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Monday, May 31, 2010

First Time Obedience

First time obedience is something that I talk about frequently in my home. My son is 3, so this is a daily topic of instruction and conversation. He has been learning the benefits of first time obedience for his life, his walk with Jesus, to his family and all those around him. As his parent, I can clearly see the benefits of first time obedience in his life. Ephesians 6:1-3 says that children should honor and obey, so that things will go well for them and that they will have a good life. When Connor obeys right away, there is more laughter and smiles in our interactions. Our entire family is happy and life is good. There is a blessing in first time obedience.

Today I wondered... if I can see the benefits of first time obedience so clearly in my son's life, why don't I get it myself? I expect him to obey right away when asked to do something, but so often I don't interact the same way with God.

I've learned 2 lessons from my 3 year old about obedience.

First lesson learned...
My obedience to God should be the same as what I expect from my son. When God speaks that I should do something, nothing else should come before Him or what He is asking of me. Even when I don't understand, I must obey. Even when I don't like it, I must obey. Even when it's uncomfortable, I must obey.

I don't want my son to obey out of obligation or fear, but because he loves us and because he loves God. I want my obedience to God to be with the same heart; a heart that I love God so much that I have no other choice but to immediately obey His word by laying aside my rules, expectations, or ideas. His plans are bigger than I will ever understand or imagine, and only He can see the ending. My obedience shows trust that He knows the plans He has for me, that they are good and that He will work out in me what He has started.

2nd Lesson learned...
There is grace through Christ when we fall short on first time obedience. When my son doesn't obey the first time I too quickly resort to frustration that he isn't getting it. I think that it should be easy for him to listen and obey. Yet in my own life, I often just don't get it. I wrestle with God and avoid talking to Him because maybe I might not like his answer. All the while, I am teaching my son that he needs to obey my words because I know what is best for him, even when he doesn't understand or like my answer. What a contradiction. Sometimes my son just doesn't get it. More often, I just don't get it.

Thank God, that there is grace when we don't obey Him. I am thankful that his grace covers my failings. I am thankful that he relentlessly pursues me and calls me back to obedience time and time again. Maybe I should begin practicing the same grace with my son as God daily shows to me. With any parent and with God, there is firmness in discipline that strengthens and trains us, but His grace shows that firmness is done with love and a quiet, guiding hand.

How different would my life look if I simply practiced first time obedience? Instead of debating, arguing, avoiding or second guessing God's directions, what if I obeyed right away? Even if I didn't understand, or didn't like the answer, or simply didn't want to do it - what if I obeyed anyway? I can think of many situations in my life that could have been avoided or been less painful had I simply obeyed him right away instead of trying my way first.

Remember the story of Jonah? He loved God, but he didn't want to go to Nineveh. He was afraid, he didn't understand why he was being sent there and he simply didn't want to do it. He didn't obey God right away. Because of this, he went through a painful experience before he learned that God's ways are always right and good. Jonah learned the benefits of first time obedience.

There is benefit in those painful journeys. None of us are perfect because we are human. We are going to struggle from time to time at first time obedience. In the struggles of not obeying God, I have learned so much, I have been renewed and my faith has been strengthened. There is great benefit to painful experiences and in the firm discipline that God provides to us, just as we show to our children. We all go through seasons of life that have painful experiences that grow us more like Him.

God welcomes our questions and He tells us that we can test Him. He is big enough to handle anything we bring to the table. Even with first time obedience, we will face trials and struggles. But in obeying him right away, we waste less time in fear and worry. In first time obedience we show faith in saying to Him, because you say so, I will.

In Luke 5:5, Peter was called by Jesus to put down his net to catch fish. Jesus asked him to put his net down at a time and place that made no sense. Peter responded by simply saying, "because you say so, I will." He may have asked questions later, but immediately, Peter responded with obedience.

I desire to be more like Peter. I want my daily prayer to be,
"God because I know that you are good, I understand that you only have good in mind for me. I may not understand your ways, but I trust in you. In whatever the day brings, help me to say, "because you say so, I will."