The Cost of Obedience
As someone who was raised in the church, I reached a point where I wanted more out of my relationship with Christ than the endless cycle of backsliding and repenting. Young people were teaching the word of God with power, healing people by the power of the Holy Spirit and bearing fruit of godliness. Why did it seem like these other believers had more of God than I did? What was the difference between their life and mine?
The answer lied in the sacrifice I had been unwilling to make. I loved being a party girl and the notoriety that came with it. I enjoyed romantic relationships based on what I like, not necessarily what God required, and I loved living my life on my own terms, with just a sprinkle of Jesus on top. As much I desired to be relevant in the body of Christ and among other believers, I was not willing to pay the cost. A genuine encounter with God’s love as well an understanding of His coming justice finally opened my eyes. The believers I had admired for so many years paid a heavy cost for their lives of consecration. Many became believers as early as elementary school age. They were living Spirit-led lives that required daily crucifixion of their flesh. The years I had spent being led by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, they had spent being discipled, learning to battle against imaginations and strongholds, and consecrating themselves for service in the Lord. I thought we were all the same because of our age, but there was a remarkable difference. These ones had paid the cost of obedience while I was still unwilling.
Giving God a YES will always cost something. For me, it cost me the social circle and friends I cherished in the world. It cost me my desire for marriage at an early age and it cost me a sense of belonging. God stripped me of the friends that made sin look glamourous; the Holy Spirit removed me from a long-term (ungodly) relationship that was headed towards marriage and made me stand alone among the childhood friends I had for sixteen years. The season after coming to Christ was one of the loneliest for me in terms of human relationships. But as I was isolated from friends and romantic interests, I grew in the Lord. I learned to discipline my mind and body. I grew to love the word of God and I blossomed in my service in the body of Christ. Obedience does not always feel good in the moment but when we submit to God, our obedience bears fruit and as a result, our own joy is full.
For some women, saying YES to God means saying no to men who are not God’s standard for their lives. Rather than being yoked for life with someone others view as “good enough” from a worldly perspective, they steward the gift of singleness and live as examples of commitment and faithfulness in the body of Christ. There are some of us who have had to chose Christ over romantic love at some point in our lives. When a significant other becomes an object of idolatry or an invitation to live outside of God’s will, many women have chosen the temporary heartbreak of walking away so that they may cling to their First Love. It is not easy to cut off a relationship that brought you joy, companionship and dreams of happily ever; but even what we call good is still to be reviled when it is the enemy of God’s best. Nobody faults us when we walk away from abusive and dysfunctional relationships. Public opinion, however, is not always so favorable when we choose to sever ties with a romance that was happy and functional from the outside looking in, but one in which God has withheld His own seal of approval.
Rather than waiting on God to say yes, many have proceeded to do the desire of their heart because they did not hear an audible ‘no’ from the Lord.
Obedience is not simply going forward because you did not hear God say “STOP!” Obedience is waiting on instructions on the Lord before you ever begin the journey. We do not always have the luxury of saying “God, if you don’t want me to do this, please stop me.” Many of us have made up our minds to do what our heart or flesh desires in the first place. The invitation for God to act is an afterthought. God who sees and knows our intentions may very well leave us to do the thing we wanted to do all along.
The posture of our heart should rather be the one exemplified by Moses when he said to the Lord, ”if Your presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? […]” (Exodus 33:15-16a, NKJV)
Let it be said of us that we refused to do anything without first being sure that God’s presence was in it. May our legacy be those of people who would not walk through any doors that God Himself did not open. Before we commit ourselves to any assignments, opportunities or promotions, we seek the heart of God. This is a dangerous thing to do in the human sense because God may have us turn down significant promotions, walk away from a desired marriage proposal or lay our lifelong dreams on His altar as a sacrifice of obedience.
Obedience costs. The weight of obeying the Lord fully often feels like a crushing press – imagine what an olive feels when its oil is being expressed. But if we do not abandon the process because of the pain, a greater glory awaits us. There is joy in the presence of the Lord and that reward is reserved only for those who obey.