Faith & Obedience

Faith is not an intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.

I read this in my devotional for the day. He was talking about obeying God when He speaks and the need to take Him at His word, even though it may not make sense to us and we can’t see the road ahead. It was a good reminder – it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what God wants is for me to take what He says, think it through, and try to figure out the best way forward. No – He’s given me the best way; all I have to do is follow.

Okay, I understand that, but my question has always been – how do I know if it’s really Jesus? I argue that all the mental processing and rationalizing is my way of trying to figure out if it’s really Jesus’ voice I heard. If I think a directive through to its logical end and that end is good, then I will know that it’s Jesus, because He is good and He gives good things. Right? Wrong. Firstly, human logic never really holds up against God’s plans. Secondly, many things in this world are good. Good is not best. Bad can be the beginning of good. It isn’t enough to examine the potential outcomes from a human perspective because that perspective is, by nature, limited.

So we’re back to faith. But how? What if I act on what I think is Jesus’ instruction, but it really isn’t?

I’ve always asked that as a rhetorical question, but maybe it shouldn’t be. What would happen if I acted on what I thought I heard Jesus say but it turned out that it wasn’t Him? Maybe a better question is, what am I so afraid of?

In my answer to that lies a great deal of unhealthy fear, stemming from misconceptions about God and who He is, what He’s like. I am afraid of making the wrong decision. But what does it mean for a decision to be “wrong”? In my fear, I believe a wrong decision will lead me down the “wrong” path, a path Jesus never intended for me to be on. I fear it will derail my life, put me outside the will of God, lead me astray. In that, I am failing to believe that God is bigger than any mistakes I make, failing to believe that He is more powerful than my greatest weakness, failing to believe that He is with me always and will never let me go, no matter where I end up. When I question the voice I’ve heard, try to ascertain for myself, through rational and logical processes, whether or not it is God, I am [probably always] acting out of fear, disguised as a genuine desire to ‘get it right.’ I am believing lies.

But it goes even deeper than that. When I worry about where obeying the voice I hear is going to take me and whether it belongs to God, I am believing that God cares more about where I end up than how I respond to Him. I am believing that the outcome is more important than what is happening in my heart. This constant questioning sows doubt, rather than faith. It ensures that I am always in control to a certain degree – that I work to control the rightness or wrongness, the accuracy or inaccuracy of my response to God. But God cares about my heart. God cares about my faith. God cares about my obedience.

I should put in a disclaimer: Of course it’s possible to listen to the ‘wrong’ voice. God speaks, yes. But so do the world, the devil, and ourselves. There are some voices that are clearly not of God. All of them should be held up against God’s Word. What I’m talking about here is my tendency to debate things that, honestly, you can’t go too obviously wrong with. I’m writing this more for myself than anyone else, so maybe all this sounds crazy to you. I’m known to overthink things.

So here’s what I’ve gotta do: I hear a voice. I think it’s God, but I’m not sure. I know and believe that God is good and that He will never lead me astray. I tell Him I’m not sure about it, ask Him to stop me if I’m wrong, but in the absence of that, go ahead and obey the voice. Things might turn out well or not so well – either way, I’m still only seeing one part of the story. Faith doesn’t end there. I have to keep trusting that all of this fits together beautifully somehow.

When He tells you something and you begin to debate, it is because you have a misunderstanding of what honours Him and what doesn’t.

God is not honoured by my powers of logic or reasoning. He is not honoured by outcomes that I deem ‘good’ or ‘desirable.’ He is honoured by my obedience. Yes, it requires faith. Yes, it may look stupid to others – maybe even to yourself. But how wrong can I really go when God’s watching over me?

“Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5).

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