For more than a year now, I’ve been battling with depression, anxiety, and occasional panic attacks. Many nights have I groaned and wept and got frustrated with myself for these weaknesses. I have been longing for my recovery and I am still waiting and praying for it to happen. But I see God using this long season of pain, brokenness, and loneliness to draw me closer to Him. And I desire to bear much fruit despite what I am going through.
I am thankful that as I am spending more time with the Lord, especially after very recent traumatic experiences, I get more comfort from Him. But in other days and nights, I have been groaning and crying to God still. Sometimes my tears were associated with the struggles I mentioned but at other times, they come as I battle with myself. The Lord requires me obedience in a certain area of my life. I decided to follow but as I do, it strips me away of every control that I have in it. And He requires me to give away to Him more as I continue. It is tough but I really want to obey. And so, I have to fight against my flesh day by day. Sometimes though, I would ask Him why even though I know there is a greater purpose behind it.
Having sinful human nature, our flesh delight more to rebel than to obey.
In 1 Samuel 15, we would read about the disobedience of Saul towards God. Saul was instructed to strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have—including men and women, children and infants, and all their livestock. Saul went as commanded and destructed the Amalekites with the edge of the sword. However, he and the people spared Agag (the king of Amalek), the best of their livestock, and all that was good, destroying only those that were despised and worthless.
When Saul was confronted by Samuel, he claimed that he had obeyed the voice of the Lord. But his obedience was partial. He even tried to justify his disobedience by pointing the fault to the people with him, and that the animals were spared to be offered as sacrifices to the Lord. But Samuel, receiving the word from the Lord, could not be fooled. We would read in verse 3, “Saul and the people spared…” Saul even went to Carmel to build up a monument for himself and went down to Gilgal where he stated was the place to sacrifice the animals that they have spared.
“And Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22 ESV)
The Lord delights in obedience than burnt offerings and sacrifices. Hence, God rejected Saul as king of Israel for he turned his back from following Him and had not performed His commandments (v.11, 26). Saul confessed that he had sinned because he feared people more than God. Despite this, he was still more concerned about his standing and reputation with the elders and the people, so, he pleaded Samuel to honor him before them, and to return with him that he may bow before God. “So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul bowed before the Lord” (v.31).
Saul was able to bow before the Lord as Samuel had changed his mind. However, at the last verse of the chapter, it was written: “And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.” Here we see that God does not change his mind regarding a decision he has made.
The Lord promises His presence in our lives when we choose to obey Him.
In the first chapter of the book of Haggai, we would read about the command of God to rebuild the temple and the obedience of the people to His voice. When the people obeyed, the Lord declared through His messenger, Haggai, “I am with you.” (v. 13). The same is promised in Matthew 28:20, “And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This promise wasn’t given to just anyone, but to those who obey the great commission.
Oftentimes, we decide based on our own desires, or to please other people that we reject what we know God has already told us. And like Saul, it is easy to justify our disobedience to the Lord by saying, “I intend to offer this to You, Lord, for Your glory.” Some things in our life may feel good and look pleasing, but regardless if those things which God does not give us approval seem right, and regardless of how we sincerely want to do them and offer them for His glory, our disobedience is still a sin. Again, obedience is better than sacrifice. God is not glorified in our rebellion, nor does He bless the fruits of our rebellion. For if it was so, then, God could’ve changed His mind in sending out Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden. But here we are, reaping the terrible consequences of the fall. In His sight, partial obedience is still disobedience. He is not pleased in our turning away from His voice and commandments.
Several times, I’ve heard my pastor say, “We can only be protected by God when we’re under His covering.” We leave God’s covering when we disobey. We see that in Saul’s disobedience. God rejected Him as king of Israel. Adam and Eve were enjoying close fellowship with God until they rebelled. The same will be true for us. Unless we follow the Lord, we will never experience and enjoy a deeper relationship with Him. Our obedience also testifies about our love for the Lord. Jesus said,
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV)
If we know the Lord tells us to do one thing yet we do otherwise, it exposes our love for something else more than Him. It declares that that something is more important than the Lord Himself. And something that is more important than God is an idol.
Our God is not a controlling God. It is not His will for His children to suffer, unless, it is for righteousness’ sake. His desire for our obedience is meant for our good—to mold us in Christ-likeness—, not harm. He knows the consequences we will reap if we keep turning our backs from following Him and that is not part of the good plans He has for His children. This is why He wants us to follow Him.
The perfect example of obedience is our Lord Jesus Himself. If He did not do as He ought to, there would have been no hope for mankind and no one will be spared from the wrath of God. And we, being the recipient of God’s grace and mercy through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, are called to walk in the same manner. The message of the Gospel wouldn’t have been spread if the disciples and apostles did not do as He commanded. In the many stories of victory in the Bible, God was with those faithful servants, prophets, and Christ-followers who obeyed Him.
Do we not desire God’s presence in our lives? What more do we want, that we choose to rebel than to trust that if we obey, we have the assurance that we are walking in His will? As we follow Him, we have the security that we will receive the promise He has for those who are faithful and obedient to Him. If we truly love the Lord, and if He truly is Lord in our lives then we know what we should be doing and we should be doing it.
Obedience to God is not an easy thing. It requires turning away from the sins we indulge in, letting go of our deep desires which He does not want for us, and giving Him total control in our lives trusting that He knows what is best. The flesh doesn’t want that. It is a tough battle. But the Lord is with us. He will grant us the grace and the strength we need as we choose to follow Him. All these will give God much glory which is infinitely better than anything we offer Him apart from obedience. He is not pleased with the counterfeit glory we decide to give Him to cover up our disobedience to His voice.
The true blessing in obedience is God himself. There is no greater blessing on earth and in heaven than Him. As followers of Christ, we ought to want that. And we will do everything to have that no matter what it would cost us because we need nothing else but Him.
Thank you for reading! If you have questions about faith, please feel free to contact me. God bless you!