Thursday, August 27, 2009

The First Step of Obedience

I believe that the reason many of us are frustrated in our relationship with God is because of our refusal to really live a life of faith. We are willing to follow Jesus as long as His path seems the right path to take. As soon as it looks like Jesus is leading us off course we will revert back to doing our own thing (which is what we were doing anyway, it just so happened that we thought Jesus was right at the time).

Think about the reality that we will love people, as long as they are people we like and get along with. We will forgive people if as longs as they didn’t hurt us too badly. We will give money, as long as we have some to spare for that new TV we want to get. We will sacrifice as long as there is something in it for us.

Consider this question: What if the life God wants us to live is found on the other side of doing those things that don’t make sense to us? One of the fundamental beliefs that I have is that when we don’t trust Jesus by following His teaching and example; then we miss out on the life God created us to live.

A life of faith isn’t just about acknowledging Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, but it is also trusting Him with the way we live everyday. Think about what John Ortberg wrote in his book If You Want to Walk On Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat:
“If I am going to experience a greater measure of God’s power in my life, it will usually involve the first-step principle. It will usually begin by my acting in faith—trusting God enough to take a step of obedience. Simply acknowledging information about his power is not enough. I have to get my feet wet.” (p. 80)

Many of us haven’t experienced God at work in our lives because we haven’t taken that step of faith. We have been hesitate to get our feet wet and leave the “safety” of what we know. This fear of the unknown paralyzes us and keeps us from living the life God wants us to live.

There is a man we read about in the Gospels that had this very problem.

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.” And he said to him, Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth. And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22; ESV)

Jesus asked the Rich Young Man was to do a very difficult task that didn't make a lot of sense. It is easy to criticize this Young Man on this side of history, but imagine Jesus asking you to do the very same thing. Wouldn’t you try to change Jesus’ mind? After all what Jesus asks of this Rich Young Man is rather extreme.

Since it is extreme we generally apply this passage by saying we have to be willing to give up anything that gets in the way of our relationship with God. I don't think that is the application. The application is that we have to do anything Jesus asks us to do, even though we may not understand His command. It is easy to say I am willing to do something; it is quite another thing to actually do it. Here is what Ortberg writes about this incident:
Maybe your boat is success. That was the case for the rich young ruler in the Bible. Jesus asked him to get our of the boat (“sell all that you have, give the money to the poor, and come follow me”) but he decided not to. He had a very nice boat. A yacht. It handled well, and he liked it too much to give it up.

I wonder sometimes if he ever thought about that encounter with Jesus when he reached the end of his life--when he was an old man and his bank account, stock portfolio, and trophy case were full. Did he ever remember the day a carpenter’s son called him to risk the whole thing for one wild bet on the kingdom of God--and he said no? (If You Want to Walk on Water You have to Get Out of the Boat; p. 18)

When we refuse to trust Jesus to lead us by not obeying His will, then we will experience sadness in our lives. The relationship we could have with Jesus remains elusive, not because God doesn't love us, but because we are not willing to trust and obey God. How can Jesus lead us if we are unwilling to follow?

Think about all the wonderful experiences you have missed out on because you refused to trust Jesus. This has been a thought I have pondered a lot this past week. I have not trusted God the way I should and I have not always followed Jesus where He led. By not doing things He has asked me to do I have missed out experiencing Him at work in the world. By doing things He has command me not to do I have hurt people and taken myself a little further away from Him.

We become frustrated and disillusioned in our relationship with God because we have not lived by faith, rather we have lived by sight. When God said go here we stayed put with the things already knew. To have a relationship with God requires us to live a life of faith. Do you trust Jesus enough to follow Him wherever He leads?

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