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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - The Enriching Rewards of Obedience

Charles Stanley - The Enriching Rewards of Obedience

Charles Stanley - The Enriching Rewards of Obedience
TOPICS: Obedience, Reward

When you hear the word "obey" or "obedience," what is your response? Do you feel suddenly this burden of something you're gonna have to do? Or do you rather feel here's an opportunity for blessing. You see, most people have the idea that anything that God requires of obedience must be a burden to us, whereas, from God's perspective, it is a wonderful opportunity to be blessed. And you see, what happens is this, when you and I feel the idea that obedience means burden and trouble and difficulty rather than a wonderful opportunity, we forget who God is. God has planned the best for every single one of us, and you probably hear me say that about every Sunday.

And the reason I say it is because it is true, number one, and secondly, I want you to get it into your thinking: God has planned the very best that a sovereign, omniscient God can plan for you, a God who loves you unconditionally, and therefore whatever His plans are, they're the best. And therefore, if He has a plan, He has a method by which that plan is to be fulfilled. And there's a pathway that you and I are to walk. In order to do that, we must have a sense of direction. In order to get that sense of direction, we must come to him. And once we have that sense of direction, we must be obedient.

That is, if God says here's My plan, here's the best plan that I can come up with for you, and you decide that you'll go about fulfilling the plan your way, then my friend, you're gonna be disappointed. God always has the best for us. But it does require of us to be obedient to Him. And oftentimes we think the little things about we should do or should not do are not significant. Every single command of God is significant. Every time He tells you and me to do something or not to do it, it is very significant. What we don't realize is we don't realize how significant it is because we can't see the future consequences of what's going to happen.

So I want to talk to you today, and I want us to open the scripture to Luke chapter five. I want to talk about this whole idea of "The Enriching Rewards of Obedience". Give you a little background for a moment. Jesus is out preaching and people are being healed and saved and all kind of wonderful things are happening. And the scripture says in chapter four, verse thirty-seven, "And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district". And then in verse forty-two of that fourth chapter, "When they came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and they came to Him, and tried to keep Him from going away from them. But He said to them," listen, "'I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.' So He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea".

Now, He's out of the synagogues and He's down by the sea. Listen, verse one, chapter five, "Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them, and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.'"

Now, listen to what happens, "Simon answered and said, 'Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.' When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish; and their nets began to break; so that they signaled to their partners in the other boat, for them to come and help them. And they came, and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus's feet, saying, 'Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!' For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.' And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him".

Now you may say, "Well, what does that have to do with obedience? That's just another fish story". Oh, that's a fish story all right. But I want to tell you something. If you're wise, you'll get you a pencil and a pen and a piece of paper or a bulletin and you will not fail, listen, you will not fail to write down these seven principles because they can be the turning point in your life. They can be the beginning of something in your life that God has planned that you are the one who is delaying the plan.

So I want you to listen carefully because here is the truth, principles from a simple story of scripture but full of wonderful principles. So we're talking about this whole idea of obedience. So here's number one principle and that's simply this: that is, obeying God in small matters, obeying God in small matters leads to great reward in the future. Obeying God in small matters is like a stepping stone to great rewards. Now, why small matters? Well, I want us to look at this passage, and then I want you to ask yourself a question throughout this message: God, what are You saying to me about my obedience to You?

Now listen, he's simply saying in this first principle: be careful about those commands that God gives you that seem to be very insignificant at first. Here's what's happening. Jesus is preaching on the shore and, naturally what happens when people are standing around, the people in the back always want to get a little closer. So, what happens is they get a little closer to the people in front of them. People in front of them have to move. So, they get a little closer. And what happens is the crowd moves closer and closer till finally Jesus is having to speak over their heads. And so He turns and He sees these two boats and He says to Simon, "I'd like to borrow your boat. Get in the boat, and if you just push out a little ways and I can speak to the people a little better that way because I'm away from them and they can all hear Me". Must have been large crowds.

And so that's His reason for doing so. And so, here's what I want you to notice. This is a very simple command. Peter, I want to get in your boat and I want you to push out a little ways because I need your boat in order to preach to these people. Very simple. Well, Peter could have said, "Don't You see I'm cleaning my nets? And besides that, I'm worn out and tired. I've been fishing all night, didn't catch anything, gotta clean up this boat, clean these nets because we're going out again".

And so he could have argued with Jesus about it. He did express his opinion. But then he said the most important thing he could say when he said, "But I will do as You say and let down the nets". But so, Jesus said, "If you'll just push out a little ways, that'll give Me an opportunity to do better what I'm doing". Now, I want you to think about this. Suppose Peter had said, "Sorry, it doesn't fit my schedule, I'm too busy, they're expecting me back home. And besides that, I need a nap, I've been up all night long. And besides that, we didn't catch anything and I'm a little disappointed, a little despondent today, so sorry 'bout that. Borrow somebody else's boat".

He could have said that. But look what would have happened if he'd a said it. Peter would have died an old fisherman around the Sea of Galilee. Probably would have put on his tombstone: Great fisherman, Simon. But he listened to what Jesus said. It was a simple, listen, a simple little command. And what it was that he did not even realize was this: this was the first step to an absolute awesome, awesome life for the rest of his days. But suppose he'd a said, "Well, somebody else can do it". And what I want you to remember is this: it's very important that you and I obey the little commands that Jesus gives us. When you're asking Him about things and praying in your life about all the issues of your life, and God speaks to your heart and leads you by His Spirit to make a certain decision or to do a certain thing, that's very important in the eyes of God.

And so, oftentimes we say, "Well, you know, the important decisions of life are the big decisions. I'm ready for the big decisions". You know what? Your big decisions are in jeopardy until you learn to make wise decisions about the small, insignificant things. What's so significant about borrowing his boat and pushing out twenty or thirty yards in the water? Well, you see, the truth is that wasn't the end of it. That isn't all that God had in mind. And all that Peter knew was this is my boat. He wants to borrow it. He's an itinerant preacher. He's a rabbi. And he knew a little bit about Him.

What he didn't realize was this: that Jesus was not only going to borrow Peter's boat, He was gonna borrow Peter's life. He was gonna make him a very famous man. Not to make him famous, but this is the Peter who would not only let the Master have his boat, but he would let the Master have his life. And when you look at the life of Peter in the days thereafter and the years thereafter, and here we are talking about him two thousand years later, his name is in the Bible. And oftentimes mothers will name their sons Peter for a reason, and the word means "the rock," Simon.

And so what he did not foresee was what Jesus had in mind. And this is the danger of disobedience. The danger of disobedience is that you and I cannot foresee what our Lord has in mind. And sometimes it's a very insignificant thing that He requires of us that has far-reaching consequences, long-range consequences. But you see, because we can't see that and we don't foresee the future, we think, "Well, it's not all that important, and I'll just do what I want to do here, and it'll all work out anyway". You know, Jesus doesn't say, "I suggest, maybe you would like to, if you'll think about this". He said, "Peter, want to borrow your boat. I want you to push out a little ways because I want to preach so all of these people can hear".

Think about what Peter would have lost simply because he decided pushing out the boat for a few yards and letting Jesus stand there and preach for a while wasn't really all that significant. What he could not see is the awesome lifestyle and the awesome life and impact and testimony and witness. And it is said of the Apostle Peter that when they crucified him, he asked to be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to be crucified like his Master. Here is a man who's impacted millions and millions of people. You know how it began? One little act of obedience. Every single act is important.

The second principle I want you to remember is this, and that is that obeying the Lord Jesus Christ is always beneficial to others. In other words, when you and I obey Him, we place our trust in Him, when we do the little things or the significant things that He tells us about in life, things that He requires of us, what happens? Not only do we get blessed, other people around us are affected, and everybody benefits from it. And you think about what happened to Peter. How did he benefit? Well, that was only the first step in God's command because then He said to him, He said, "Now that I've finished, let's go fishing and let down your nets". And suppose he'd a said, "Too busy to have You in my boat".

And you know what happened. They headed out to the deep water, let down the net, and the fish came from everywhere, it seems, filled up the nets, broke the nets, filled up the boat, filled up two boats. The boats were about to sink. Now, think about it, too busy to let you borrow my boat for an hour or so, too busy cleaning my nets, too sleepy, too tired, doesn't fit my schedule or my priority. And besides that, we fished all night long and nothing happened. A little act of obedience led to a second act of obedience that almost sank his boat for what he did not have when he went the night before. What you and I don't realize is we don't realize what we're missing. You disobey God, you don't know what you're missing.

Somebody says, "Well, but my life". No, no, no, no, no, you don't know what you're missing. There is no way for you to know what you're missing by being disobedient to God. And what happens is, look at the people around him who got blessed. The people who were listening got blessed, Peter got blessed, his friends who are his fellow fishermen, they all got blessed, they went on, listen, think about the stories they told. Why, you wouldn't believe this. We were out there fishing, we'd fished all night long. You know, if you've been a fisherman, you know how to tell those stories. I've been one, and I know how to tell the stories. Every fish is this big. Took you forever to pull him in. I mean, all the stories you tell, can you imagine them trying to convince somebody that Jesus said, "Let down your nets". He probably took him to the same hole they were in the night before.

Let down your nets here and... He didn't say, "Let's see what happens". He said, "Let them down for a catch". They filled the boats up. So, everybody got blessed. What you and I don't realize is who misses a blessing when you and I disobey God? And I want to say to you as a father, you can't disobey God, listen, without your children hurting or your wife hurting. And as a wife, you can't disobey God without your children, your husband hurting. And as a son or a daughter, you can't disobey God without your parents hurting in some fashion. And you see, neither can you obey in all of those instances among your friends without somebody else being blessed.

When you obey the Lord and God blesses you and you're able to share that, listen, that encourages other people to obey Him. Encourages them to find out what God will do in their life. It encourages their faith, builds them up, and strengthens them. Those little acts of obedience turn into major acts of obedience. Because you see, borrowing my boat's one thing. Taking me back fishing when I'm dead tired and worn out and delaying my plans, that's something else. But you see, that was only an introduction into commands that the Lord Jesus Christ gave Peter whereby transformed his life.

So principle number two, that is, it always is a blessing to others when you and I obey Him. The third one is this. The third principle is oftentimes God will require of us to do things that appear to be irrational, make no sense. You say, "Well now, if God is a loving Father, why would He ask of us to do something that doesn't make any sense"? Well, it doesn't make any sense to us humanly speaking. And certainly, this is the reason the Apostle Peter responded the way He did. He said, "Master, we worked hard all night, caught nothing". That is, and I don't know what else he may have said between these words, but this was the essence of it. He probably told Him how tired he was and all the rest, and yet he was impressed by who Jesus was, though he didn't really know Him that well at that time.

And so, when you think about the things that God requires of us that don't seem to be rational. For example, I remember one time that I had made a loan to one of my friends. And I thought a lot of him, and I loved him dearly, and so, we'd been friends a long time and he was a part of the fellowship, and I was trying to help him. And all of a sudden, with no warning, he turned against me and refused to pay me back and told me he wasn't gonna pay me back. And so I thought, "Okay, God, what do You want me to do"? So, for about a week, I went, maybe a week, I may have wrestled with it, and then I was just asking the Lord to show me. Lord, what would You have me to do? It was like God says, "Forgive him". Said, "Oh-h-h-h, that's not what I was expecting. I thought You was gonna tell me to go just give it to him". No, no. He says, "You have to forgive him. Just forgive him".

Did you know he wouldn't even believe that I would forgive him? He said, "Now you must have something". I said, "No. You don't owe me a thing. You're forgiven". He couldn't even accept it because he was totally... you know why he couldn't accept it? Because he wouldn't have done that for me. And you see, sometimes God will require of us things that are tough. And what he had is he had all of my money that I was going to buy a piece of property to build me a house. He had it all. So when the Lord said to me, "You forgive him and watch what I do," it was a test for me.

Did you know in about eighteen months, I had a whole lot more than that back? And if you asked me where I got it, I couldn't even tell you. I just know that God always honors obedience no matter what it is. All you have to do is trust Him. So, when I think about what the Lord Jesus asked Peter, didn't make any sense. And especially go out a little further. But I'll tell you what kind of impression it made on him. When they got through fishing that day, the Bible says they laid their nets, he walked out of that boat, and he left everything. You know why? He learned that to obey this man, Jesus, was the wisest thing he could possibly do. And Jesus said to him, "I'm gonna make you fishers of men".

You know what? If he'd a said in the very beginning, "Can't have my boat," he'd a died a fisherman. He said, "You can have my boat and You can have me and You can have all that I am". And he died a martyr for the Lord Jesus Christ and a famous man, one who has blessed us. Read First and Second Peter. Read his message at Pentecost. Look at his life, look at the influence, look at the impact. You say, "But I'm not Peter". You don't know who you are. You have no earthly idea what God can do in your life if you will give Him your whole life and make a commitment to be obedient to Him in the little things in life. Well, there's another one of these principles I want you to notice, and that's this: when you think about how he responded, let me just say this.

Number four, obeying God never proves to be disappointing. God's not gonna disappoint us. Now, I may disappoint myself, but here's what I want you to remember. There is no disappointment in Jesus. There are times in your life and mine, and certainly times in my life when I have obeyed Him that things didn't turn out the way I wanted them to, I expected them to, but I can tell you this: every single time they turned out better. Listen very carefully what I'm gonna tell you. If you will obey the Lord, He will give you more than you ask for, more than you expect, and more than you deserve. You need to write that down. I can tell you I've been a Christian for fifty-seven years and I can tell you that is absolutely true.

If you will obey him in whatever He requires of you, He'll give you more than you ask for, more than you, listen, more than you expect, and more than your deserve. And that is in any facet of life. And it's not, we're not talking about just money, we're talking about every aspect of life: wisdom and knowledge and understanding and love and peace and contentment and joy and all the rest. He will enable you to face and He will enable you to walk through situations and circumstances and, listen, and go through storms, whatever it might be, with the most awesome sense of contentment and peace and joy that you would never be able to expect. Why? That's the kind of God He is. He is a loving Father. He's always listening to His children. He is honored by our obedience to Him because what we are saying is: we acknowledge You for who You are.

Next principle. Next principle is this: that obeying God allows Him the privilege to demonstrate His awesome power in our life. Obeying Him allows Him to demonstrate His power. You fling the doors open in your life for God to bless you, meet you in ways that you never dreamed God could meet you. That's the God He is. And that's the simple principle. That is, we obey Him and give Him the privilege of demonstrating His awesome power. And you and I could go through all kinds of verses and chapters in this, in the Bible about how many times God demonstrated that awesome power.

When someone will obey Him, how did He demonstrate that awesome power? In many, many ways. If you're looking for God to do something in your life, change your life, you don't like your circumstances, you don't like what's going on and you want God to change it, here's what you do. Get on your face before the living God, on your knees, and say to Him with an open Bible, you can take this chapter, "Lord, today I say to You with Peter with all of my heart, from this moment on, I will do as You say, no matter what that is". Now listen, Peter didn't say, "I'll consider it". He didn't say, "I'll think about it". He said, "Nevertheless, I will do what You say".

Next principle. When you think about how He operated in these men's lives, and allowing God to demonstrate His awesome power, then here's what I want you to remember. When we obey Him, we get a better understanding of who He is and a better understanding of ourselves. Now, think what happened here. When He saw the Lord, what the Lord did, the scripture says he fell down. Look at this. Verse eight, "When Simon Peter saw that," boat was full and sinking with fish, "he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, 'Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!'" He saw the Lord in a whole different light. This was a Son of God. This man, listen, this was God's only begotten Son.

Now, he didn't have that full understanding at the time, but he was getting it fast. He knew that He was a Lord and Master, could control the waters. He had a better understanding of who Jesus was, but he also understood who he was. He was a sinful, vile fisherman. And you know what? When you start obeying God, there's no room for pride. When you and I start obeying Him and see how awesome God is, you want an intimate relationship with Him? And people say, "Well, I want an intimate relationship with the Lord. I want to understand Him. I want Him to understand me. I want to have this relationship with Him that I feel His love and feel His presence and feel His power in my life". Here's the way. Just, listen, here's the way: do the next thing God tells you to do.

You say, "Well, I think there are some things in my past I should do". Whatever He brings up to you, do it. And here's what'll happen. You'll begin to understand yourself better. You're gonna begin to understand who He is. And here's what I've discovered in life. The more I understand who He is, the better I understand myself. The more I understand Him, the more holy I see Him to be and the more sinful I can be if I'm not walking in absolute, total obedience to Him. We're all sinners by practice at times. It should not be our lifestyle but an exception. We can walk holy. We can walk obedient before Him. But it begins with that little act of obedience. It may be that God will tell you, "I want you to go and apologize". Or, "I want you to go give this person something". "I want you to be baptized".

You see, people often times say, "Well, I don't understand why I don't have this kind of an intimate relationship with Jesus". And so, as I begin to talk to them, never been baptized. He didn't say, "I suggest that you be". It is a command. When you violate, when you refuse, when you ignore, when you rationalize, when you reason away, when you get somebody to agree with you about disobeying God, what you do is you short-circuit your relationship with Him. You close the door to the blessings of God upon your life. You will never understand His best for you. You'll never experience it, and you'll have to go through life wondering, "I wonder what I missed if I had only obeyed Him".

Now listen, you don't want to live an "If-I'd-a" life. End up at life saying, "If I'd a done this and if I'd a done that and if I'd a listened to this and if I'd a obeyed here and if I hadn't a done... if-I'd-a, if-I'd-a, if-I'd-a". If-I'd-a life is a life of failure, disappointment, listen, discouragement. It is a life that's unhappy. Think about what happened to Peter. One little act of obedience, "Here's my boat, Master. I'm going fishing with You. I'm gonna spend the rest of my life fishing for men".

Look what he did. One simple act, and I come back to the first simple act simply borrowing his boat. Is it something that God is wanting you to do? Something very simple, something that's not all that significant at all. And when I look at Peter's life and simply realize when he saw who Jesus was, he was willing to obey him, even to give his whole life. I want you to see this. You cannot rationalize away God's commands. You cannot do it. You want His best? Then do the next thing He tells you to do.

Last principle, and that's this. Simply obeying God in small matters. You say, "Well, didn't you start with that"? Yes, I did, but obeying God in small matters can result, and I would say will result most of the time, in dramatic changes in your life. Peter moved from fisherman to preacher, from an insignificant Galilean to a significant man of God. Why? Because he was willing to listen, willing to obey a simple command. Borrow your boat, take you out into the deep. You want God to change your life? You want God to do something significant in your life?

You say, "Well, this is what happens". You listen to the devil. You listen to the devil say to you, "You're not significant. Who are you? He's talking to someone..." No, here's the wonderful thing about God. He's absolutely beyond our comprehension. We can understand many things about Him, but you'll never be able to foresee what He would do in your life. And I've given this illustration before, but because people listen and watch this all over the world, most of them probably never heard it, so I'm gonna say it again because I think it's so significant. It was to me.

There came a time in my life when God was challenging me to do something that I was afraid of. I'd reason and rationalize it away, spent a week praying and fasting, still arguing with God about it. Got on my knees one morning, on my face. I remember exactly where I was and what happened. And I'd argued and argued and argued, and I had three days to go before that decision had to be made. It's like the Lord said to me, "Here's what you can do. You can obey Me and see what I'll do in your life or you can disobey Me and spend the rest of your life wondering what I would have done had you obeyed Me". And I can tell you I wouldn't be standing here today if I'd a disobeyed Him.

I look back in my life and realize what I would have missed, the privileges and the opportunity and the understanding God's given me of His Word. If I had said lying in the floor that day, because of my fear and because I didn't want to be criticized and because I didn't want to, because I didn't want to do thus and so, if I'd a said to Him, "I can't do that, God," what I would have missed. I want to tell you something. Nothing is worth missing God's best for your life. Nothing! Nothing. It's a choice you'll have to make, and you won't make it once. There'll be many decisions, and remember this, every single one of those decisions is important because beyond that lies the blessings of God in ways you'll never be able to foresee.
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