There's a hymn* I remember learning as a kid, and it goes like this:
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His love
What a glory He sheds on our way
While we do His good will, He abides with us still And with all who will trust and obey
Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.
There are more verses, and there is probably a lot we could say about the song as a whole, but the part I'm thinking about right now is that word "obey". I wonder what kind of feelings the word "obey" conjures up for you. Do you feel a sense of conviction about it? Joy and peace? Fear and shame? Maybe a little sorrow or confusion? Or perhaps a mix of all of the above?
I read once in a devotional that "our tendency to do things other than obey is proportionate to our perceived ability to fix things ourselves." (taken from the 2020 Biola Lent Project) In other words, I suppose part of the reason it can be hard to obey is when our perception of reality is somehow off. For example, we think we're in charge and have to figure everything on our own, when the reality is that we're simply not as capable on our own as we think we are. (Reminds me of that line from songwriter Rich Mullins, "we must be awfully small and not as strong as we think we are".)
Why is obedience so hard though? Why can't we do better at remembering what is true?
I'm sure the exact reasons why obedience is hard for each of us may vary, but for me, one of the things I've realized is that I tend to subconsciously think that obeying God is sort of a mysterious thing, something I can't really figure out. It's almost like there is a part of me that says, I bet it's really hard to 100% obey God because how do I even figure out exactly what He wants me to do? And what if when I do, I don't have whatever it takes to do it?
I just finished reading a book called "Live No Lies" by John Mark Comer. It was an excellent read, and it got me thinking anew about the importance of basic spiritual practices. You know, things like praying, reading your Bible, fasting, etc. If you've grown up in the Church, you're probably at least familiar with all of these practices, whether or not you would say you regularly engage in them.
The book talks a lot about spiritual warfare, but what is somewhat surprising is the author's explanation that the spiritual practices themselves are the best way to fight our spiritual battles. Simply making a habit of things like spending dedicated time in prayer, reading and memorizing Scripture, or taking time to fast, will do more in helping us fight well spiritually than one spontaneous hour-long session of intercessory prayer, no matter how powerful it may seem.
Don't get me wrong - there is certainly a place for unique powerful times of prayer and unusual experiences with spiritual warfare. I am definitely not an expert when it comes to spiritual warfare, and I am not trying to downplay anyone's experience with it. What I am struck by is how all of this ties back to obedience.
What if the way to grow in obeying God is through these basic spiritual practices? Maybe the answer to those questions I asked earlier is simpler than I thought. I said that part of me tends to ask, how do I even figure out exactly what He wants me to do? Well maybe it starts with things I already know: Pray. Read my Bible. Fast. Take time for silence. Serve. Essentially - follow the example of Jesus.
Perhaps in the process of making habits of these practices, God will lead me to some more specific steps or actions to take. But when I really stop to think about it, it seems almost absurd that I would think I could discover that kind of direction in some other roundabout way apart from these spiritual practices. "Trust and obey, for there's no other way..." Trust that these practices we see Jesus modeling are in fact the way to live a life of obedience.
Now about my other question - what if I don't have whatever it takes to do it? In reality, on my own, I don't.
My willpower alone is not going to make me successful in obeying and following God. In fact it will probably more likely reveal how weak and powerless I am. I suppose this is another way that the "trust" part of "trust and obey" comes into play. I'm trusting God that what He says is true, that His Spirit really is alive in me, and that He will provide the strength I need to obey.
So what does it really mean to trust and obey? It means building our lives around spiritual practices, like prayer, and making them habits. Is prayer a habit in your life? What is one small thing you could today to strengthen this spiritual muscle? May God help us all to see that the way to obey is through the simple yet powerful act of praying.
Pray with me...
... God, may our schools become places where we recognize and use what You have given us to grow and become people who obey You day by day
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3
... Father, let the truth of Your Word replace any lies that we are believing
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
... Lord, we trust You to work within our prayers to accomplish Your good will
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
*Trust and Obey by John H. Sammis, Public domain
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and pray for Alliance Christian School District! Lord willing, I plan to publish a new blog post weekly on Wednesdays throughout the school year. Feel free to subscribe (at the bottom of this page) if you'd like to be notified each time a new blog post has been published. We also have a prayer team that is always open for new pray-ers to join. If you'd like to learn more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Carrie Warner, ACSD Prayer Team Coordinator
Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be the glory