Lately I’ve been challenged with the idea of “complete obedience”.
The legalist in me wants to think that if I do what God tells me to do, that should “count” as obedience. The Lord should be happy with me, and He should bless me accordingly.
But the Scriptures say that obedience is more than going through the motions of what the Lord desires. Obedience is about the heart.
If I do _______ because God told me to, but my heart remains bitter toward Him in the process, He doesn’t give a rip about my so-called obedience.
Like me, the Israelites had a problem with this. When they were traipsing through the desert, they grew angry that God was taking so long to lead them to the Promised Land. They began to blame Moses. Surely, if he were a better leader, they’d be enjoying mimosas on the Mediterranean by now! The Israelites “were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt” (Acts 7:39). They didn’t physically turn back to Egypt, so, technically, they were still obeying the Lord, right? But, emotionally, they were angry, bitter, and resentful. So much so that they asked Aaron to make them a golden calf to worship instead of the Lord.
Later on, in Isaiah 29:13, God says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” They were going through the spiritual motions, but the Lord didn’t receive what they offered because He knew their hearts weren’t in it.
What, then? Are we never allowed to be angry with God? Can He really expect us to always follow Him with a happy little heart, fully embracing every painful step along the way?
God isn’t an unreasonable God. He understands the powerful emotions He built into us. He’s okay with the fact that we experience negative emotions about that which we don’t understand – His overarching plan. But we still have to react to those emotions in a responsible way. Psalm 4:4 says, “In your anger, do not sin.” Dare I say God expects us to get angry! But He also requires us to submit those feelings to His authority.
In other words, our trust in Him has to be greater than our anger toward our circumstances. Our desire to please Him has to trump our desire to disobey Him. Our pursuit of intimacy with Him has to win out over our pursuit of personal happiness.
When we are angry about what God is doing/allowing/causing in our lives, we have to say, “Lord, I HATE THIS! But I love You more than I hate this. Help me to follow You whole-heartedly.”
And if we find ourselves unable to truthfully say that, then we have to say this, “Lord, I HATE THIS! My heart is cold toward You. I can’t change my heart, but you can. Help!”
May the Lord empower us to not only act obediently, but to obey from our hearts as well.