Have you ever had a time in your life where everything feels so hard?!
I don’t mean seasons with storm and tragedy, I just mean everyday life is a tedious uphill battle. Last year, every area of my life was a struggle – like swimming upstream. I had no creativity in my writing, I struggled to focus at work, and discipline in my home was dwindling; I didn’t have any energy left to fight the good fight once I got home.
After paying attention to my thought life and behavior, I realized I was too often led by feelings like, “I don’t feel like working on that project right now, I’m just not feeling the creative juices.” Or “I only feel like staying home tonight instead of accepting the invitation to join my friends.” I also began to notice my kids following the same trend, and worse yet, I was leading the charge. I heard words come out of my own mouth like, “I know you want me to go outside and play with you, but I just don’t feel like it right now. Maybe later.” And I wondered where their disobedience to my requests was coming from.
The word “obedience” kept coming up in quiet time, in my devotionals and bible reading; I wondered if maybe God was trying to tell me something. To be honest, I really thought I knew what “obedience” meant, because I knew what it meant to be disobedient. I knew how to identify and mostly avoid the big stuff like lust, greed, pride, gossip, slander, anger – and I felt a keen awareness of my actions when I chose to be disobedient.
After a quick search, I found the definition of the Greek word obedient is: “attentive listening, giving ear.” Obedience is “hupakoe” in Greek; a compound word of the words, hupo “under” and akouo, “to hear”, so to obey is to hear under.
I loved this definition so much, I began a quest to learn more about obedience. I came across the chapter “The Secret of Radical Obedience” in the book “Secrets of the Secret Place” by Bob Sorge to begin to learn more.
“Implicit obedience starts not in doing good works but in sitting at his feet and hearing his word. Works of service gain their spiritual energy from the furnace of a fiery love relationship at Jesus feet. The true fulfillment of serving Jesus is discovered when we get first things first: first we sit and listen, and then we go and do.”
— Bob Sorge, The Secret of the Secret Place
For as complicated as I try to make it, obedience is simple:
Listen first, then do.
The author goes on to say,
“Some people put their best energies into creative thinking. However, God has a way of negating the plans of men: ‘The Lord brings counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever.’ Psalm 33:10-11. Instead of focusing on being creative, focus on being obedient. Give your best energies to waiting on God in His presence, listening for His voice, and then moving out in action only when He has spoken. There’s no sense in coming up with your own ideas when it’s only God’s counsel that will stand! The key is in hearing and obeying.”
— Bob Sorge, The Secrets of the Secret Place
My time in daily bible reading, praying for understanding of his word, and asking intentionally for God to reveal the sound of his voice was helping me learn everything I could about how to avoid sin and understanding God’s commands, but maybe there was something more. Maybe God was teaching me to listen for and discern the thoughts in my head – were they from God, or me?
My work requires a large amount of creativity and thinking. It’s easy for me to get distracted and remain unfocused – especially when I have to manufacture the creativity myself. It’s easy to stay focused when ideas and thoughts just start pouring in, but there’s a period of time before the creative juices get flowing that require the obedience to sit at the computer and just start typing. Could those thoughts that pop in my head during the day; pick up the phone now, type that email now, pray for that person now, read this verse now, be promptings from God? Was it in the act of obedience at that moment that I lacked? I heard the whisper, “start typing now.” Was that really from God?
Was I ignoring direct orders from God that was hindering my work and my life?
I was so captivated by the idea that God was in my thoughts on that intimate level, I committed to 40 Days of Radical Obedience, listening for and obeying every prompt that came into my head.
What I quickly discovered astounded me; I became more focused and productive, the creative juices started flowing, I was stopping and praying for people when they popped in my head. Best of all, I began to experience consistent peace in the background.
40 days came and went, it’s been a year of committed radical obedience and I now have the opportunity to look back and realize everything I’ve learned.
The Continuum of Obedience
There are a least three levels of obedience that I’ve walked through in my faith journey. They correlate to my level of intimacy with God.
Acquaintance Level, Steering clear of Disobedience: Sex outside of marriage, lust, greed, gossip, pride, etc. “I’m a good person, I don’t do bad things.” Knowing the difference between right and wrong.
Friend Level, Obedience to his commands: Love God, love your neighbor, the 10 commandments, forgiveness, kindness, goodness. Obedience that lines up with his word, choosing between what’s a sin and what not. Understanding the line on obedience and disobedience. Blessings flow (Leviticus 26:3-13) and unshakable foundations are built (Mathew 7: 24-27) from obeying God’s commands.
True Love and Intimacy Level, Radical Obedience: To know the voice of your shepherd (John 10:27). When you hear is voice, do it now, do it to the full. To hear and recognize your thoughts as his voice and to immediately and fully obey. Deciding between two choices, neither is a sin, but one is obedience.
As I go deeper and deeper into obedience, I go deeper and deeper into intimacy with God. His voice becomes clearer and almost second nature. His thoughts become my thoughts, his actions become my actions, he becomes a seal upon my heart.
Practical Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way
Obedience and Discipline
Obedience takes self-discipline. I have experienced many times when I know I’m being asked to move and I just want to stay. I tell myself I don’t feel like, or I’ll do it later. But, every time I fail to act in obedience, I regret it. “The pain of discipline costs far less than the pain of regret. In life there are two pains, both can cause suffering, but one moves you forward while the other sets you back: Discipline and Regret.” (Utmost)
My Obedience is a Demonstration for My Kids
When I stopped being led by my feelings and started demonstrating obedience, my boys had a practical example to follow as well. Their own obedience required my persistent leadership in obedience.
I have believed for a long time that if I’m obedient to do and say all the right things that I will be perfect. God only uses perfect people, right? Nope, “Christian perfection is not and never can be human perfection. Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship with God that shows itself to be true even amid the seemingly unimportant aspects of human life. We are not to be so perfect as to be a trophy in his showcase, but where he can use me.” (Utmost) God desires for us to be in a perfect relationship with Him. “I am called to live such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the lives of others, not admiration for myself.” (Utmost)
For Keeps, To Tuck Away in Your Heart
Sometimes God teaches us something so beautiful we want to keep it in the safest place possible, tucked right inside our hearts.
Obedience is NOT an effort to earn God’s love.
Obedience is a demonstration of God’s love. Obedience is a love language of listening and serving (John 12:50).
An Intimacy Beyond My Wildest Dreams
Obedience – the kind where I listen for every word he says and obey accordingly – has deepened my relationship with Jesus. To know his command is to know his voice, to know his voice is to know Jesus – all about him. To know Jesus is to sit quietly with his words and listen (John 12:26). To obey is to love the one you are obeying because you trust him with your whole being (John 14:21).
Jesus said, obedience is the proof of love, and love brings us into incredible intimacy with the father. Obedience unlocks the affections of Christ and his self-disclosure to the human heart. (Utmost)
And finally, the most precious lesson I’ve learned from time in Radical Obedience. I’d like to share an entry from my journal:
Be more, do more, time is ticking away, there are a hundred things to do, no, now 105, and only 20 minutes to do them. Taxes, bills, housework (maybe that can wait), case for support, graphics, presentation for church audience, families in despair, grant applications, raise lots of money by July!
But wait! I just invested $1000 on a conference to teach me all the things to do to speak, write, increase my territory, tell my story – well not MY story, God’s story; websites, blogs, Facebook posts, twitter, new friends to stay connected to. Write, write, write, build my platform to 10,000 followers – how many do I have? 600…
Have I mentioned I’m single and the best way to get a date is to get ‘out there,’ put names on lists, smile, talk and be friendly. Then actually go on dates every time I’m asked.
And one last thing. My sons. My two precious sons need a mom who is present and available because if I’m not they will slip away into the abyss, never know about Jesus and end up in Hell with Satan.
Somehow, on my day off to be with the Lord, my Sabbath day I think I need to be doing at least 50% of this work today. It’s a completely unscheduled day.
But then, as I’m praying to God, “what’s next,” because I rely on him to whisper my next obedient step, He brings me to the My Utmost for His Highest devotional:
“Sometimes there is nothing to obey and our only task is to maintain a vital connection with Jesus Christ, seeing that nothing interferes with it.”
“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for Him, and is full of joy when he hears the bride-groom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” John 3:29
Sometimes there’s nothing to obey – completion can be found in spend time alone with Jesus. Struggle ceases at the feet of Jesus.