How does it make you feel when someone tells you they’re going to do one thing, and then do another? Or when they say they support you to your face, but behind your back they are against you? I’ve had that happen to me at work. It not only hurts, it makes you not trust that person. I was nominated to be on a certain council, but because I didn’t fit the mold, it had to be approved. This person was my biggest advocate outside the voting room. However, behind closed doors, they were my biggest opponent. Ultimately I withdrew my name because I no longer trusted this person. They never knew I found out and they kept up appearances as long as I knew them. Their words to me said one thing, but their actions proved another.
In 1 Samuel 15, Saul was king, and he had been instructed to kill all the Amalekites and their animals. After the battle, Saul decided to capture the king and keep the best of the animals for he and the army. God was upset with King Saul and sent Samuel to address the problem. When he got to the king, Saul was happy and said, “I have carried out the Lord’s command.” Samuel gave one of my favorite replies in the Bible when he asked, “Then what is this bleating of sheep I hear?” Saul made an excuse saying they were going to sacrifice them to the Kord, but that wasn’t true. Because he rejected the Lord’s commands, the Lord rejected him as king.
In Isaiah 29:13, the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote” (NLT). God is not looking for lip service from us. He also not looking for us to go through the motions of serving Him. It’s easy to fall into that rut, and we all do at times, but God cares more about the condition of our heart than our outward actions. If you’ve been going through the motions lately, ask God to give you a heart of flesh and to renew a right spirit within you. You may be able to fool everyone else, but you can’t fool Him. Take some time today to check the condition of your heart. Does it line up with what you say? If they’re in contradiction, ask God to transform you from the inside out. His grace is sufficient to do it.
I once worked at a place where you had to wear a dress shirt and a tie every day. There was a guy who didn’t like the rule. He would try to show up without a tie. He was told that each time he showed up without one, he’d be sent home to get one and would be docked that time on his check. Instead of simply complying, he decided to dig his feet in. He showed up the next time in a clown tie. It was extra wide and short. When confronted, he said that the rules simply said he had to wear a tie, and this was a tie. I refer to this behavior as compliant disobedience. He’s following the rules while being disobedient in the process. It was an outward expression of his internal attitude.
The book of Jonah tells a similar story. God asked Jonah to go to Nineveh to pronounce judgment on it. Instead of complying, he went the opposite direction in a ship. The Lord caused a great storm to rock the boat, Jonah was found to be the problem and they tossed him overboard. The Bible says the Lord prepared a great fish to come swallow him and return him to shore. The Lord told him the same instructions. He obeyed, but still had disobedience in his heart. When Nineveh repented, God forgave them. Once again his disobedient attitude showed through. God tried to get through to him, but we don’t really know how the story ends. The book stops with God having the last word.
How is your attitude toward what God has asked you to do? 2 John 1;6 says, “And this is love: that we walk in accordance with His commandments and are guided continually by His precepts. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should [always] walk in love” (AMP). God isn’t looking for compliant disobedience. He’s looking for you to obey out of love for Him. Our attitudes show up in our behaviors, but even still God always looks at the intent of our heart. Don’t be like Jonah or the tie guy. Trust God’s plan, be thankful He’s wanting to use you and obey while walking in love. He’s not done writing your story yet. How it’s written depends on your obedience.
Do you remember when you were told to clean your room? What did you do? You probably went in there and thought of ways to not do it. After a long time contemplating, you decided to either shove everything under the bed or put it in the closet. When your room is checked, you didn’t fool anyone. The shelves and boxes where your things should have been are still bare. Your closet gets opened and your sheets pulled back exposing your lack of obedience.
Sure the floor is free of clutter, but you didn’t do what was asked. You didn’t clean your room. You merely rearranged it without putting things where they belonged. In your mind, you think you obeyed, but deep down you know what you did was an act of defiance. You try to argue your case by using technicalities, but you don’t get very far. What you’ve done is caused more work for yourself and lost more time because you have to do it over the right way.
Saul was like that. He got specific instructions from God on what to do, but somehow put the toys in the closet every time. He obeyed, but didn’t. Each time he had an excuse for doing what he did. God finally had enough and Samuel called him out on it. In I Samuel 15:22-23 Samuel said to Saul, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king” (NLT).
Each of us struggle with simple obedience for some reason. God gives us simple instructions, but somehow we complicate them. God is looking for us to simply obey what He’s asked us to do. Anything other than obeying His call on your life is an act of rebellion in His eyes. Whatever He’s called you to do, you need to do. Wherever He’s called you to go, you need to go. Whatever He’s called you to say, you need to say. Don’t find ways to put they toys in the closet. Do what He’s asked willingly and with a good attitude and your life will be fulfilled like never before.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.