Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Obedience: The Essential Spiritual Discipline

"The key to the future is not revelation, but obedience. When we submit our lives to what God has made known, the future becomes clearer to us. When we neglect to do what we know, we begin to live as if we were walking through a fog. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves condemning God for being silent, when in fact we have condemned ourselves for refusing to listen." ~ Erwin McManus; Uprising: A Revolution of the Soul

We talk of many different spiritual disciplines. There is the discipline of study in which we spend time each day not only reading God's Word, but using tools to understand what it says. Prayer is another spiritual discipline that is talked about a lot. Prayer is when we take time to talk with God, our Heavenly Father, communicating to Him what is on our hearts. Prayer is an act of faith. Another spiritual discipline we should have in our lives is fasting. So often we connect this one with food. To us fasting means to go a period of time with out food, and use that time we would be eating to meditate (thinking about God's Word and His working through your life) and pray. Yet we can fast from a number of different things: television, internet, and telephone. Fasting is a spiritual discipline many of us should practice more often. The last spiritual discipline that gets a lot of press is worship. To worship is to devote time to praise God and to let people know of our devotion to Him. These things are good and we should have these things in our lives to help our relationship with God.

Of all the spiritual disciplines that are talked about, one seems to be continually overlooked. That spiritual discipline is obedience. This is obeying God no matter what the personal consequences will be for our lives. It is my belief that we can fill our lives with all these disciplines, but miss out on a true relationship with God because we were not willing to go when God says go, we were not willing to serve when God said serve. We have no trouble with having quiet times or sing songs of praise, but it is another story to obey God and make adjustments in our lives.

King Saul was Israel's first human king. He was humble at the beginning, but time and power turned him into a monster. As a result God gave the kingdom of Israel to David. The last straw in King Saul's ruling was when he refused to obey God and destroy the Amalekites. You can read to story in 1 Samuel 15. Saul was told to kill all the Amalekites and destroy all that they owned. This is what Saul did:
"Saul and his men spared Agag's (the king of the Amalekites) life and kept the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs,everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality" (1 Samuel 15:9; NLT).

Saul did not listen to God; he did not do what God said. Under the guise of obedience Saul went to war with the Amalekites, but he kept what he thought was good and destroyed what was worthless. God desired everything to be destroyed. The partial obedience of Saul was, in fact, disobedience.

God sent the prophet Samuel to confront Saul. This is what happened:
"'But I did obey the LORD,' Saul insisted. 'I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep and cattle and plunder to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.'

"But Samuel replied, 'What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you from being king'"
(1 Samuel 15:20-23; NLT).

Saul, wearing a mask of religion, disobeyed God and justified it with the promise of sacrifice. What God desired, was not the blood and fat of animals, but the obedience of His servant. God wanted a man who would obey Him.

God is much more pleased when we obey Him in the way we live our lives than when we devote time in His Word to balance out the wrong we have done that day. God is more pleased when we take a stand for Him, regardless of the consequences than when we go to give 10 percent of our income out of obligation. God is more pleased when we reach out to some one in need than when we make sure we are in Church every Sunday morning.

The discipline we need most in our lives is not study or prayer, but obedience. God is pleased when we obey Him. That is what He desires from our lives.

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