Obeying God is clear in many situations. We know that adultery, gossip, jealousy, robbery, lust and murder are wrong because the Bible tells us so. When the temptation to sexually admire or actually picture ourselves with someone, to shoplift, or to slander a friend with unkind words comes — even if unconfessed sin has silenced or dulled our conscience — the Bible speaks loudly against such things. But what happens when obeying God just isn’t that clear or potentially scandalous?
Throughout my Christian life I’ve been guilty of elevating obedience in the heroic to the neglect of the ordinary. While marveling at how a friend can continue to serve others through cancer or forgive an unfaithful spouse, I forget that God is requiring me to do what is right, day after boring day. Like when:
- I’m tempted to bark complaints to Benny when he does something irritating or insensitive.
- My day is interrupted with unexpected things that require me to adjust my plans.
- Something I did for someone I love goes unappreciated.
- A conversation turns to accusations rather than inquiring questions about something I did or said.
- I’m too tired to do what needs to be done.
- Concerns about a family member or friend morphs into anxiety or fear that tempts me to doubt God’s love, faithfulness or provision.
I’ve been thinking about Jesus. Before He had healed anyone, cast out a single demon, raised people from the dead or fed thousands with a measly amount of food His Father boldly declared His pleasure over His Son. Jesus was a baby, then a toddler; a boy and then a man. Before He did anything spectacular He did the normal things of life like obey His parents and work hard in his dad’s carpentry business (we assume). In the day-in-day-out happenings of life He honored God one choice at a time.
And because He died and sent His spirit to reside within us, we have the power to do the same.
What happens with obeying God is unclear? When everything in us wants to do wrong even when we know it’s wrong (like last week when I arrogantly fussed at Benny for not doing something I wanted him to do)? When His will isn’t clearly written on the pages of scripture or two Christians interpret what is said differently? Or when doing right is just beyond our strength and we feel powerless to do anything but sin?
At times like this we have to remember Jesus…again. He lived a perfect, sinless life. He always chose to do what’s right. He never lied or was lazy or lusted or selfishly fussed at a family member. And those of us who are Christians have been credited with His perfect life in exchange for our sinful choices. He has given us everything we need “for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) — including the ability to obey Him in things big and small.
And when we fail, there is a throne of grace to which we can confidently run “for mercy and help in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). That throne of grace is inhabited by the very One who made a way for us to know His will and then to receive forgiveness when we knowingly or ignorantly refuse it.
I don’t know about you but the costs of following and obeying God hit me right where I live on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning. When I’m discouraged, weary, self-centered, worried or concerned about what others think of me. When I want to be helped or served and others have needs, too. When I have no thought to kill — but am experiencing the anger that Jesus said would incur the same judgement (Matthew 5:21-22).
Whether obedience is clear or muddy, the throne is always open. And the needy who run there will be met with mercy.
I am needy. Are you?