Radical Obedience: Obeying God when it doesn’t make sense.
“I have obeyed My Father’s commands, and He continues to love Me. In the same way, if you obey My commands, I will continue to love you.” (John 15:10)
When I hear the words “radical obedience” my mind immediately switches into panic mode. Uh oh. What happens if God asks me to do something extremely crazy? After all, I wouldn’t want to look stupid if it doesn’t work out. That’s right. When it all boils down, when I think of being radically obedient and saying ‘yes’ to God I worry what others will think. Ouch. Did I just admit that?!
Over the last few years I learned a lot about choosing to trust God when I couldn’t see what the future was going to look like. Saying ‘yes’ to God and stepping into full time ministry was hard enough and was a very radical decision but then hearing from God and stepping out of full time ministry ten years later was even more difficult. Especially when God didn’t appear to be opening any doors for employment. It was as though one door was slammed behind us and for three long years we remained in a dark corridor with no open doors in front of us. For me, each day I woke it took radical obedience just to put one foot in front of the other and continue to trust in God and maintain my relationship with Him. I was full of disappointment and loss of dreams and so discouraged that I even began to doubt that God was real.
One thing this season taught me is that radical obedience looks different for different people. For me radical obedience did not mean that God asked me to take off to Africa to work with starving children (for some reason this always seems to be the “worst case scenario ‘yes’ to God thing that could happen to anyone). It simply meant that He asked me to trust Him and obey Him in ALL things and at all times even when things and His timing didn’t make any sense. For me, radical obedience was about hearing His voice, saying ‘yes’ and stepping out of my comfort zone no matter how uncomfortable it felt and staying in that uncomfortable place until He chose the perfect timing to open a new door.
My friend Kim used to remind me when we were raising our toddlers that their delayed obedience was still dis-obedience. As Lysa TerKeurst writes in her book What happens when women say ‘yes’ to God: “We need not fear what our obedience will cause to happen in our life. We should only fear what our dis-obedience will cause us to miss.” I can honestly say that when it comes to obeying God, there’s an awful lot of delaying that happens before I say ‘yes’. And an awful lot of fearing what will happen if I do say ‘yes’.
It’s hard to want to be radically obedient when my body is made of flesh. All “I” want are the things (distractions) of this world. I want the comforts of the Western society I live in. A big house, two late model cars parked in the garage, fashionable clothes, top quality healthy food, and lovely things surrounding me that help make my world feel more beautiful. And whilst all these things are not bad, it’s easy to allow them to become more important than wanting God. Hmm I think I have forgotten to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” knowing that as I put Him first and do what He wants, all these others ‘things’ will be mine as well. (Matthew 6:33).
Therefore each day I must make a conscious decision to step out in obedience and deny what my flesh wants in order to fulfill what God wants. As much as radical obedience is going to involve risks and my flesh will want to delay saying ‘yes’ to God, I know that I don’t want to miss out on the things He has planned for my life. And that means I am just going to have to make the radical choice to say trust, obey and say ‘yes’.
This might mean forgiving someone who has hurt me. It might mean giving away something that I treasure because someone needs it more than I do. It might mean loving someone who is on the outer circle. It might mean sharing my faith even though I might be ridiculed. It might mean taking a high moral ground. It might mean not compromising on my marriage vows. It might mean standing up for what I believe. It might mean doing something I’ve never done before or going somewhere I’ve never been.
Right now God isn’t asking me to give anything away. He hasn’t asked me to sell my possessions and move to Africa. But He has asked me to give something up. Me. My selfish fleshly desires. My belief that I know better than Him. My viewpoint that my will is more important than His will for my life. He has asked me to disregard the things in my life that I think are important so that He becomes more important.
Before saying ‘yes’ to God I think there needs to be some sort of disclaimer. Something like: “Radical obedience involves taking risks and trusting in what you cannot see”. Or maybe just simply “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way.” As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 12:13 “Everything you were taught can be put into a few words: Trust, respect and obey God! This is what life is all about.” Or as the Message translation puts it: Trust God. And do what He tells you.
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