One of the most agitating habits of my 6 year old son is to refuse to obey until I answer “But why?” to convince him it would be a good idea. Lately, my best answer is, “Because I told you to, that’s why!” We talk a lot, in calmer moments, about trust being necessary for obedience. You need to trust in order to obey and obedience communicates that you trust the person. If I am standing in the direct path of a falling branch and someone yells for me to jump out of the way, I would end up getting crushed if I required that they give me a fully developed argument in order to get me to move. There is just not always time for that. Sometimes, a manager or leader cannot disclose why a new method is being instituted or why a certain decision was made. Sometimes, you just have to trust.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Prov. 3:5-6
This was a favorite verse of mine in high school, much more because it promised to give me straight paths than because I was an excellent truster. Straight paths are too often my motivation for trust, making my “But why?” question really mean, “Will this end up being a profitable decision for me in the end?”
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. Dan. 3:17-18
The kind of trust and obedience is that is far more in line with the person and work of Jesus is the “even if He does not” kind. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were faithful to God and obeyed His decrees over those of their current king without any certainty that it would produce straight paths for them. It was far more like that they were trusting and obeying toward their death than toward any improvement in their own status. All of this was pointing to the one who obeyed even to death on a cross. (Phil. 2:8) Trusting and obeying does not look to self-preservation or self-improvement or to self at all.
Maybe like E.T.’s heart light growing dim the longer he was away from his home planet or Susan being away from Narnia so long that she stops believing in talking beasts and magic, my own conviction to act as compelled by grace has weakened in the past months. My resolve has diminished and my strength has leaked out. At times I may have thought it was depression, at others just a feeling of being totally directionless. But at the heart level, I think just like Chad in his more resistant moments, my demand to know the why or be certain of straight paths has replaced my willingness to walk by faith. I have begun to trust far more in the nods of approval of others than in the nod of approval from my heavenly Father. Nebuchadnezzar’s bullies have become far more persuasive than God’s eternally reliable Lordship. My belief in Narnia started to seem childish to me, too, and like Susan, I became more interested in lipstick than any Lion or in joining battles for Narnia.
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10:52
The interesting thing about faith is that it is not promoting blindness but is the very anecdote for it. It is by faith alone that I can see Jesus in order to follow Him. Only faith can heal me from my determination to trust in myself and what I can see and understand. And I really desperately need to be healed from this infectious disease of self-fulfillment, self-preservation and self-promotion. Heb. 12:2 credits Jesus as being the author and perfecter of my faith and Rom. 1 tells me that my obedience comes from that faith that He gives. He gives me the faith required for trust which results in obedience. Any reaping of obedience in my life is a result of the righteousness that He alone sows. But thanks be to God in Jesus who has delivered me and will deliver me. (2 Cor. 1:10) And the invigorating thing is that He delivers not with a more motivating challenge like a drill sergeant or politician using fear tactics, but by His grace He compels me out of fear and shame. It is His cherishing gaze that emboldens me. It allows me to answer with Peter, when asked by Jesus if I too want to abandon Him, “Where else would I go?”
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Cor. 15:54-58