But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. [James 1:22-24 (NLT)]
Friends recently watched their young grandson while his parents enjoyed a much needed “adults only” vacation. Accustomed to the permissive parenting of today, the youngster wasn’t overly familiar with obedience. One of the first things he learned during his visit was that, “Grandpa doesn’t count.” Apparently, his parents give him a count of three (or more) to decide whether or not to obey them; Grandpa, however, did not!
The youngster could have learned about obedience from one of summer’s wildflowers: the Physostegia virginiana. Better known as the obedient plant, when an individual flower is lightly pushed in a direction, it doesn’t wait for a count of three before immediately responding to that touch and turning that way. It really is an obedient flower and a beautiful one at that.
While obedience is not a well-liked or widespread concept nowadays, my Bible has 518 specific references to man’s obedience or disobedience, so it appears that obedience is important to God. In fact, it appears to be a mandatory part of our lives. Abraham’s life is a lesson in immediate obedience. When God told him to pack up his family and move to a place he’d never known, the 75-year-old didn’t ask for a map and travel plan; he obeyed without question or delay. When God told Abraham that all the males in his household (along with all of his male descendants) had to be circumcised, Abraham didn’t question God’s command and every man was circumcised that very day. Circumcision was known among the people of that region so Abraham’s unquestioning obedience is easier to understand than his unhesitating obedience when God told him to sacrifice his precious son Isaac. Rather than doubt God’s wisdom, negotiate, or delay, Abraham and Isaac set out for the mountains the very next morning. Abraham continued to obey right up to the moment he held the knife to his son’s neck and the angel of the Lord intervened. That’s obedience!
Sadly, when it comes to whole-hearted obedience to God, we’re less like Abraham and far more like the Israelites who frequently delayed and disobeyed. When they balked at entering Canaan, their disobedience questioned both God’s authority and His power to defeat their enemies. Although they eventually obeyed and entered Canaan, their delayed obedience cost all the adults (except Joshua and Caleb) their lives. Delayed obedience is no different than disobedience and always comes at a cost!
As Christians, we don’t get to delay our obedience to God until a more convenient time or He’s counted to three! If He doesn’t tell us to do something in a specific timeframe, God means right now—not when we get around to it or feel like doing so. Our immediate obedience to Him proves our love and demonstrates our faith. Like disobedience, delayed obedience is an insult to God because it tells Him we don’t trust His plan or that we have better things to do!
Like that little boy, we’d prefer thinking that we are the ones in control, but we aren’t! Grandpa was in charge of his grand and God is in charge of us. We are to submit to God as readily as we expect a four-year-old to submit to us. Like that willful little boy, we need to emulate the obedient plant and follow God’s nudge immediately, willingly, and beautifully. Remember, Grandpa doesn’t count and neither does God!
The bottom line is the Christian faith is obedience and most people don’t even like the word. [Charles Stanley]