Real faith results in obedience. For me to respond in faith to what God says in His Word means putting it into action in my life. I would choose to obey—to do what the Word says instead of just listening and nodding my head in agreement. (Romans 2:13; James 1:22)
This afternoon I got frustrated with a customer service representative who couldn’t seem to understand my question no matter how many ways I tried to phrase it. I’ve had problems like this before, and in the past (like last week) I’ve gotten quite upset.
But today, I’m looking at 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I’m in Christ Jesus. Therefore, God wants me to always rejoice, continually pray, and give thanks even in frustrating situations—even when I can’t get the help I think I need. This is an opportunity to let the Holy Spirit bear fruit in me—patience and self-control specifically. I can choose to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. I could pray, “Lord, please help me to let go of my old ways and be renewed in Christ-likeness. Thank You for this chance to grow.”
Ephesians 4:22-24 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
(Both quotes NIV)
One of my goals this year is to learn to listen better—especially to God. The following reminded me of my need to work toward this goal.
At a family holiday gathering, one of the exhausted children whined for his father’s attention. All the adults, including his father, were busy with other pursuits. While I worked on a craft project, the Holy Spirit nudged me to help the child. I thought, “I’d comfort the boy, but I don’t know what to do. My attention or attempts to comfort would only get him more upset because I’m a rather distant relative.”
So I asked God what I could do, but I kept on working on my craft instead of stopping to listen. After a few minutes I got an idea of what to do. By that time, however, the child had sat down on the couch and fallen asleep.
By being too busy to listen to our Father, I missed an opportunity to obey Him and perhaps become less distant to my young relative. Maybe I can learn from this experience to stop and listen next time the Holy Spirit nudges.
“…Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.” -Hebrews 3:15 New Living Translation
“The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life (John 6:63*).”
Thank You, Lord, that Your Spirit gives us life. You are the Vine. We are the branches. We draw our nourishment from You. (John 15:4-5) Depending on my own thinking and doing what looks good to me has never benefited anyone. I see that more as I trust You more.
Jesus, You said Your words are spirit and life. I want to fill up on Your words. But I see that if I want to partake of the life they give, I must also put those words into practice, doing what You say and persevering in that. [“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”–Matthew 7:24-27* (Emphasis mine.)]
So if I find out what You said, write it down, and even memorize it, I can still miss out on the life You want me to have. To enjoy Your abundant life, I need to do what You say—obey You. I need the power of the Holy Spirit working in me to do that. And that is just what You promised!
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13*).
Oh thank You, Lord, that Your Holy Spirit helps me today to feed on Your Word and do what it says. Amen.
(*Scripture quotes are New Living Translation.)
An article in my daily devotional booklet made me think about the purposes God has for my life. I used to spend most of my time (even as a Christ-follower) trying to run from difficulties, get people-approval, and make life comfortable and happy for me. But now I recognize that as the world’s way of life, not God’s way. His way is to love Him with all I am, keep His kingdom first, and love others—especially those who belong to His family. I think about the following verses (quoted from the New Living Translation):
Galatians 2:20: “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
From 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “…You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price….”
Since God bought me with such a high price, and now I belong to Him, I need to spend the remaining moments (or if God permits, years) of my life loving and serving God and bringing glory to Him.
Yes, I can obey God’s Word! I’m through telling myself the “I can’t” lie. Sometimes, when I would read a Scripture portion or verse, I would say internally, “God says to do _________, but I really can’t. So I’ll just skip that part and look for something I can do. For example, I would read Philippians 4:8 (“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.”). Then I’d think, Well, yes, but you know I’ve tried to think on these good things, and I really can’t. Other thoughts always take over. Then my mind runs wild, and I fall back into a negative outlook.
I repent. No more “I can’t.” No more excuses. I will choose to listen to the truth that by the power of the Holy Spirit I can obey God. I will choose life, not death. (Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”)
(Scripture quotes are New King James.)
How many times my thoughts stray from focus during the day! I find myself going over and over conversations or actions, thinking about what I should or shouldn’t have said or done. Or sometimes I’m planning what I’ll do if such and such happens or if so and so does this or that.
But I have hope. Since I’m in Christ, old things have passed away (died), and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17). I have received the Holy Spirit who gives me power to put off the old and put on the new. When I catch myself thinking the old way, I can say to myself,
“No, self. Focus on the task at hand. If it doesn’t take much thought (comb hair, vacuum), think about the Scripture you meditated on this morning or heaven or Jesus or God’s attributes or other wonderful things.”
Then as I begin to focus on the good things and let go of the scattered thoughts, I will be obeying God’s Word by renewing my mind. (See Romans 12:2 and James 1:22.)
(Photo by Paula Satijn, “Mirror.” Found in Flickr Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulasatijn/79850464800/)
Psalm 103:17-18 “But the LORD ‘s love for those who respect him continues forever and ever, and his goodness continues to their grandchildren (18) and to those who keep his agreement and who remember to obey his orders.” New Century Version
God’s love lasts forever! His goodness extends to the grandchildren! What wonderful promises! But are they for me, or only for others? Am I one who qualifies to receive them?
Do I respect (fear in other versions) the Lord? Well, I do reverence Him and worship Him alone. I’m growing in letting my life revolve around Him and trusting Him above everything and everyone. Do I keep His agreement/covenant? I’m not sure what that looks like, but I know I belong to Jesus Christ, God’s Son and seek to follow Him, and I think that might be what it means to keep God’s covenant.
Do I remember His commands to do them (obey His orders)? God’s commands are to love Him with all I am and to love other people. I’m learning to do that more and more, although I still stumble. [Thank You, Lord, that Your mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and that there’s no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).]
Yes, these promises would surely be for me also.