Obedient When It’s Convenient

“The most astounding thing about Jesus is that He is brutally honest about His feelings yet absolutely submitted to the will of God.”
-Timothy Keller

My closest friends and family know that one topic I’ve always felt so strongly about is Lordship, to the point that I recently got into a fairly heated discussion with my parents and brother as we argued the requirement of obedience and the presence of grace. It’s something I always point my friends back to, and it’s something I constantly fight to apply in my life as well.

In relation to it, one thing I noticed is that a lot of Christians can quickly obey when God asks of them small things, yet they can’t when it comes to the big things. And I’ve heard justifications wherein they say that they’re not usually like that, it’s just that this one’s too hard, failing to realize that that’s when surrender matters most. We often hear that it’s the small things that count, but in this case, the big gestures greatly matter too. We can’t make obedience into something that can only be done in our convenience, that can only be done when it’s easy for us.

The truth is that when we can’t surrender a certain dream or person, when we can’t obey because it’s too grueling, it means that we’ve found our comfort in something other than God, and I personally think that that is such a telling sign of the real state of our hearts. Tullian Tchividjian once asked, what are you trusting in, other than Jesus, to gain acceptance or approval, to experience security and significance, to find meaning and purpose, to discover identity and direction? See, you can’t say that you love God above everything else when there’s still something in your life that you’re not willing to give up, if there’s a certain comfort zone you’re not willing to leave. As I mentioned in a previous post, God wants us to sacrifice something that means everything to us to show Him that even then, He means more. And so of course it is going to hurt, of course it is going to be difficult. But we need to get past how we feel and acknowledge that our emotions aren’t God, God is God.

In spite of how we feel, we submit still.

Now knowing how sensitive this topic is, I don’t want to speak on it if it’s not something that can be seen in my life, if it’s not something I do my best to live out. I won’t go into details but my friends know this: personally, God has asked me to give up so many things that are so close to my heart. I had to give up people I loved so very dearly, I had to give up dreams and securities that I placed my hope in, I had to allow myself to be put in new places that I would not have chosen to be in. He has broken my heart again and again, He has asked me to lay my life down over and over. And it always hurts, so much and so deeply. But one thing I have always stood by is that He is worth every shattered piece of my heart, that He is worth it all so He can tear me apart. So you can’t tell me I don’t understand how difficult it is, because I really do. Reasons are just excuses because at the end of the day, it’s about desiring God more than anything and wanting to please Him more than anyone.

For example, when you’re asked to give up a relationship that may not be honoring God anymore, you may say that the other party will also get hurt. But think about it, who would you rather hurt, him or Him? You may say that doing a certain thing He’s asking of you is out of your comfort zone, but do you not believe that He will be the One to sustain you, that He will be there to guide you?

This life is not about you, and it’s not about others too. It’s about God. And so sometimes, you have to break your own heart or the hearts of people you care about to avoid breaking His.

I’ve also come to find that surrendering is something we have to constantly do, because today you might love a person more than God, and then tomorrow you might value what other people think about you more than what God does. But ultimately, it’s about choosing God in spite of how you feel, in spite of what you desire. It means apologizing even when you have to swallow your pride; it means speaking up even when you might be ridiculed; it means surrendering even when it feels like your heart’s about to break into a million pieces.

One thing I tend to tell people frequently is “wag mo nang lokohin sarili mo” (stop fooling yourself). Faith without action is meaningless, so is action without faith. We can’t be half-hearted about our obedience.  Don’t think that all you have to do is desire to obey and yet do nothing about it. Don’t think that you can surrender halfway, for there are no middle grounds or compromises. If Abraham just placed Isaac on the altar without actually going ahead to kill him, he would have failed God’s test. Remember, God only interfered when Abraham raised the knife. We have only truly surrendered when we can say from the heart that we are able to live without something and act upon it.

Jesus has said in Matthew 16:24 that if anyone is to follow Him, that person should deny himself and take up his cross – they both go hand in hand. Denying yourself happens in your heart and taking up your cross is done by action. Anything less than complete obedience in action and total surrender of the heart is disobedience.

“God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want.”
-C.S Lewis

We have to understand that God cares less about our temporary happiness and more about our eternal joy. We have to trust His heart for us, to hold on to the fact that He is faithful. We have to respond to what He is trying to teach us, for we are being made Christlike. Yes, it may be painful and we may not completely understand what’s going on at the moment, but we have to believe that God knows what He is doing and that the reasons why He asks us to do the things we do are ultimately for good. We have to learn that loving and trusting God means unconditional obedience. 

We fight to obey. Convenient or not, no matter what.

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
-Matthew 16:25-26

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