Obedience is tough.
If you’re anything like me, you struggle with obedience too.
Whether it’s being obedient to your schedule, to another person, to an exercise regimen or to God, we all struggle. At least everyone I know does…maybe you’re different?!
The interesting thing, though, is we all know there are many benefits to being disciplined and obedient in the right context. The easiest place to see the benefits is in our physical appearance. When we are obedient to our desire to lose weight, or be fit, we feel better physically and mentally; and eventually, we look better physically too. But when we’re obedient to our school schedule, we learn and feel better about ourselves. When we are obedient to our boss, at a minimum, we save ourselves trouble at work and may even get promoted or get a raise.
But we struggle, even though we know being obedient or disciplined usually brings positive results. Why?
Doesn't being obedient seem like you're fighting against yourself? It sure does to me, anyway.
Obedience has a negative connotation. Maybe it’s because our first experience with it is as a child being obedient to our parents. We grow up learning that if we want to do something and they don’t want us to, then we’re supposed to obey them. And that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? We’ve connected obedience with not getting to do what we want. Discipline has been relegated in most of our minds to the same place
Maybe we need to change our outlook? Maybe we need a fresh perspective? Changing our beliefs about discipline and obedience won’t be easy and will probably take a lifetime to accomplish, but with God’s help, it can be done.
Obedience can be exhausting
Obedience driven by fear or duty brings legalism and feelings of inadequacy. Just look at the Ten Commandments or even something as simple as the speed limit. They both present a standard we’re supposed to abide by. But even on a short trip, we can’t maintain the speed limit. Whether the reason is outside of our control (like a big hill) or within our control (like we’re running late for work), staying under the speed limit 100 percent of the time is an impossible standard to maintain.
I encourage you to think of the word “free” when you begin to dread being obedient to God. As you choose to obey God and his commands, he frees you from sin’s burdens.
Obedience to God brings:
- Strength, unity and loyalty to any situation
- Action vs stagnation and action leads to unforeseen help and results
Obedience to God provides:
- Freedom from distraction and diffusion
- Freedom from worry and regret
- Freedom from second guessing yourself (i.e. doubt)
- Freedom from responsibility for the results
The dark side of obedience
We all know that being blindly obedient can bring terrible consequences. Even in a religious setting, blind obedience is not a good thing. Just consider the followers of the Jim Jones or Heaven’s Gate cults.
Keep in mind, though, God never asks for blind obedience. There are numerous examples in the Bible of people like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Job, the prophets and the Disciples all asking the Lord clarifying questions to make sure they understood what was being requested of them. Plus, God gives us the ultimate trump card. It’s called free will.
But the biggest reason we don’t need to worry about blind obedience to God’s commands is because of God’s holiness and perfection. God’s plan and his commands will always result in the best outcome for our lives. Even when it’s contrary to our desires, if we’re obedient, it’s always in our best interest.
Obedience brings freedom through love
After pondering it some more, I’m convinced obedience to God and his commands doesn’t take discipline after all. How can I say that, you ask?
Well, discipline is all about me. How well do I measure up to the standard? How am I going to keep from failing? How am I going to improve next time?
But obedience to God is about focusing on God and always moving forward toward him as Paul encourages us in the Bible:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.