Continuing our series on ''the fruit of longsuffering,'' in the next few articles we want to turn our attention to what it means to obey and love the Lord. When we encounter various trials and tribulations, we have two choices we can make. We can either doubt the Lords Love and provision, which leads to personal confusion and spiritual devastation; or, we can unconditionally trust and obey Him to an even greater degree.
Our obedience shows the Lord that we trust Him. In other words, by doing in action what He has asked, even though we might not feel like it, we show our absolute reliance upon Him.
I remember as a young Christian, hearing about all the Old Testament saints and how it was only after they took a step of obedience, that the Lord would manifest Himself to them. And, because they unconditionally obeyed Him, they were able to go on and do incredible things for Him.
Did they always ''feel like'' doing what He asked of them? I certainly dont think so. I dont think Abraham ''felt like'' sacrificing his only son. (Genesis 22) I dont think Moses ''felt like'' leaving his family and fleeing into the wilderness. And, I dont think Joseph ''wanted to'' serve in Potiphars house or be in prison for years. No, all of these men chose to do these things purely out of obedience! And, because they did, God manifested Himself to them. Therefore, obedience always comes before sight. Only after we take that step of obedience will the Lord reveal Himself to us.
Consequently, the response that God desires when a trial or tragedy hits is for us to unconditionally trust Him enough to obey Him. No matter what we see happening or how we feel, we must unreservedly trust His Love and take that obedient step, knowing that somehow and someway He will use our situation for our good and His glory.
To obey God simply means to set aside and relinquish what we think, what we want and what pleases us; and, by faith choose to do whatever He has asked. Ive learned the hard way that obedience is the only answer. Ive learned to obey God even when its the last thing in the world that I want to do. I have tried all the other ways and obedience truly is the only way that works.
Ive learned that I must unequivocally obey, because only then will God be free to work out the circumstances in my life according to His will. Until I choose to obey, those circumstances are still my responsibility. But once I choose to relinquish myself over to Him, those circumstances then become His responsibility.
An Example: Raw Eggs
Heres a silly, but graphic, personal example:
Many years ago, Chuck and I had an evening planned at the Music Center in Los Angeles with some very important business friends who were non-believers. Because we lived in Orange County and it was at least an hours drive to Los Angeles, we had to pick up these friends by five oclock in order to make dinner on time.
As it happened, that day was my carpool day for Michelle. (She was probably around 6 at the time.) I figured if I got all the girls home by 3:30 p.m., Id still have plenty of time to get dressed and pick up our friends by five.
That afternoon, however, one of the little girls in the carpool smashed her finger in the car door as she was getting in. We had to rush her back into school, soak her finger, call her mother and do some TLC (tender loving care). I lost half an hour there.
When Michelle and I finally got home, I noticed a horrible smell coming from the back of the car. It turned out to be one of the little girls carton of spoiled milk that had spilled. Since this was the car I was using that evening, I needed to do an extra special job of cleaning up the mess so it wouldnt stink. I lost another 15 minutes there. (I think the Lysol smell after cleaning it was probably worse than that of the spoiled milk!)
When I finished with the car, I rushed into the house to make a souffl. I was hosting a luncheon the next day for twelve women, and I needed to make some last-minute preparations. (The souffl needed to be made a day in advance in order to sit in the refrigerator overnight.)
I had one special pan that I used to make a souffl; none of my other pans worked. For some reason, that day I couldnt find it. After spending ten anxious minutes opening and shutting all the cupboards in my kitchen, trying to find my pan, I remembered we had lent our house to some people over Christmas. I thought perhaps by mistake they had taken it home.
So I called, and after several minutes of chit chat, the wife verified that, yes, she had my pan. She said she could return it the next day. ''No, thank you,'' I said, ''Thats too late; I need it now. Thank you anyway.''
By now it was 4:15 p.m.! I wasnt dressed, the souffl wasnt made, the kids werent fed, and I was beginning to get a little panicked. I took out another pan, threw in all the ingredients and tried to stir. But the bowl was too small and I couldnt mix it properly. In desperation, I threw the whole mixture (a quart of milk, a dozen eggs, mustard, Worcester-shire sauce, etc.) into my new Cuisinart, not realizing that liquids cant go above the two-inch tube in the center or they will overflow. And, thats exactly what happened!
Twelve raw eggs and one quart of milk began to ooze out all over the counter, down the sides of the cabinets, into the drawers, down my legs, into my shoes, and onto the floor. It was now 4:30 p.m. By this time I was totally out of control! I began to scream, kick, and yell. (Have you ever been there? Can you identify?)
God gently tapped me on the shoulder and asked, ''Nancy, will you choose right now to obey Me? Do you love Me that much?'' God wanted me to choose, at that very moment, to relinquish my anger, my frustration, and my anxiety to Him, and not allow those wild emotions to direct my actions anymore.
Do you know how hard it is, in the middle of a ''fit,'' to stop, turn around, and choose to act in a calm manner? Its impossible; its totally supernatural!
But, as I have said, I have learned over all these years that I have been a Christian, that no other way works. I literally have tried every other way possible and none works. So out loud, almost crying, right there in the middle of the egg yolks, I made that commitment to God that I would obey Him.
Now I certainly didnt feel like it; it was totally a faith choice, a non-feeling choice. I consciously relinquished my anger, my frustrations, and all of my distraught feelings. I confessed that they were obviously not of faith and were therefore sin. And I asked Him to purge them from me.
In other words, I barred myself from following my unruly feelings by determining not to give in to them; instead, giving them to God and doing what He was asking me to do. Then I asked God to help me get ready on time, to pick up our friends by five, and be a genuine representation of Him that evening.
God is so faithful. Grandma arrived to take care of the kids, which left me free to run upstairs and find a perfect outfit to wear. I jumped in the shower and did what I could with my disheveled hair. I was only 15 minutes late picking those people up that night, and yet we were right on time for the dinner and the show in Los Angeles!
The best part of the whole evening was experiencing Gods Love, not only for me personally, but flowing through me that night to our friends. Can you imagine what kind of a Godly representative I would have been had I not made that choice in the kitchen to obey God?
I think I fed the ladies sandwiches the next day.
Three Steps of Obedience
Now, since the word ''obedience'' is such a very broad term, lets narrow it down just a bit. There are three essential parts to obeying God. They are:
- Out of obedience, we must learn to ''love'' (agapao) Him;
- Out of obedience, we must learn how to moment-by-moment renew our minds; and
- Out of obedience, we must learn how to have unshakable faith in all circumstances.
Again, at first glance, you might think, ''Oh, those are easy! Im already doing them! Whats so new?'' I assure you, however, that these principles are not what you might first imagine and they are far from being easy!
For example, most of us havent the faintest idea of what the Bible really means when it says we are ''to love God.'' Most of us think that simply means ''affection'' love. But nothing could be further from the truth. And renewing our minds is far more than what one might first expect. Did you know the battle for our lives is really waged in our minds and if we dont learn how to renew them daily, the enemy will end up in control? And finally, naked faith is not only trusting what God does through us, its also trusting what He does towards us.
In our next few newsletter articles, we will take a look at each of these three principles of obedience and see how we can learn to respond as God would have us to do.
''Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.'' (Hebrews 5:8)
* * *
To be continued next month: ''Learning to Love (agapao) God.'' This article has been excerpted in part from Nans new book, Never Give Up: The Fruit of Longsuffering.