Please Don't Thank Me For My Obedience To God
One of the most important distinctive connections we can ever make, is between the will of man and the power of The Spirit in the lives of Believers. Both are very important and have their places within our theological frameworks. However, one is much stronger, important, powerful and capable of far more, than the finite attempts of our hands and hearts.
Quite often, we can get caught up in what we see through the social media provided glimpses of people’s lives and circumstances, successes and failures, that we forget to look at the more important thing. And it isn’t found in gathering up a host of tips and tricks on how to emulate the next person’s success, or even how to avoid their pitfalls. It’s solely found, in being able to acknowledge in action and in Scripture, how the triune Godhead has, made provisions for us to flourish because of who THEY are.
Today, many Christians can be found thanking other Christians for their good works that are visible to them. Out of a desire to encourage and uplift, many give their praise to those in the faith who have done seemingly great things that have either inspired or edified the next person. While there is nothing harmful found in the encouragement of other Believers, I think sometimes we can miss an important thing...
Any good works that we accomplish on this side of Heaven are only because of God in Christ (Eph 2:10). No matter how great and big those good works may appear to others, we still must remember that it is God who drives our wills and works for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). There is no one who just wakes up one day and decides in and of their own strength, to do godly things. It is The God who made them, saved them in Christ, and indwelt them with The Holy Spirit, that enables them to act in obedience to the ways and things of God.
I’m pretty sure the Israelites can attest to this truth, as we see many times throughout their walk that like us, if it wasn’t for God staying steadfast in His love towards His people, we would disobey any opportunity that we got.
LOSING SIGHT OF GOD
I experience an interesting kind of conviction whenever someone thanks me for my obedience to God, in whatever way.
A part of me feels guilty in receiving any type of praise, because I know how often I struggle to obey God in different areas of my life. Another part of me feels like I’m receiving an award that doesn’t belong to me, because the “good works” that I do aren’t my own to begin with. The glory that stems from them only belongs to God.
Obeying God isn’t something we should thank one another for. Like the people of Israel, God’s Law, commitment to His covenant He established with Abraham, and the steadfast love that oozed from His nature, is what gave Israel the opportunities to obey Him. Read any passage in the Old Testament and you’ll easily see what I mean. On the days they triumphed, it wasn’t because they were doing something extra special. If anything, it displayed that our covenant keeping God was working overtime to ensure that He provided the means for His wayward people to obey, even when they didn’t want to.
One of the most helpful things we can do in stewarding the culture and conversations surrounding thanking one another for obedience to God, is by refusing to take ownership of it and redirecting the praise back to throne of God. For then it is redirected to its rightful place.
OBEDIENCE IN SACRIFICE
Can you just imagine how Abraham felt going to sleep that night before he was to arise and make the journey to the land of Moriah to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen 22:1-4)? What about the way Sarah must’ve held her biological son, a promise from The Lord, as close as she could because within three days he would no longer live? Imagine the lack of sleep they must’ve experienced that night, as they tossed and turned, anticipating the scary and confusing thing that The God of all creation, had called them to do. Or perhaps Isaac, watching his father who he may have gotten to know as a God-fearing man, prepare him as a sacrifice, while not being able to identify the lamb that was customarily used in the process, was going to be him (Gen 22:7)?
As I think through some of the possible raw emotions that were felt during this time, I can only imagine the moment that Abraham knew his obedience to God and the strength to obey, came not from himself. Especially when being asked to sacrifice his own son (come through Jesus in all of Scripture). In Genesis 22:10, Abraham reaches out his hand, takes the knife and prepares to slaughter his son Isaac. But then God intervenes...
THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER
God meets the obedience of Abraham by providing another sacrifice to offer: a ram caught in the thicket (Gen 22:13). Abraham no longer has to sacrifice his son Isaac, because in God’s testing of him, He had provided the means for him to obey all along, according to His will.
One of the most beautiful things about this chapter, is that we can see God’s hand in Abraham’s “obedience” if you will, the entire journey from instruction to execution (no pun intended)! The reason why Abraham was able to rise up early the next morning, was because God woke him up. The Bible is clear on God’s sovereignty over life. God allowed Abraham to wake up to obey Him.
We also see that God provides him with the wisdom to take two of his young men with him on the journey. In the original instruction we see given by God at the beginning of the chapter, God doesn’t command him to bring anyone else. But, he uses God given wisdom, to bring help to obey God.
Finally, we see him preparing the wood for the burnt offering by cutting it before he leaves his place of residence (Gen 22:3). God provided the means for Abraham to obey him, not Abraham in and of himself. This teaches us a valuable lesson on obeying God. It doesn’t take the perfect circumstances, tools or time to obey Him. If God has commanded us to do something in His Word, we can and will know that He is faithfully and providentially arranging for our human wills wrought by The Spirit, to obey Him.
Something I don’t want us as Brothers and Sisters in the faith to lose in our walks with God, is gushing over other people’s obedience to God. For some of us, we see others perform well, and battle inside because obeying God in the smallest of areas is super hard for us. We see people leaving their 9-5 in what they share as obedience to God, and beat ourselves up because we struggle to be self-controlled with our tongues.
What I don’t want us to do, is compare our obedience to God with someone else, by weighing it on a scale that God doesn’t. God is both the Author and Finisher of our faith. From beginning to end, He is with us, moving and shaking things up so that we may live lives that are abundantly blessed in devotion to Him. With the constant messages driving us to see our obedience to God as something others are “depending on you to do,” I think there is a better way for us to navigate it.
Instead of viewing our obedience to God as something we are doing for others because they are relying on us in someway, why don’t we seek to just obey God as He has called us to in His Word? Whomever is supposed to benefit from The Lord’s work in your life will, and it will be at no cost of added pressure upon your decision making. When we mystify each and every little thing in this Christian walk, we will turn what was intended for God’s glory and the good of others, into a self-centered motivation for obedience unto Him. Our obedience unto God isn’t for others, it’s for God. However, obedience that is rightly viewed and done as a Spirit-wrought discipline, will always benefit others as they see Matthew 5:16 worked out in real time.
We cannot take credit for the good works that we do. Our obedience will always be something we struggle with, yet are overrun by the beauty and power of The Spirit’s work in our lives. As long as our hands are doing what our hearts believe in response to God, our obedience will follow.
Have you taken credit for or passively accepted praise from someone that given the right response, would redirect the glory back to The One who ordained it? Are you willing to challenge yourself and others, to not look at you when you get something right, but instead send them to The God who did it all?
Our good works, model obedience and inspiration, will only be as helpful to others, so far as we are pointing them back to The God who is good.