When I was a teacher, one of my co-workers posted a quote on his classroom wall: "The moment you settle for less than what you want is the moment you get more than you bargained for."
This is how it is with disobeying God. Once we settle for not going His way, we get less than we imagined and more than we ever wanted. Here are three truths about disobedience that I pray will help convince you that going God’s way is always best.
One night, I dreamt I was being chased down a long, narrow hallway by a giant chocolate donut which screamed, "Eat me! Eat me!" Apparently at that point in my life I liked donuts more than I should—so they had become my enemy.
That's the way any great desire can be. If we want something too much it can become enemy number one to relationship with God, and a threat to obedience. Why? Because Satan can use what we long for most to seduce us into sin. This isn’t surprising. After all, when is the last time you were tempted by something you didn't desire? Our enemy knows what we want most and is skilled at creating custom temptations to match our deepest longings.
In Scripture, James wrote about this when he said, "...but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:14-15 NIV).
Perhaps you're thinking, This Scripture doesn't apply to my desires, because mine aren't evil. I just want to be loved, accepted, successful and have meaning in my life. There's nothing wrong with that.
I agree. There is nothing wrong with God-given desires, but when any longing is not submitted to Christ, it can still lead to disobedience, and therefore, the devastation that James describes.
For example, have you known a woman who wanted to be loved so badly that she was tempted and became involved with an abusive man? Or, have you heard about a man who had such a longing for success that he was seduced into a dishonest business deal?
Desperate longings can tempt us do desperate, disobedient things. Desire not submitted to Christ can make us to lose our sensibility, justify our behavior, and make excuses, which is very unattractive for God’s children. When we give in to temptation, it often means we're not trusting Him to provide. As a result, we settle for crumbs, when God wants to give us an entire cake.
When I telephone my friend, Suzanne, and ask her a question such as, "How was your day?" and it's not the positive response I'm looking for, sometimes I tease and say, "OK, let's start over." From there, I restate the question and wait for a more interesting or digestible answer. It's become a joke between us. Sometimes I get the answer I want the second time around, and sometimes I don’t.
This reminds me of a way that we sometimes communicate with God which hinders obedience. We ask Him for guidance. "Lord, do you want me to get a new job?" "Should I move to another state?" "Is it best for me to give my money to that woman in my church?" Then, because God is good and faithful, He answers. But sometimes we don't like His response, so just like I am with my friend Suzanne, we want to ask God to start over and give us a different answer. And sometimes if we don't like His answer, we may disobey and act like we haven’t heard Him at all.
I call this "selective hearing." It's what some husbands do when they are watching football and don't want to be interrupted, and what students do when they don't want to hear their teacher. Selective hearing makes us tune-out whoever is speaking; so it's like they never said a word. Tuning-out God will make us act like we haven't heard Him and pretend that we have obeyed him.
I once felt the Holy Spirit nudge me toward obedience and let go of some potential opportunities, because I was giving them too much importance; and they were edging in on the place reserved for Him on the throne in my heart.
These opportunities were like a box full of chocolates. To my chagrin, it was as if God said, "Wait! Don't eat those. I've got something better." But because I didn't completely listen, I gave in to temptation, and "stuck my fingers in all my chocolates of opportunity," by still checking out what could still be if God didn't show up. I hedged the line without blatantly disobeying.
And because I hadn't completely submitted myself to His authority, panic ruled.
Sometimes we can commit the sin of partial obedience. Sure, we haven't completely "eaten the chocolates" that God told us to give up, but we're still holding them in our hand, because we want a back up just in case He doesn't come through. Whether we are only sinning partially or all the way, we won't experience the peace that is ours in Christ unless we fully obey.
It can be in small or great matters, in the purchasing of a dress, marriage to a mate, or attending a party. If God says to wait or choose something else, it might not seem like a big deal if we change things just a little, right? We can justify or make excuses for our sin and the next thing you know, we're stuck going down a path without peace we had no intention of walking on.
Whenever I visit my friend and her husband in Texas, I am amazed by their well-behaved children. Rarely do I hear my girlfriend ask her kids to do something more than once, because they've been taught that quick and full obedience keeps them safe from consequence.
I want to not allow my desires to rule my relationship with God; I want to listen the first time and completely do what He says. How about you? Will you join me on a journey of going God’s way?