Obeying God begins with heeding the simple nudges. 1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Welcoming a puppy into my home brought along a list of requirements to support the transition. Top of the list: obedience school. Golden retrievers start small and finish wearing a saddle. Proper planning ensures you aren’t dragged along at the end of their leash. Chasing a pony isn’t my idea of fun. Blissfully naïve, I enrolled Samson into obedience classes.
For Samson, life was one continuous party with obedience school the epitome of socializing. Puppies lined up on command resembling a row of sphinxes until reaching mine. All fours airborne and tail wagging madly found me with varied shades of red cheeks. I’ve learned something about God; He uses every circumstance to teach.
The Lord began to stir me about surrendered obedience and used my pup to teach me deep truths. I focused on the rewards of obedience rather than the chore of obeying. I studied the immediate effects of obedience from my dog’s perspective. If I gave a command and he obeyed, there was instant gratification. Treats and attention left him prancing instead of walking. Samson lived to please me and jumped at the chance to obey without questioning or demanding a list of whys. When realizing God was teaching me through my dog’s reversed role, these obedience lessons concluded.
I quickly realized it wasn’t a punishment to obey God, but rather lead to promotion. With my canine’s maturation, everything changed. Laws required a public leash, but his love for me kept it slack. He didn’t disobey pulling against it, but accepted it without understanding why. It was more important to him that peace remained between us and consented to its use. Mirroring this, there’s much I don’t understand about God and simply won’t this side of Heaven. But what I do know is that if I simply obey and trust Him without everything answered, I can expect His blessings in my life.
“All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 28:2 (NASB)
As elementary as this sounds, it’s the cornerstone of obedience. It’s unnecessary to choke myself pulling against His precepts when they’re for my benefit. Obeying God isn’t like obeying humans. There’s no concealed agenda at which we bristle; He genuinely has our best interests at heart. Obedience actually precedes greater freedom and importantly demonstrates our trustworthiness to God.
“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22b (NASB)
God’s laid the groundwork for incomprehensible blessings. While sacrificial offerings mattered—the release pin is obedience. This is our Shepherd’s priority. It’s critical to our happiness to trust Him fully; especially when it’s hardest to understand what remains unanswered. Obeying Him becomes our living sacrifice and secures peace with genuine safety around His guarded perimeter.
My loving relationship with my dog caused us to move in concert together. He knew my utmost purpose was caring for him and keeping him safe from harm. Be it external circumstances or wrong choices, I positioned myself between him and danger. I was prepared to act swiftly to protect, but his obedience to my rules was for his benefit not mine. Likewise, God’s there to intervene for us but the overflowing blessings arrive through our obedience. The more I trusted Samson to heed my voice, the more freedoms he enjoyed until proving my fenceless yard quired no leash. He enjoyed unlimited freedom because he earned my trust through his obedience. The ultimate celebration.
Coming full circle, I graduated into God’s richest bounty when discovering His motivating love each time He calls my name.
Walking in Obedience
“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.” 1 John 2:3 (NIV)
Do you ever experience times where you know what you’re saying is wrong, but you say it anyway? Especially when you believe it’s justified? I’ve had those days.
While at a social event one night, I observed one of our local Bible study leaders engaging in behavior that shocked me. My stomach churned in a mix of grief and anger. Her blatant disobedience to what she knew was right left me frustrated and angry.
Righteous anger. The kind God allows, right? Ever experienced it? That justifiable anger that rises up when you know someone is not acting the way God instructs. That anger Jesus expressed when He walked into the Temple and found the moneychangers doing their business in God’s house, defiling its holy ground.
Righteous anger is a good thing. However, what we do with that anger is another matter.
Rather than going directly to the leader, I shared my feelings with a few other leaders at dinner one night. Was I gossiping? In the moment, I didn’t think so. In fact, I felt justified since she’d engaged in ungodly behavior that not only reflected badly on her, but on our Bible study and our church.
Our dinner conversation validated my feelings because the other leaders agreed. I took comfort in how good it felt that I wasn’t alone.
However, the next morning, as I sat in church, God spoke directly to my “righteous” anger. Our pastor spoke about idle gossip, character assassination and how our words matter.
Each word penetrated my heart like a double-edged sword.
I, too, was a spiritual leader. And I, too, had flagrantly disobeyed God’s Word as I judged my friend and leader in the presence of others. Righteous anger? Not quite.
Idle gossip? Yes. Character assassination? Sadly, yes.
In the quietness of that moment, I felt conviction.
Not shame. Not condemnation. But conviction. Necessary conviction.
The distinction is significant. Oftentimes, shame and condemnation can be self-focused, unproductive emotions that leave us stagnant, in a bad place with God and others.
Conviction, on the other hand, is God-focused and productive. It’s spurred on by the Holy Spirit to point out our sin, speak truth into our hearts and empower us to change so we live in a way that’s pleasing to Him.
That day in worship, God reminded me of a truth that I have now committed to memory.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV).
I promised the Lord that morning that I would walk in obedience … that I would keep His commands and honor His Word. As we see in 1 John 2:3, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.”
Within each of us lie weaknesses — temptations that cause us to struggle.
The key is the ability to recognize our weaknesses and temptations. If we can’t recognize them, we certainly can’t address them or properly fight our enemy, the devil. I don’t know about you, but sometimes that’s hard for me — especially when I feel I can justify my sin.
The moment we invite Christ into our hearts, we’re “born again.” These two words sometimes carry a negative connotation in the world, when in reality it’s the best news ever! It’s more than a fresh start or a new beginning. It’s a rebirth. The old is gone and the new has come. We receive a new nature, a new heart, a new name and a new lineage.
The more we expose our hearts to God’s heart and His Word, the more He renews our minds. Our renewed minds view the world through an entirely new lens. That healthy perspective leads to life transformation. We begin to think and act differently.
Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, the inward changes eventually translate into outward changes. Our transformed hearts and God’s love for us leads us to speak and respond in completely new ways that enable us to honor and glorify God in every area of our lives.
he Lord’s simple requests often serve as stepping-stones to life’s most wonderful blessings. Simon Peter illustrates what can happen when we say yes to God.
One day a large crowd pressed around Jesus while He preached (Luke 5:1-11). The Lord wanted to use Peter’s boat as a floating platform from which to address the multitude, so He asked the future apostle to push the vessel out a little way from shore (v. 3)—not in itself a particularly remarkable request. But Peter’s compliance to His request paved the way for a life-changing blessing. From his example, we also learn how essential it is to obey God in even the smallest matters.
The noisy crowd received the first blessing of Peter’s obedience; the people could now clearly hear Jesus’ words. At the conclusion of the lesson, the Lord said to Peter, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (5:4)—a second opportunity to say yes or no. But this time, Peter may have felt tempted to decline. After all, he was a seasoned fisherman. He had worked the entire night for a catch but had returned empty-handed. Now this young teacher—a carpenter, by the way, not a fisherman—was asking him to go fishing again?
“MASTER, WE WORKED HARD ALL NIGHT AND CAUGHT NOTHING, BUT I WILL DO AS YOU SAY AND LET DOWN THE NETS” (LUKE 5:5).
Peter’s reply demonstrates the beginning of a lifetime of faith in God. He said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets” (5:5, emphasis added). The soon-to-be disciple chose to obey the Lord and to leave the consequences of his decision to Him.
But notice what happened as a result of Peter’s obedience—Jesus demonstrated His power and sovereignty. Peter and his partners may have started the day off thinking their efforts had yielded nothing. But they ended it in complete amazement because they pulled in not one but two overflowing boatloads of fish (5:7). Saying yes to the Lord’s request resulted in a miracle that transformed not only one fisherman’s life but the lives of the entire group.
Consider three reasons why obedience is critical to the successful Christian life:
1. Obeying God in small matters is an essential step in receiving God’s greatest blessings.
Suppose Peter had said, “Look, I’m busy cleaning my nets right now. I can’t help You because I’m going fishing again tonight.” Or he could have said, “Why don’t You ask to use that other boat, over there?” Or, “I’ve already been fishing today; it would be a waste of time to go again.” If Peter had said anything other than yes, he would have missed the greatest fishing experience of his life. But because of Peter’s obedience, the Lord arranged a miracle that he would never forget.
Often, God’s greatest blessings come as a result of our willingness to do something that appears very insignificant. So ask yourself, “Has God been challenging me to do something seemingly unimportant that I have not yet made an effort to accomplish? Is there anything I have rationalized by saying, ‘It’s too difficult,’ ‘I don’t want to,’ or ‘I have to pray about it first’”?
2. Our obedience always benefits others.
Think of how many people were blessed by Peter’s obedience. Not only could the crowd see the Lord and hear His lesson, but Jesus Himself also benefited—preaching from the boat enabled him to sit down in comfort while He spoke (5:3). Then, of course, Peter’s friends had a very profitable day—they took in two vessels so full of fish that both began to sink. More importantly, they had the opportunity to witness the Lord’s supernatural provision.
GOD’S CALL TO OBEDIENCE ALWAYS DEMANDS OUR RESPONSE.
God often rewards others—in particular, those closest to us—as a result of our obedience. For example, when a father obeys the Lord, his entire family reaps the reward of God’s blessings. Likewise, a child’s obedience will bless his or her parents. This does not mean that those who choose to disobey the Lord will escape His discipline because of someone else’s godly walk. His call to obedience always demands our response. However, when we live obedient lives, those who know and love us will sense the peace and joy He has given us. Instead of conflict, there will be contentment—and that is just one part of experiencing God’s goodness.
3. When we obey God, we will never be disappointed.
Peter no doubt assumed that Jesus’ fishing instructions would amount to a waste of time. But when he complied with the Lord’s simple request, Christ brought about a miracle that gripped the disciple with amazement. Jesus turned an empty boat into a full one. We, like Peter, must recognize that obeying God is always the wisest course of action. He can also take our emptiness—whether related to finances, relationships, or career—and change it into something splendid.
Perhaps you have hesitated to obey God because you fear the consequences of your decision. But the Lord’s command is for you to fear Him above all else. The same sovereign, omnipotent God who keeps your heart beating and the planets orbiting is more than able to handle the results of your obedience. When He tells you to do something and you know without a doubt it is His will, then you need to obey based solely on who is doing the talking.