What Does Obedience Look Like?

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:21 (NIV)

I hate celery. I have tried over and over again to like it. No matter what I do, I cannot choke the stuff down without a tremendous struggle. I especially don't like it when it is cut up small and is mixed with mayonnaise and meat of some kind. There is no way to pick the little green things out; I just have to barely chew it to get it down. I despised celery when I was little; I will despise celery when I die. I will always despise it.

What does obedience look like? Not at all what you and I have come to think, I bet. I have confused obedience with emotion so many times. I have thought to be truly obedient, I had to accept something without reluctance--that I had to love what I was being asked to obedient about. That always produced a swirling whirlwind of confusion in me because there are some things that, no matter how much I wish I could find palatable to my human nature, I always struggle submitting to. I thought that because I did not enjoy being obedient, I was missing something. That somehow my sheer act of the will was less in God's eyes because I did not love what I was being asked to do.

Girlfriends, you and I have been fed one of the biggest lies Satan has ever told us--that emotion equals obedience. See if he has tried to pull these same lies on you that he has whispered over and over again to me:

You are a phoney. You know you don't mean any of this because your heart is struggling so much with doing it. Where is the joy of the Lord, Shawn? There is no joy in you. Your obedience is despised by your God. He won't accept it, use it, or bless you for it. So just forget it all and do what you want.

I have fallen for that so many times, my sweet sisters. I was sobbing on the couch one day over this very thing when the Lord brought to me a story I hadn't really thought about since my days as a young girl in front of the flannel-graph board in Sunday School. The story was a parable told by Jesus to His disciples and others that were listening.

“[Jesus said] But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first..."
Matthew 21:28-31 (New King James Version)

My sweet sister, do you know what obedience requires? It requires dying to ourselves, doing that which our hearts fear, despise, and rebel against. Our God knows that we are just dust. We can say no at first and then go back and obey. That is obedience. Obedience is conquering what comes naturally to us. It's okay to not feel ecstatic with happiness over having to kill our flesh. It is hard, exhausting, terrible work to stay in a marriage because God hates divorce. It is difficult to pray for that family member to receive Christ for the thousandth time when their hearts seem so remote. It is excruciating to not be selfish and fritter away our days in bitterness instead of willing ourselves to obediently love the unlovable, the undesirable, or the drug addicted child who has stolen so much from us.

We can have joy and have our flesh despise what God is asking us to do. And somewhere along the pathway of obedience, the fear and the dread we had in the beginning is dwarfed as we hear our Jesus over us,

"Well done, my beloved, well done."

Jesus, doing the hard thing, regardless of how I feel about it, is the core of obedience. You take care of the attitude later. Please help in the having to swallow that which is repulsive to my human nature. In the end, I want to know that I have shown You how much I love You by doing what You tell me to do. And more than that, though I kick and scream, my obedience will enable You to show Yourself to me--the one thing I want more than anything else in this life.