By Stefanie Boyles
Staff Writer for the Daily Grace Co.
If we were to have coffee today and had the chance to engage in a deep conversation, there is a high probability that I would mention my desire to be a woman of “immediate obedience”. I want to be a woman of immediate obedience to the Lord – to obey His Word, not when it’s convenient and comfortable for me, but at any and all moments. And here’s why: I truly believe that we can quench the Spirit and miss out on the sweetness of fellowship with our Lord if we don’t obey. And not only that, I believe that we can grieve the Spirit when we don’t obey immediately. And sometimes, we miss out on some very particular blessings that the Lord has for us. Let me explain.
Have you noticed how God asks His people to trust and obey all throughout Scripture? Noah was told to build an ark; he was given very specific instructions. He had to trust in God even when it didn’t really make sense (boats usually are not necessary in the desert); he had to obey and build. Abraham was told to leave his hometown when he was 75 years old. God told him of a grand plan that included Abraham’s family multiplying and receiving land. Abraham had to trust in God and what He said. It didn’t make sense – for one thing, Sarah hadn’t been able to bear children, and she wasn’t getting any younger. But Abraham believed and obeyed. And he had to trust and obey, again and again – remember when God told him to sacrifice his son, Isaac? It didn’t make sense because God specifically said Isaac was the offspring that God had chosen to carry out His covenant. But do you know what Abraham did? He got up early the next morning, cut the wood himself, took Isaac, and started on the two-day journey to Mt. Sinai. Or what about Moses? He was living a normal life as a shepherd in Midian for forty years. All of a sudden, he sees a burning bush where the branches and leaves aren’t being consumed by the flames. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob called out to him and told him to go back to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of slavery. God told him exactly what would happen – Pharaoh’s heart would be hard and God would show His divine power and redeem His people. Even still, Moses had to trust God and obey by returning to Egypt. Or what when they finally entered the Promised Land? Joshua and the Israelites received the strangest battle plan to overtake Jericho – walk around a fortified city in silenceonce a day for six days? Then on the seventh day, they were to walk around the city seven times and make a loud shout and the walls would come crashing down? It didn’t make sense, but they trusted in God and prevailed.
Over and over again, God calls His people to trust Him and to obey Him. But sometimes, there’s an immediate consequence for not trusting and obeying Him when He says. Think about the Israelites after the Exodus – after receiving the Law and building the tabernacle at Mt. Sinai, they were led through the wilderness toward the Promised Land. It was a journey that should have only taken 2 weekson foot, but due to their unbelief, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Instead of trusting in God and going into the Promised Land and facing the Canaanites, the Israelites believed in the 10 spies that told them that the Canaanites were too big and strong and they would never overcome. God had told them to go; His presence was with them and had led them there; yet, they grumbled and doubted and didn’t go. So what did God do? He gave them what they wanted – that unbelieving generation of adults died in the wilderness, and only Joshua and Caleb (the 2 out of the 12 spies that urged the Israelites to trust God and obey immediately) were allowed to enter the Promised Land. So many Israelites missed out on the blessing of receiving the land the Lord had promised them.
And we can miss out on blessings today if we don’t trust and obey. First and foremost, we will not experience the fullness and sweetness of the fellowship that the Lord offers to us when we trust and obey His Word. And it’s really not about the law itself. No, our obedience is an expression of our affections for Him! Just as Jesus called for a deeper obedience in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) where our hearts’ motives align with our outward actions, He is desiring His people to pursue holiness out of reverence and awe and worship. He is after our hearts’ affections! And when we don’t trust and obey, there are many ways we can miss out.
Here’s a modern day example from my own life. About eight months before my dad unexpectedly passed away, I felt convicted to reconcile with him. You see, our relationship had been strained for years because, in short, he had started a new life with a new family. But the Lord reminded me of Romans 2:14 (ESV), which reads, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” God is abundantly kind to me and leads me to repentance and offers me forgiveness. How could I not be kind and offer forgiveness to my own dad? I thought, “Yes, Lord! Of course I want to obey!”
And it was about this time that my dad started texting me more frequently. I reciprocated because I had every intention to obey the Spirit’s leading – I wantedto reconcile. I wantedto extend kindness and forgiveness. But life was also very busy – my husband was away at a very rigorous Army school that was emotionally difficult for both of us. I was solo parenting a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, and I was 5-months pregnant with a baby that required extra ultrasounds due to a possible heart condition. Sure, these were valid life circumstances, but I knew my text messages were not what the Lord was asking of me. My positive intentions toward my dad and my desire to obey the Lord were there but so were a slew of other excuses.
Before I knew it, months passed. My husband graduated Ranger School and returned home. We had a healthy baby girl. And then less than 2 months later, I received the phone call: my dad has terminal lung cancer. My husband and I immediately made plans to drive up to see him – we were going to be there in two weeks. But here’s the thing: less than a week later, I received another phone call. The Lord had called my dad home. I never received the blessing of hugging my dad and reconciling. My children never got to meet their other grandpa, and he never got to meet his grandchildren. Yes, there is more to this story, but the point is this: I didn’t immediately obey the Spirit’s leading. There were very clear moments when I felt led to book flights – in fact, I was a click away at one point, but I didn’t fully obey.
The Lord, in His kindness, allowed me to have a sweet conversation with my dad before he passed away where I was able to express my sorrow over his diagnosis and offer my love and prayers. He is a good, good Father. And I fully trust in the sovereignty of God and I am able to rest in His unchanging attributes – His goodness, wisdom, graciousness, faithfulness, holiness, and more. But man, I wish I had fully obeyed right when the Spirit convicted me! So friends, I share this very personal story with you to encourage you: trust and obey the Lord at any and all moments. And be quick to forgive others and extend the love of Christ. After all, we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Be a woman of immediate obedience to the Lord.