In this pretty season of peace on earth and the goodwill we tend to feel toward each other it’s pretty easy to forget we have the tendency to be a rebellious people.
The manger and the cross have dealt with our sin issues and have brought God near to us. Obedience keeps us there.
Have you ever wondered what if Mary had said no way to the angel when he showed up announcing her future as the mother to an illegitimate son, through means she couldn’t comprehend? What if Joseph had politely declined the assignment of parenting Jesus and protecting Mary? What if shepherds hadn’t seen the promise wrapped in flesh and spread the good news, or wise men had followed their own wisdom and not an inexplicable star? Each one of these very real people would have missed out on the joy of obedience, and the consequences would have influenced the joy of everyone else around them.
Could you have blamed any one of these people for declining God’s invitation to participate in his plan? They didn’t know what we know now. Their perspective was limited. God’s call to obedience always comes with enough information for us to act and with enough mystery for us to need to trust. Often our senses tell us one thing and God’s word and Spirit tell us another. What will we do?
Every one of these people had a good excuse, even a good reason, not to do what God asked of them. Regardless of their reasons they still would have missed out on joy if they chose not to obey.
The third key to joy:
Living in obedience to God and his word brings joy –
The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. Psalm 19:8
Maybe right now, in this Christmas season, you are faced with the same dilemma these people so long ago were faced with. Will you obey God’s calling, God’s word to you, in spite of circumstances? Will you be ethical even if your boss has taken advantage of you and you feel justified to help yourself to a little reward? Will you be faithful to your spouse even if the reality is they’re unkind, unpleasant, and even a down right jerk? Will you forgive even if you’ve been hurt through no fault of your own? Will you be generous even if your money is tight? Will you obey God?
The obedience God requests of us affects the lives of those around us, obedience is always lived out in the context of relationship. Another aspect of the joy of obedience includes responding to God’s goodness to us by being good to others. “Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble.” Psalm 41:1
Our goodness to others should never rest on their ability to return goodness to us, or be based on their worthiness. Our goodness to other people should be based completely on the goodness that we ourselves have received from God.
How do we have the power and wisdom to obey God? From understanding his word. If we want to live lives characterized by a happy obedience to God we must dedicate ourselves to understanding what the Bible says about who he is and who we are to be.
Is your heart joyful?
As a teenager I wrestled with regular devotional time. I reasoned that God would prefer my desire over my duty, and at that stage I didn’t desire reading the Bible as often as I should. While there may be some truth to my reasoning I soon learned that it was me that was paying the price for that logic. It affected my entire life. When I lost sight of the truth of God’s word my spiritual life developed a wobble, I was fretful – not joyful. I can’t explain the wonder of it, but when I devoted myself once again to the reading and understanding of God’s word my heart was glad, obedience characterized my life again.
Obedience isn’t easy. It means laying down what I want in exchange for what God wants. It means trusting that his way is best even if my senses and feelings tell me otherwise. The joy that follows when our behavior flows from trust in God and his ways isn’t of this world, it has a richness that rings of eternity.
Take it to heart
Take some time to meditate on Psalm 19 this week. What picture does the psalm paint of the God we obey? How does the psalmist describe God’s word? What is the relationship between a pure heart and God’s word? Why do you think the psalmist describes God’s creative work and word in the same psalm? As he concludes the psalm what is the writer’s request of God? Is it one your heart echos?
Let’s ask God to give us hearts of joy:
Father, sometimes it’s hard to obey you. We confess our tendency to follow our own wisdom instead of yours. But we want the joy that comes from living according to your word and not our own thinking. Would you give us hearts that are hungry to read your word and obey it. And would the joy you have when your children obey you fill our own hearts. We want to be people characterized by obedience and joy. And we trust that you will use our joy to draw others to you. Thank you for your word that guides our lives. Amen.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope your heart will drink deeply of God’s presence and gift of joy this season. You can subscribe to my blog so you won’t miss future posts, and if you know someone who is looking for joy share this series with them, the more the merrier!