I Can't Make Me, but You Can

Truth be told, I don’t like to obey. 

Doesn’t matter what is being asked of me, my immediate reaction is, “No.”  I suppose it is my way of maintaining my senses of being in control and independent.  And since I am the smartest person on the planet, it’s imperative that I don’t follow anyone else’s instructions.  Ever.

It all started the day I was born, but I honed my skills of bucking authority in high school.  God’s been working on sifting out all of those rebellious attitudes these past 11+ years I have been a Christian.  But as recently as Monday night, my defiant heart showed its true colors.  At church.  Sigh.

It wasn’t a big deal, really.  But the heart attitude behind it is. 

I was at a women’s dinner with about 400 women.  The leaders instructed us to take our tickets and drop them in a basket when we got in line to get our food.  And my inner toddler said, “No!”  It would have been simple enough for me to open my purse, find the ticket, and put it in the basket, like the leaders asked me to.  But, instead, I had these thoughts:

1) I don’t want to take the time to find my ticket.
2) They don’t need the ticket – they are just going to throw it away.
3) Everyone knows me at this church, so I am exempt from this directive.
4) No one will even notice if I don’t bring my ticket with me.
5) Tickets are stupid, and I am hungry.

So I got in line without my ticket and even remarked to a few of the girls who went back to get their tickets how I am not a rule-follower.  (“But, Kelly,” you’re thinking, “didn’t you write a post about how you are a rule-follower?”  Yes, yes I did.  I am a complicated person.  I don’t pretend to understand me, and you shouldn’t either.)  Anyway, we had a good laugh.  And I didn’t think about it again until right now, 36 hours later, when I needed an anecdote about how I don’t like to obey.  There were many such stories to choose from, but this one came to mind first.

Ironically, during that same women’s dinner, someone shared a verse that resonated with me.  Out of the New Living Translation, Philippians 2:13 reads, “God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.”

I’ve never read this verse in this translation.  It makes way more of an impact than the New International Version does. 

I breathed a gigantic sigh of relief when this verse pointed out to me that I DON’T HAVE TO HAVE THE DESIRE TO OBEY GOD!

Oh, thank God!  Because, most of the time, I don’t!  Can I just tell you how amazing it is to get that off my chest?!  It’s like I’ve been hiding a dirty little secret for YEARS, wanting to maintain the facade that I always obey God while skipping in the sunshine, whistling “Jesus Loves Me” and tossing handfuls of rainbow-colored glitter in the air. 

That’s a cute little picture, but it’s not truth.  (I know, you’re shocked.)

The Bible says God GIVES believers the desire to obey him.  We aren’t genetically wired with this desire (Romans 3:11).  It is something that comes from God – i.e., it’s supernatural.

This verse is glorious news for those of us who are predisposed to cross our arms and pout whenever God asks us to do something we don’t want to.  We are freed up to reject the lie that we are the only ones who don’t want to obey God with a joyful heart.  We no longer have to believe that we are failures because we are more inclined to snub God’s instructions than to embrace them. 

(Note: I am not saying we are freed up to not obey God.  We are still responsible for our decisions (Romans 14:12).  We just don’t have to feel less than because our hearts don’t desire to obey God naturally.  Nobody’s heart desires that naturally!)

Yes, the first part of this verse is exciting.  But the second part is equally wonderful.  God not only gives us the desire to obey Him, he also gives us, “…the power to do what pleases him.” 

You mean I don’t have to muster up the energy or ability to do what He says? 

Excellent. 

Because I can’t. 
And neither can you. 

It’s not in our natures. 

Sometimes I want to obey God (after He’s worked his supernatural mojo on me, that is), but I am convinced I can’t obey.  I think what He’s asking is too hard.  Even if I can see the good in obeying, I am too weak.  I will fail, I tell myself.  So it’s best not to even try to obey Him. 

And the second half of this verse pretty much confirms that. 

It infers that I need God to give me the power to do what pleases Him.  In other words, I can’t please Him out of my own strength. 

Oh, thank God!  Because I’ve never felt strong enough to obey God!  Can I just tell you how amazing it is to get that off my chest?!  It’s like I’ve been hiding a dirty little secret for YEARS, wanting to maintain the facade that all I have to do to obey the Lord is flex my super-holy-Christian muscles, down a glass of raw eggs, and sport my “What Would Jesus Do?” sweatband. 

That’s a cute little picture, but it’s not truth.  (I know, you’re shocked.)

The power to obey the Lord COMES FROM THE LORD.  Not anywhere else. 

So the next time we feel like we are too weak to obey the Lord, even if we wanted to (which we don’t), let’s put Scripture to the test and ask Him for both the desire and the power to obey and please Him. 

I’m betting He’ll deliver. 

He’s good like that.

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4 thoughts on “I Can't Make Me, but You Can

  1. I wonder how much harder it is for guys than ladies. Might not be any different if I assume we all have the same nature. But, I can't ignore our different makeups. I also wonder if it is any easier for "mature" christians than "baby" christians.

  2. preach it sister! "So the next time we feel like we are too weak to obey the Lord, even if we wanted to (which we don't), let's put Scripture to the test and ask Him for both the desire and the power to obey and please Him. I'm betting He'll deliver. He's good like that."E – My take is that I don't think it gets any "easier" per se for mature Christians … but I do think we can gain habits that assist us along the way. Like when presented a choice to obey or not, if we make the habit of asking 'Him [God] for both the desire and the power to obey and please Him.' we will more likely succeed through the power of the Spirit.' However, if we never get into a "flow" of doing so… it's going to always be a battle of flesh and Spirit. I think a perfect example of this is the marine who recently lost his legs: http://itsnotmydiary.blogspot.com/2011/03/walking-by-faith.html – Because of his regular outlook on life and his constant practice of asking "What next?" rather than "why"… he was able to do the same when tragedy struck. Very cool stuff!

  3. When I first became I believer, I was 21-years-old and God gave me an indescribable desire to 'obey' Him. Being a new believer, I believe He instilled a supernatural desire to obey Him so that I would be compelled to leave my old life and pursue Him. As the years have passed, the ferver and zeal I once had to obey Him ebbs and flows with time and is closely linked to the amount of time I spend in His word, in prayer and in worship as opposed to being focused on 'me'. The more 'mature' I get – the easier it is to think that 'I' can do it. "I got this." But just as you said and as I experienced when I first became a believer … total obedience to God comes from a supernatural desire that compells us to do what our flesh wouldn't do.

  4. This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible and I thank you for writing on it and for sharing with us your "dirty secret." There are some commands of God we want to obey (and can't) and some we don't want to obey (and can't) unless He produces in us the willingness and the ability.We need this verse to be this blunt. We need to see our hopes of measuring up dashed. We need God's incalculable grace.I am also intrigued by the verse preceding this one. Maybe you will write on it sometime. I'll be eagerly waiting. I love the way you write.

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