Is Obedience Really Worth It?
There are some questions, which when asked in the presence of other believers, might make the one asking the questions appear rather uncouth. Asking these embarrassing questions may cause you to be snubbed, scoffed at or humiliated by other believers who actually have it all together. Having it all together, of course, applies to their state prior to when they snub you, scoff at you or humiliate you… Nonetheless, I think the question “Is obedience really worth it” fits into the category of biblically uncivilized questions. Furthermore, I assume that if I asked you this inappropriate question, you might stare at me blankly for a moment, quickly recover your composure and then dismiss my question with a curt “Yes.” Now, if my assumption regarding your answer is correct, can you give me a good reason why you would answer affirmatively? Have you ever really thought about it? Moreover, do you ever feel that the cost of obedience might just be too high? Would you admit it to anyone if you did? Furthermore, do you ever wonder what value there is in struggling to obey, I mean struggling to really obey, when obedience perhaps seems to neither buy you anything or become any easier with time? Maybe I’m the only one asking these uncivilized questions. If so, then hopefully you can enjoy a good laugh at my expense. Otherwise, perhaps you’ll read on and let me know what you think.
I honestly don’t think this question is easily answered. The right answer may be yes, but the application and execution of the correct answer seems to defy being crammed into a three letter word. Personally, I ponder this question a great deal. I’ve even awakened at night wondering about this very topic. However, you can rest easy; I don’t have a fist full of iron-clad answers. Nonetheless, my thoughts generally return to two concepts when I struggle internally with this question. First, I don’t fully appreciate the deceitfulness of sin, and thus the benefit I gain by avoiding it. Second, I don’t really comprehend God’s goodness, and the corresponding motivation it can offer while I am struggling to obey. Let’s look at these two concepts in some more detail.
Sin packs a very potent one-two punch. I often fail to appreciate just how awful sin really is. First, it is a unprovoked transgression against a Holy God who Himself has never transgressed against me, and who is also the very One to whom I owe everything. Because of this, if left uncovered, sin sets me against God as an enemy. He will eventually utterly destroy all His enemies. However, as a believer my sins are covered by the sacrificial death of Christ. Because of Christ, I’m shielded from the fatal effects of the first punch sin throws my way.
However, the second punch of sin’s one-two combination can still land squarely on me as a believer. The second blow sin throws effectively numbs my heart towards the God who showers me with grace. You can see this described in the fall of Adam and Eve. I know when I’m caught in sin, I don’t want my Father. I’m ashamed, I’m frightened and I’m spiritually disoriented. I can’t tell spiritual up from down, and so my reflex is to cover up and hide. Furthermore, this second blow numbs my senses to God’s grace and affection for me as His child. If I am a believer, then at no time is my salvation in jeopardy, but nonetheless, my hold on spiritual reality must be described as tenuous at best. I am as fragile as a jar of clay, and sin really can send me crumpling to the canvas. Consequently, if for no other reason whatsoever, obedience for a believer affords the benefit of added protection from sin’s deceitful and stunning second blow.
Its hard for me to appreciate the deceitfulness of sin, but God’s goodness is a characteristic that is sometimes even more difficult for me to really understand and appreciate, especially when I don’t seem to be getting what I want in life. Sometimes I think I understand His goodness, but if I correlate that back to events in my life, it usually corresponds to the times in which life is proceeding rather swimmingly. When things aren’t going as I would like, God’s goodness is the first thing I tend to impugn. Is God Good? There is another one of those uncivilized questions. But at the end of the day, and after all of the pious one-liners and motivational slogans from well meaning individuals, that is precisely the question I have to answer given whatever circumstances I might find myself in.? Implicit in answering Yes to this question, however, is the requirement that I relinquish my assumption that I know what is best for me. This is not easily accomplished, at least not for me.
Furthermore, if God is truly good, and if His wrath towards me is truly satisfied in Christ, then He logically cannot withhold anything good from me. To do so would require Him to relate to me with some measure of evil intention or spite. This means that there is nothing better for me right now than what I currently have. Consequently, I cannot view obedience as a means by which I earn spiritual currency that I can then cash in for some particular reward. When I fall into this mental trap, I fundamentally misunderstand God’s goodness. This is not to say that God does not reward obedience. But, the rewards are His to choose and distribute according to His perfect plan; not mine to demand or presume. So, when I think long and hard about His goodness, I have to end up at the point at which God has graciously given me all things. Therefore, by definition, what I don’t have now cannot simultaneously be beneficial for me presently. I don’t claim this is easy to internalize or live out practically each and every day. It means I have to trust Him that He is not holding out on me, even when it truly seems as though He is. But, when I relinquish obedience as a means to earn God’s approval, I’m freed to obey even when times are tough. I don’t have to become discouraged thinking that I must not be doing enough, or play endless mind games wondering what might have been had I perhaps chosen a different course of action some time in the past. I can gain motivation to obey because God is truly Good, and therefore He does not withhold any good thing from me.
Is obedience worth it? The obvious answer is yes, but the ramifications of answering yes are far reaching in scope. I have to appreciate sin and its consequences to appreciate the benefits of obedience. Furthermore, I have to apply the knowledge of God’s goodness in its entirety to avoid fundamentally impugning God’s character and giving up in the battle to obey. I hope you will think through theses two concepts and how they relate to your life as well.