God and a deep appreciation for all He has done, is doing, and will do in our lives? What if we recognize that obeying God gives direction and meaning and purpose to our lives? Questions, questions, but a good long look at the way we say “yes” to the Lord by our obedience is important.
You and I readily admit that we live in a time and world that is fast-paced, often confusing, sometimes hectic. Right and wrong are being turned upside down. Our nation, the world as a whole, is being divided into self-exalting “tribes.” Materialism and secularism (removing religion from public life) increasingly dominate our environment. Science is trying to insure that we live longer, but science cannot tell us why we should live longer. It has no answer to what is the meaning of life.
God has an answer. God had a purpose in creating all that is, in creating humankind. That purpose has not changed. He created us to give Him glory and to enjoy fellowship with Him. That’s where obedience comes into the picture. To give God glory means to honor Him, to give Him value in our lives. To enjoy fellowship with Him is to live the life He has for us, to live as God wants us to live.
The Bible describes obedience both in terms of what we are to do and not to do. Speaking positively, when God’s Old Testament people asked “What does God want? Does He want me even to sacrifice my son?” The prophet answered, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NASB). On the avoidance side, the Bible describes things we are not to do, things which God knows are “killers”—greed, hatred, immorality, hatred of others, envy. These are “land mines” that wound our souls when we fall to them. And our failure often brings shame and sorrow to those around us.
One final absolutely wonderful point about obedience. God gives us the grace to obey. God does not leave us on our own to sink or swim, obey or disobey. Tight-jawed obedience in which we obey God simply out of fear or even to prove to others how good we are does not bring glory to our Heavenly. God loves us. He knows what kind of living is good and healthy. He knows what life gives us freedom to bless His name as we also bless those around us. But that “with God” life requires us to “Trust and Obey.”