“I delight in disobedience,” laughed a young woman at a Christian women’s retreat. The leader of the session gently chided her, saying, “No. You delight in obedience.”
The idea of delighting in obedience — not just learning how to obey God’s call — was foreign to me back then, a hundred years ago. And it’s even more uncomfortable today! I have no problem listening to the Holy Spirit’s still small voice and discerning God’s call for the next step. My problem is actually being obedient and doing what I know He wants.
I think we fool ourselves when we say hearing God’s call for our lives is hard. The truth is that hearing God’s call is easy. The hard part is taking one step forward and actually being obedient to God. A step could be as little as talking or writing about our goals and dreams, or as big as applying for school or a job overseas. And delighting in obedience? A whole new ball game!
For example, for 10 years I’ve felt compelled to make Christmas more meaningful by serving, volunteering, sacrificing my time. Not just an hour or two; I yearn to give a full week of my time and energy to brighten and lighten the load for others. Twice I volunteered at a Christmas camp for adults with physical and mental disabilities; both experiences were fulfilling, meaningful, and so special. I heard God’s call on my life, I obeyed, and I delighted in serving.
And yet — even though the call to serve again this Christmas is already stronger than ever — I can feel myself falling into disobedience. And I feel no delight. Worse, I’m falling into disobedience because I’m listening to the wrong voices. I’m ignoring the echoes of Jesus in my heart, soul and spirit…and it hurts. Something has to change, and it’s not God’s call. It’s me.
3 Tools to Help You Obey God’s Call
While talking to God this morning, I came up with three tips to help me not just obey but delight in obedience to His will for my life. They’ve already helped me; I hope they help you, too.
1. Timeless truths in Scripture
Researching and writing How to Find the Timeless Truths in the Bible helped me understand the difference between situational, person-specific insights and God’s truth that applies to us today. In that article I describe how Paul’s instruction for women speaking in churches applied to the Corinthians 2,000 years ago, and how it applies to women in leadership today. Now that I understand the difference between a timeless truth and a situation-specific insight, I’m better equipped to obey God’s call on my life.
God leads us forward one small step at a time — it’s a timeless truth that the Father only reveals the next step when He’s ready to lead us forward. He did this with Abraham, Moses, Naomi, Ruth, Esther, David, the disciples, and Jesus Himself. I don’t know where God will lead me this Christmas, or why, or who I’ll minister to. So, I don’t need to know right now where, when, why or how I’ll serve this Christmas. My next step is being honest with family and friends about my intention to obey God, and standing firm even when I feel unsupported and alone. Perhaps I might even find ways to delight in obedience, too!
2. The counsel of fruitful believers
My family and friends aren’t surprised to hear me talk about serving in a deeper, more meaningful way at Christmas. In fact, the surprise is all mine — and not in a good way. Last week I talked to a friend about it; she said it was best for my marriage to spend Christmas with my husband and his family. I could read books, write blog posts, and spend the time relaxing and retreating. I didn’t have to serve anyone, nobody needed me…it would be a vacation. By the end of our visit, she had me convinced. “See you at Christmas,” I said with a heavy heart. “Hooray!” she said, delighted.
Seeking the counsel of Christian friends is not enough. Listen to fruitful believers who are walking in faith. The morning after I talked to my friend — my heart still heavy — I realized the importance of talking to Christians who are obeying God’s call and bearing the same type of fruit you, too, wish to produce. Believing in Jesus is easy when you live a normal life in a comfortable home, safe country, and secure social network. But, walking with Jesus Christ in faith, hope, trust and peace involves actually obeying God’s voice and producing fruit that affects how other people live. That is how to truly, deeply delight in being obedient to God. If you’re struggling to hear and obey God’s call on your life, don’t just seek the counsel of other Christians. Talk to believers who are actively, obediently faithful and fruitful.
3. Your past experience
I love getting old! Because the older I get, the more I learn how simple it is to obey God’s call on my life. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. My past experiences have shown me the way I don’t want to go, the way I can’t keep going, the things I can’t keep doing. My past Christmases haven’t deepened my walk with Jesus, strengthened my relationship with God, or increased the voice of the Holy Spirit. Wait a minute — back up! Actually, my past experiences have increased the Holy Spirit’s voice in my heart, head, body and spirit. Every year I feel more and more strongly that I need to go deeper at Christmas, that I yearn to minister in ways that stretch my faith and deepen life, that I desire to obey God’s call on my life.
What has your past experience taught you about being obedient to God? This is a great tool for taking the next step in faith because it’s personal. It’s between you and God — and He wants to have a personal, interactive, one-to-one relationship with you. The Holy Spirit wants you to hear His voice, follow His lead, and walk forward in faith. He wants to give you the desires of your heart because He planted them there. God wants you to delight in obedience because He knows that that is the only way to truly deep, meaningful, fulfilling life in Jesus Christ. Look at how God has led you in the past. How did you respond? What did you learn? What would you do different? Talk to the Father, ask Him to help you hear and follow His voice. Seek wise counsel, but above all listen for the echoes of Jesus Christ to lead you forward.
What do you think about these three tools (timeless truths in Scripture, the counsel of fruitful believers, and your past experience) for being obedient and delighting in God’s call? As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome below.
May you hear the echoes of Jesus in your day, sense the Holy Spirit in your life, and walk humbly with your God all the way home.
In peace and passion,
P.S. If you aren’t sure if you’re hearing God’s voice, read How Do I Communicate With the Holy Spirit?