I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
By Laura Hardin (WITHIN Devotional Contributor)
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21)
A couple months ago, I realized that I had dropped the ball in disciplining my children. With a baby in one arm, my two-year-old wailing in the other, I needed my son to come to me, and he refused, ushering our family into a series of events at a local restaurant that landed with me crying in my car and needing friends to come to my rescue.
I describe it as the lowest moment of my adult life, but at the end of the day this situation opened my eyes to the mess we make of our lives when we refuse to submit to God, when we forget that his ways are actually good for us. The Lord convicted me of not heeding his word with the same expediency I expect from my children. I had neglected to train my children up in the Lord, to train them to honor and obey their parents. I prioritized convenience instead.
I don’t think I’m alone in the struggle to obey. I often think grace gives me space to take my time in obeying God. I want to obey on my own terms, maintaining a sense of closeness to God without fully surrendering to him.
You may not be a parent but the toddlers of the world have something to teach us all about faith in Jesus and the life it produces. Jesus taught us to be like children in how we trust him (Matthew 18:3). Instead, we are often like children when it comes to a sinful bent to only do what seems good to us.
When the Holy Spirit prompts us to trust and obey God, the immature among us (read: me) are prone to screaming “No!” inwardly like toddlers. My son likes to tell me what he will and will not do:
“I am not going to do that right now. I am going to play with my box.”
“I can’t talk right now.”
“I’m not going to clean right now. My feet are too small.”
God tells us to restrain our anger and we sound a lot like my three year old: “No, I’m not going to do that. I”m going to tell this person what I really think. I”m going to let them see my irritation.”
He commands us to love someone difficult. “No, I’m going to walk in the other direction. I’m too tired for this.”
He prompts us to make a meal for a family. “No, there are other people who do that kind of stuff.”
When my toddlers disobey, I can see that they don’t trust my leadership. We disobey God for the same reason; we don’t trust that he is good, wise, and loving. We don’t believe he is the good shepherd who leads us well. We struggle to accept that happiness and freedom abound in submission to his word. So we bristle inside when anyone reminds us that obedience matters.
John 14:21 teaches that when we hear his word and obey, we love God and we gain a deeper understanding of him. God created us for this deep fellowship. This is what he’s after. Yes, his glory, but also our good. They are intrinsically tied together. And as we grow and mature, we will obey more quickly because we know the paths of righteousness are also channels of the greatest joy in God (Psalm 23:3, 16:11).
Jesus is the path of righteousness. In him are pleasures forevermore. Only in him can we trust God and obey. We need his grace to walk in the obedience of faith this week. We need his grace to do it without delay.
The weekly devotionals seek to encourage you to dig deeper into Scripture as you take the time to daily read, meditate, and internalize the verses in the devotional, along with the passages provided below to give greater context. Take the time to read them throughout the week (repetition is important) and ask the Holy Spirit to help you grasp what God is showing you about Himself, about you, and how to live in light of these truths.
Passages to read/memorize/meditate:
1 John 2:1-6
Questions to Reflect on:
1, How does an unwillingness to obey affect our relationship with God?
2. Because of our sinful nature, it’s common to bristle inside at the mention of obedience. In what areas of your life do you struggle to trust God? Talk to God about this. How might you take one small step of obedience in the right direction?
3. How can you now show compassion to someone in your life who struggles to obey God right away?