I am ashamed to admit that my track record with obedience to God has not always been the best.
Several years ago, I first heard the Lord’s call to obedience on a particular matter. Regretfully, I remember scoffing at the idea.
At the time, I was grieving, burned out, and exhausted from my life. Even more, my spiritual eyes were clouded, and it seemed ludicrous to tread down a path that I couldn’t even perceive.
Over the years, the Lord brought additional matters to my attention that first required His direction and then my immediate obedience. But again, my track record with obedience has never shined. Not even a little.
Don’t get me wrong, I obeyed in lots of other more practical ways, for years. Going to church, being a good mom, loving others, and sacrificially serving to name a few.
But the instances I am speaking of were different. Each required me to obey, even when I didn’t see or fully understand what the Lord was pressing upon me to do. I guess that’s why they call it faith…
More recently, I found Him nudging me toward the idea of becoming a writer. It’s a much greater story than I will expound on today, but sadly, even with His nudging’s, my obedience has waned. I’m not trained, I’m not particularly good at it, and I’ve hardly known where to even begin with all of this.
It isn’t that there weren’t breadcrumbs along the way to feed my faith to do His will, I just wasn’t interested in following them. My doubt, like crows along the path, gobbled up all the breadcrumbs before my faith even had a chance to consume them.
As I reflect, I think of Jonah. He was a man called by God to preach repentance to a people group that were essentially his enemies. The Assyrians sought to conquer the Jewish people and bring them into captivity.
I don’t blame Jonah. It makes sense. I probably wouldn’t have wanted to obey either. Do a heroic act for my enemies?… Nah, I’ll pass!
But what doesn’t make sense, is that after God commanded him to go to Nineveh to preach repentance, he chose to flee God’s presence! Who in their right mind would choose to flee God’s presence?!
Remember Jesus, himself, agonized on the cross at the realization of the loss of God’s presence. Being connected to God was everything to him. And the cross, with its penalty of sin and loss of fellowship with God, was the greatest horror for Christ.
Why would anyone choose to flee God’s presence? Even on our very worst day, God is still for us and not against us. But the truth is that we all choose to abandon our close fellowship with Him when we choose to disobey.
While on the boat to Tarshish, a huge storm began to overwhelm the ship, and the crew demanded that Jonah consult his God. Later the crew discovered Jonah was fleeing God’s presence and after careful consideration, they threw him into the sea. After being swallowed by a great fish, Jonah finally felt the pain of conviction over his disobedience.
I’ve been just like Jonah. Have you?
For a few years, I put off pursuing God’s will for my life. I busied myself with over-commitments and welcomed paths He never instructed me to walk down. It took me a while to recognize the lack of blessing and peace in my life.
But eventually, the Lord helped me to see my disobedience. It was kind of like window wipers cleaning a muddied windshield. Finally, I could see what I had heard Him saying to me for so long.
While I contemplated over everything, I saw myself suffering if I stayed the course of doing what I wanted rather than what God wanted. And just like the crew on Jonah’s ship, my disobedience would impact the lives of those around me, as well.
As Jonah prayed in the belly of the fish, he talked about how the waters engulfed him and the seaweed wrapped around his head. Spiritually speaking, that was my metaphorical case, too. Life seemed overly complicated and murky. Kind of like rowing upstream and getting incredibly worn down in the process.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my life was spiritually emaciated. There was little peace, joy, or contentment. And oddly enough, I seemed to cycle again and again over the question of the purpose of my life. What was I here for? What’s the point of all this anyway?
In the belly of the fish, Jonah recognized his sinful response to God’s command. And then he chose to recommit to the Lord’s will. Soon thereafter, he was delivered from the fish.
Like Jonah, I also saw, how I refused the call of God on my life. Maybe I thought I knew better. Maybe I just couldn’t see how His plan would work out. Either way, my faith remained inactivated, and my life was stunted through my disobedience.
But what took place next in Jonah’s story was no small miracle. When he reached Nineveh, he preached repentance as God had commanded him. And amazingly the people repented! Had they not heard the message and repented, their fate would have been sealed. But instead, they heard, they responded, and the city was saved from God’s wrath!
I marvel at how their salvation wasn’t complicated. It just happened! No more rowing upstream for Jonah. He obeyed, God’s will was fulfilled, and the people repented and were saved.
When I think about Jonah’s story, I find comfort in the effects of his willingness to cooperate with God’s will. Jonah didn’t save them, He just delivered the message. God changed the hearts of all of Jonah’s enemies, and they found God’s mercy.
How beautiful! The act of obedience was carried out in faith along with a proper fear of the Lord and the proper understanding of God’s great love for the Ninevites–a people who fundamentally opposed God.
Jonah’s story shows us how obedience also bears blessing, not just for the one who obeys, but sometimes for entire people groups. This is incredible!
This portion of Scripture was a real game-changer for me. I thank God that I didn’t have to come to this realization while in the belly of a giant fish! Truth be told, this passage helped my heart to pivot back to desiring the presence of the Lord and His will for my life more than anything else.
I realized that when God commands us to do something, it is not only for our good but for the good of others, as well.
It’s no surprise that my choice to finally listen and obey God’s nudging’s to write has been blessed. I noticed it right away.
Peace began flowing in my heart and joy seemed to spill over every time I sat down to write about what the Lord had put on my heart. Even my family and friends shared glimpses of God at work in my life through my writing.
I’m not preaching a prosperity gospel with any of this. But obedience does carry with it a blessing. And God’s blessing is what I have found.
Today I can say my heart desires to write for the good of others. I often feel very small and lacking in the skill to fulfill this calling. But what matters most, is my obedience and the message which comes from God.
May it be used for the greater good of us all and His glory!