Why do we obey what God says?
Because we want the potential blessings that he may choose to give us when we do? Because we don’t want to deal with the possible consequences that come from not? Because we grew up being told we are supposed to? Because we think it will put us in good standing with certain people…or even with God himself? Because we know that to see God’s promises fulfilled, we must first obey?
Do we want to obey him because he is the creator of this universe, and has offered us salvation from our sins? Do we want to obey God because he’s worthy of living for and obeying? Do we want to obey him because we are convinced there is no better way to spend our days on this earth? Do we want to obey God simply because he loved us first and thus we want to love him?
Moment of truth…
More often than I care to admit, I choose to obey God because I want the blessings that he may choose to give. At times, I will pray something like “God, I’ve been seeking to obey you and trust you and live for you, so when will you provide for what I need or fulfill your promise and bless me the way I need you to?”.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. There is nothing wrong about praying for specific blessings from the Lord. NOT AT ALL. Scripture tells us to pray and ask God for what we want, that there are promised blessings when we do obey God, and even that God likes to bless us.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Malachi 3:10)
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord: trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (Psalm 37:3-6)
So pray boldly! Don’t be surprised when he does bless you as you seek to obey live faithfully. Make the Lord what you delight in and are committed to, knowing he will give you the desires of your heart when you do. These are promises in scripture, we can have confidence in them. So yes, pray boldly and live in obedience and have expectations that God will reward and bless you.
We should not pray boldly only because we want what he may give us. We should not obey him and be faithful because we think it’s some magical formula to get blessings. We should not delight in him and commit our ways to him so that he will give us the desires of our heart. Those are selfish motives and desires. And honestly, if the only reason we obey and live for him is because we want what he will give us, then we aren’t really obeying him or living for him. We are doing it for selfish gain, and that’s not true love, nor is it really living for him…it’s loving what he gives us and living for ourselves.
God knows our hearts…and he cares more about the condition of our heart than some action we do.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3)
…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
Sometimes God chooses to not bless us when we are faithful and obedient to him…at least not fully. Sometimes, God’s promised blessings can come to fulfillment farther in the future than we may think or want. Sometimes, God may decide that his promises will be fully realized in those around us whom he has used our life to influence.
Look at Moses. God used him to rescue Israel from slavery, and lead them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. But, Moses himself did not get to experience the blessing of the Promised Land. He led Israel to it, but wasn’t permitted to enter it. God still fulfilled his promise, Moses just didn’t get to fully experience it. God blessed Moses plenty in his life, there’s no doubt about that…but Moses did not experience this particular blessing.
Consider Abraham. God told him he’d make him into a great nation. When God gave that promise, he didn’t even have a child. And he was old. And so was his wife. God did bless Abraham with a son Isaac. But Abraham did not see God’s promise come to fulfillment. Abraham did not get to experience the full blessing of the nation that came from him. God blessed Abraham plenty in his life, there’s not doubt about that…but Abraham did not experience this particular blessing.
What if some of God’s promises to me are not fulfilled in my lifetime? What if God uses me, as he did Moses, to lead others to follow him…what if God uses me to lead my children through this wilderness time of life, and the blessings of faithfulness and obedience are realized in their life later but I don’t get to fully experience the blessings? What if God gives me huge dreams, but I don’t get to see the fulfillment of those dreams in my own lifetime? What if?
Will I still choose to obey him and be faithful? Am I choosing to obey him because I want the blessings for myself, or am I choosing to obey him simply because he loved me first and thus I want to I love him?
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. (1 John 5:3)
May we obey God, not because of what we may get out of it, but simply because we love him. May we live for him, be faithful to him, and seek his kingdom and righteousness in our life at all times. May the fact that he loves us so much compel us to love him with all that we are. And may we praise him and give him all the glory he is due, regardless of how he chooses to bless us.