Psalm 119:60 “I hurried without hesitating to keep Your commandments.”
The Lord has been teaching me principles of obedience for as long as I’ve known Him. As a young man it seemed those lessons were a daily occurrence and while the Lord showed me much grace in my failings, He continued to teach me the value of listening for His voice and responding to His commands.
One day I was driving to school and needed to fill by car with gas, I pulled up to a station I didn’t usually frequent and asked the attendant to fill the tank. As I was sitting there the Lord spoke in my heart to tell the young man that “Jesus loves him”. The instruction caught me by surprise, I didn’t know the guy nor did I usually go around telling strangers that Jesus loved them, I didn’t have that kind of boldness back then. As I sat there and argued with God how the guy would think I was a nut for saying such a thing, I paid for the gas then reluctantly drove off, as I did I immediately sensed the disappointment of the Spirit of God.
I knew I had missed an opportunity for obedience and quite possibly speaking a seeming random word to young man who God might have been teaching at that moment…it might have been the confirmation of a prayer or word he was seeking after, I might never know. All I knew at that time was I wasn’t ready to obey God’s voice but I was still learning to hear all the same.
Luke 11:28 “He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
I learned how important it was to obey at the time of God’s instruction. Not every command requires an immediate response, sometimes the Lord gives insight to a coming change in preparation for a work He is doing. Other times the command comes and the expectation is for obedience at that moment and at the time I thought it seemed unfair. How can God not prepare me to act without first giving me the time to get the boldness or confidence to do His bidding?
I’ve since learned the way God led me was exactly the way He was teaching me to prepare.
1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”
If we are to be prepared, what should we do to get ready?
After Jesus’ crucifixion many of the disciples were left wondering as to the events that just unfolded. Two of these disciples were walking along a road to a town called Emmaus and Jesus drew near to them as they walked.
Luke 24:15-16 “So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.”
Knowing all the questions they had regarding Jesus and if the events were as foretold, Jesus began to explain to them the proof of all that had transpired.
Luke 25:25-27 “Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
The method that Jesus used to help convince these men of the authenticity of Christ was by use of prophecy and the gospel. There are over 300 prophecies and 40 major ones that Jesus fulfilled through His birth, death, and resurrection. Moses represents the law, it is by sharing the moral law (10 commandments) that people gain an understanding of their sin and depravity before God. As Paul illustrated in Romans 10:4 “For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.”, people can gain an understanding of why Jesus died and why it is vital that they accept His sacrifice for sin by understanding the gospel.
The preparation is in understanding how to present God’s fulfilled promises and how that relates to the gospel.
Not every opportunity presents itself the same. Not every person is ready to be walked through such a comprehensive understanding of the authenticity of Jesus, sometimes a little seed is all that is required.
Sharing the Gospel
I’ve been given hundreds of opportunities to share the gospel and I’ve had to learn how to relate to others in a way that was effective for them, not for my self-righteous ego. If sharing the gospel is about me doing a work so that God is impressed with me, I will see very little fruit from my work.
The act of being salt and light in a world that is tasteless and dark is composed of being found obedient to the work of the Holy Spirit in each of our lives. We should never shy away from expressing our faith but there are times when people are not ready to receive that understanding. Sometimes just showing kindness, compassion, or love is enough to help others see Christ in us, hopefully leading to greater opportunities to lead them deeper into Truth.
Galatians 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
I’m continually trying to learn how to be responsive to others. Asking questions and listening to others stories helps me gain insight into how sin has corrupted their life. Since I can sympathize as being a sinner, I can empathize with the dilemma of sins corruptive influence and where it leads. Applying the gospel into another person’s circumstances is often all I need to do, the Word of God does the rest. It softens hearts, it cuts through the haze of confusion, and most importantly it leads people to Christ.
Jesus is the only One who can transform a life that is broken from sin. He loves far better than I do and He has a purpose for people’s lives that I cannot see. The quicker I can lead someone back to cross of grace, the quicker the Spirit can lead them in healing and restoration. To be honest, the Spirit is leading the entire way, He just let’s me take part in some of His work.
God is always working and He gives us opportunities to take part at times in different aspects of His work. If we miss an opportunity, in my case for lack of faith, He is faithful to lead us again into other opportunities once again.
How we respond to failure makes a difference as to how God uses us next time.
Responding to Failure
In Matthew 21, Jesus illustrates a parable of two sons.
Matthew 21:28-31 “But what do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first one and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
‘I will not,’ he replied. But later he changed his mind and went.
Then the man went to the second son and told him the same thing.
‘I will, sir,’ he said. But he did not go.
Which of the two did the will of his father?”
This question Jesus posed to the disciples was to help them understand how many people might start out as failures but learn from their mistakes and follow Christ, being redeemed to God’s glory. While those who claim to know God but never really acted on their belief will be lead away into destruction.
The first son failed to obey but later returned after he realized the error of his ways. Sure, he missed out on a portion of God’s goodness and the regrets he had for that disobedience will be a memory he wouldn’t soon forget.
The important point to remember is that God is patient with you, regardless of your failures. His love for you is willing to wait for you to come around, follow Him and believe that He will faithfully lead you through any obstacle in your path.
If God is testing you, regardless if you were found faithful or failed, you can give thanks that He is willing to invest Himself into your life. As you learn from your mistakes, you can grow through them, and find yourself passing the test next time.
Pray, ask God to lead you in His will, to use you for His glory, and when He does—be ready!….it may come when you least expect it.