Charles Stanley - Obeying God
When you're making a very important decision in your life, what's the, what's the ultimate question you ask? What's the sort of the bottom line? Somebody says, "Well I ask the question, 'Is this going to profit me? Going to bring me pleasure? What other folks are going to think? Will it build my security?'"
People haves all kinds of questions. What's the bottom line question that is safe every single time you come to a decision? The bottom line is: is this an act of obedience to God? Am I obeying God? And as you've heard me say many times, "Obey God, leave all the consequences to Him". And the issue is simply this. If I do that, I'm going to save myself a lot of heartache, lot of burdens, lot of embarrassment and probably a lot of loss in lots of ways.
So, this whole issue of obedience oftentimes people don't like to think about it. They say, "Well, you know, there are many other subjects in the Bible that are much more pleasant than obedience. But let me just say this. If you don't get that one straight, the rest of them are not going to work. So, if somebody said to you, "Well how do I learn to be obedient? "What, where do I start"?
Well that's what I want us to do this morning is I want us to start. And I want to deal with a verse of scripture that's sort of hazy in Hebrews chapter five, because it doesn't look like it fits what it says. In Hebrews chapter five, verse seven. And there are lots of verses in the Bible about Jesus and His attitude about obedience and about, about His own obedience to the Father. He's talking about Jesus as the Great High Priest and so forth and in Gethsemane. But in verse seven, "In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One who is able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety". Now watch this, "Although He was a Son," that is the Son of God, "He learned obedience from the things which He suffered".
Now listen carefully. That does not mean that He was disobedient and had to learn obedience. That's not it at all. But what that really means is simply this. That in His humanity, in His humanity, was both deity and human. In His humanity, He learned, listen, He learned the impact of full obedience to the Father at the cross. In other words, He knew all about everything, but when it came to this issue of obedience unto death and that's what that's referring to. It's not referring to the fact that He'd sinned. He's disobedient, now He had to learn how to be obedient. He was always obedient.
And if you'll turn, for example, to a couple of passages. Look in John chapter eight for a moment and look what Jesus says here in this eighth chapter, look what He says. He says, "So, Jesus said, 'When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak those things as the Father taught Me.'" And so, as He was growing up and learning to listen to the Father, He was always obedient. And then the sixth chapter, in the thirty-eighth verse, look at this if you will, concerning Him. The scripture says, "Jesus said, 'For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.'"
And so everywhere you'd find Jesus talking about His relationship to the Father, He says, "I only do those things that I see the Father doing. That was His whole perspective so He didn't learn how to be obedient from disobedience. He was learning the meaning of full obedience to the Father that cost Him His life at the cross. So, when you and I think about obedience, how would you define it? Obedience is real-simple. And if you'll think about your own children, obedience says, "I do what God says, when He says it, how He says it, for whatever reason He says it, or with whom He says it". In other words, it's all about Him. There is not anything passive about being obedient. It's active. It's a decision that you and I make whether we will obey God or not in whatever the situation may be.
Now, what is the greatest enemy to obedience? Partial obedience is the greatest enemy to obedience because if I say, "Well, God told me" Let's for, for example, God told me to give a tithe and, and so I gave at least five percent. Well, you say, "Well isn't that obedience? Obedience is doing what He says, when He says, why He says, how He says, where He says or whatever it might be. It isn't partial and I think a lot of people live out their lives, watch this, and they trust Jesus as their Savior and a lot of times it's because nobody taught them. And so, they do some things that they believe that are right and good. And then there are some things they know that that's really doesn't fit who they are as followers of Jesus Christ.
And so, you ask them, "Are you a Christian"? "Yes". "Are you an obedient Christian"? "Yes". And they can name you all the things that they do partially or sort of or sometimes. But obedience says I do what He says, when He says, for whatever He, reason He says, where He says or with whom if someone else is involved. But I see so many Christians who really believe that they are walking in the Spirit of God, who are allowing things in our life that absolutely are not, are not of God, could not possibly be of God, and they rationalize it. And rationalization is, listen, that's Satan's attempt to keep you off base in your relationship to Him. If I want God's best in my life, I must be obedient to Him.
And if you'll think about how wise that is. God who is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, knowing all things, loves us absolutely perfectly. And He's given us a course to live. You can't improve on His course. In other words, He's got, He has the best plan for every single one of us. He has the best answer for every question we ask. He, listen, He has the best of everything if we'll follow Him. And how do we follow Him? We obey Him or we don't obey Him. Obedience is God's absolute bottom line. And most people are not willing to commit themselves to that. Whatever God says is what I'm going to do.
Let me ask you a question. Are you happier when you know that you're obeying God? Are you happier when you know that you're being disobedient? I wouldn't insult you to have you raise your hand. Everybody knows the answer to that. They why don't we obey Him? If you'll think about the reasons people don't obey God. Well I may miss something. Are you going to miss something that God who loves you, has planned your life? There may be some things in life you need to miss. And there are some things in life you need to be there when it happens. And when you're walking in His will, you'll be there. You will not, listen, you will not miss when you walk in the will of God and be obedient to Him. Now, so with all that in mind, let's think about how do we learn to obey God? You didn't come into the world with knowing how.
So, I just want to give you some things to consider in your own life because nobody knows your life like you do. But you need to learn how to be obedient to God and the first one is simply this. You must first choose to trust Him. If you don't trust Him, you're not going to obey Him. Because one of the primary reasons we don't obey God is we don't believe what He says. When God says, "I will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus". When He says that, and I go out and do something that is ridiculous, and something that is dishonest in order to get something that I want, I desire, what I've said is, "I don't believe God.
So, ask yourself the question, "Where is your trust level"? When it comes to your relationship to Him and living obediently before Him, the next time you are tempted to be disobedient, ask yourself the question. Watch this carefully. What is it? I'm not trusting, how is it, what is it I'm not trusting God about in this situation? Because if I disobey Him, I'm not trusting Him. So, the second thing is this. We must determine to be willing to wait upon God in prayer. Many times, God will tell us to do something and make it very clear, but He doesn't say do it now. And sometimes He doesn't say when He's going to do it. But He just says, "Here's what I want you to do".
And, well, Lord, now when? And sometimes you and I may pray about something for a long time before we get the go signal. And you say, "Well, well what's that about"? Here's what it's about. It's about God loving you enough and knowing you perfectly to know when you are ready for whatever it is you're seeking. And sometimes what you're looking for, what you're seeking is not, it's not anything disobedient. It may be absolutely right down the center of the will of God, but His timing is important. And especially, for example, if that relates to somebody else or some situation or your job or whatever it might be. It's that getting ahead of God that gets us in trouble.
So, ask yourself the question, "Do you have a difficult time waiting upon God? And notice I said waiting upon Him in prayer. If you, if you're not praying about the will of God, something that you're questioning in your life or you're trying to find His will about; if you're not praying about it, before long you're going to step right ahead of God. And the problem is you're going to be out of God's will.
And I think one of the sixty-second Psalm, look at that for a moment. I can think for a moment when I was really, really needing God's guidance and direction and leadership and in an awesome way. My heart was heavy about it all. And so, I was praying and just asking God to give me direction and sometimes I'll just flip through the scriptures and say, "God, You know what I need to hear this morning. I don't know what I need to hear, but You know what I need to hear. You know where I am. You know what I'm looking for. I want to be obedient to You.
What do I do at this point? And I'll never forget this verse, "My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken". And if you go all the way over to the fifth verse, "My soul, wait in silence for God, for my hope listen, my hope is from Him". If you and I are going to be obedient to God, we're going to have to learn, listen, to follow on His time, not our time. And that is probably one of the most difficult things we have to do. Especially when we see something we want and it's in reach yet God says, "Mm-mm-mm-mm, not yet". And so, what happens? Say, "Well I don't know why not".
And then people begin to look around and see what other people are doing or listen, the last thing you want to do is ask your friends what you ought to do when God's told you exactly what to do. Because they be... watch this. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with them. They become tools of the devil. Now when somebody comes to me and says, "What do you think I should do"? I'm very careful not to say, "I think you ought to do so and so. But what I will say is, "Let's ask first of all, does that look like God? Does that sound like Him? Is anything in the Word of God that gives us clarity about that? You see, you don't want to be too fast to give somebody an answer. First of all, you and I could be wrong. If we only know part of the facts; only God knows all the issues.
So, if we say, "Why don't you find out what God is saying"? "Well I've been reading the Bible and I haven't found anything". Keep reading, especially if you're reading it and you've already made up your mind. And so, if I'm going to be obedient, I must be willing to wait when I don't understand why I should wait; when I can't figure out what God is up to; when I think I've waited long enough. And this is what gets people in trouble. Well you know, it's been four weeks gone by now and I haven't heard a thing so this is what I'm going to do. Is that obedience? No, that's you taking it out of God's hands, placing it in your hands, making a decision and failing to trust Him because you're failing to wait for His timing on whatever may be going on in your life.
And so, I think about that and I think about well what's required of me to wait? Two things: patience and faith. If I'm, listen, if we're impatient with somebody else, we can understand that. Think about this: if you're impatient with God? When you think about, being impatient with God, I mean, the One who knows all, who has the best plan for you, and I'm impatient with Him? I don't want, I don't want to wait for His timing, then we'll find ourselves in trouble because God's timing is perfect. So, if I'm going to learn to really and truly be obedient, I've got to learn to wait upon Him.
Another thing is simply this. And that is I must learn to meditate upon His Word every day. You will not live an obedient life with a closed Bible. Mark that down. Did you hear that? Four, five of you did. Listen. Did you hear, you will not live an obedient life with a closed Bible. Amen? So, ask yourself the question, "Well, why do I need the Word of God"? Because this is where the primary way God leads us. And sometimes you won't understand what God's up to in your life, but I just gave you an example. You may just say, "Lord, I don't know what to do at this situation. I'm getting anxious" or "Lord, I'll have to admit, I'm getting a little impatient. Speak to my heart".
Here's where you go, because listen. You-you think about how thick this is and how many, how many things God has said in His Word. Somewhere in here I'm going to find an answer. Listen, you will not live a godly life with, without an open Bible. And I, one of my favorite passages is in Joshua chapter one. I love this and this has been one of my favorites for years. Listen to what He said. He said to Joshua, "'Have I not commanded you? To be strong and of a good courageous!' He said, 'Don't tremble or be dismayed the Lord you God is with you wherever you go.'" "Be strong and courageous"!
And listen to what He says in verse seven, "Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, you don't read it once a week, "but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful listen, be careful to do according to all that is written in it. Then you will make your way prosperous then you will be successful".
How many of you believe the whole Bible? Amen? You believe all of it's true? You believe that passage is true? He says, "He will bless you in all that you do". But He says, "You've got to be in the Word". The Word of God, the Word of God is His, He says, "It's a light to our path". And so, He's given us His Word to give us guidance and direction. Then of course, we must walk when the way is not clear. Look if you will in Hebrews, chapter eleven. We must be willing to walk when the way is not clear. Somebody says, "Well I'm, yeah, here's my feeling. I'm God's got to show it to me. You've got to write it in the sky. God's not in the business of writing in the sky.
Look if you will in this eleventh chapter, of Hebrews about Abraham, verse eight, "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going". You say, "What's that got to do with me"? Simply this: I've lived long enough to know that many times, if you're going to be obedient to God, you've got to head out and you will not know exactly what's going to happen.
I think about, where, for example, we are at In Touch today and because of God, number one, and so many of you who have prayed and given and so forth. We started out with a thirty-minute program in Atlanta, eight o'clock on Sunday morning. We had two little, two little orange boxes that we called TV cameras. And today, you can hear it all over the world or see it all over the world.
Now somebody says, "How did you plan it? I had nothing to do with it. I say that sincerely. Never planned it, never programmed it. Never said, "Here's what we're going to do; here's how we're going to get there". And this is why, what I want you to see is this. You cannot, you absolutely cannot foresee and foretell what God is going to do in your life until you obey Him. Suppose we'd have said. "We're not going to do that till we get some expensive stuff. We're not going to do that till we have certain things that we don't have," and so forth. No, if God tells you to take a baby step, you take it. And if He, if you don't know where you're going next, listen, all you have to do is to obey God today, what He tells you to do today. He already has tomorrow perfectly in mind. Perfectly in mind.
So, the reason we get in trouble is because if we can't see our, watch this carefully. You listening, say "Amen". If we can't see our way clearly, we can imply that God can't. He says, "My Word is a lamp to your feet, light to your path". God sees the second step and the third, the fourth, the fifth. He sees all of this. All we have to do is to be obedient to Him. And I can say to you wisdom says, wisdom says it's always best to obey God even if it's a tiny step, or if it's a major leap. You can't lose either way because He is the One who is giving the guidance and direction. He's the One who has the goals in mind.
Another thing is this: I must be willing to experience conflict. If I'm going to obey God, there's going to be conflict. Every pastor in the world can tell, can tell you that. But you know what? Everybody who lives a godly life is going to have some. It can be conflict in your family, with your children, your husband, or your wife. And there-there's going to be conflict. Conflict in the way we reason things. For example, when God told Noah to build an ark, it was absolutely totally ridiculous. When He told Joshua to march around Jericho and watch it fall down, none of that fit anything human reason had to do with it.
You go through the scriptures and see how God challenged His servants to do one thing after the other. And oftentimes, it created conflict in their minds, in their hearts, or because they wondered, "How am I going to do this"? And this is why we come to the next thing, we must be willing to leave the consequences to Him. If you wait till you can figure out the consequences, you will not obey God. And every single day think about this. You and I have the privilege to growing just a little bit more. Every time we are challenged and we obey Him, we grow. Every time we obey Him and we watch Him work in our life, we grow.
This is why I say one of my mottos: obey God and watch Him work. Because if you watch Him work, you're going to see Him work out His will in your life in a way that it will surprise you. Then of course, I must be willing to accept the divine chastisement in response to my disobedience. If, for example, you disobey God, and God brings down His hand of chastisement and you fight against Him, you rebel against Him. And you refuse and you blame God, what does it say? It says simply this: "I don't trust Him. I don't believe what He said. I don't like how He responded". When the truth is we've disobeyed Him. All of us, nobody likes chastisement from God. And He says it's an act of love on His part for us.
When you and I are really, when we really have an obedient spirit and we do something that brings down God's chastising hand, I'll know that I'm obedient to Him when I say, "Thank You, God, for not letting me go the wrong way. Thank You for not letting me make that decision. Thank You for, for not letting me have that. Thank you for showing me a different way". In other words, if I have an obedient spirit, I'll thank Him even when I'm chastised. But if I rebel against it, blame Him, ask Him why when the truth is we know why, then somehow I've not learned to be obedient to Him.
Now when I think about all those things and think about what old rebellion's all about and all of God's servants had to get chastised at some point. We all do, and that's good for us. It's protection on God's part in our behalf. When you think about your life what is it that you're facing that you're dealing with that would keep you from saying this morning, "Father, I want Your will in this situation no matter what. And I choose to say today I will be obedient to You in this and I will leave the consequences to You. Is there anything in your life that would keep you from saying that? And if it is, ask yourself this question: "Well, if I don't trust Him, who am I going to trust? If I don't obey Him, what am I going to do"? You cannot lose obeying God. And if I could say one thing in my dying moment, this is what I'd say: obey God, leave all the consequences to Him. You cannot lose. You cannot lose.
Now everybody in here has heard this. The question is how many of you will walk out and obey that principle? And my prayer is that every single person in here will. There's only one way and that's God's way. If I could ask you one last question. What consequence in your life is it that God can't handle? Not a one. Amen? Well let me just say this to you.
If you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, then listen carefully. I'm not being condemning at all. I'm just simply saying if you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, then you're living a life that's rebelling against God. And what you're saying is you think you can do it better than He can. What you're saying is you don't trust what He said about heaven and hell and judgment. So, you're going to live it your way. And I simply want to say to you: you're not going to win that game. You will die disappointed, full of regrets and full of pain in your heart, if not in your body. The wisest thing you can do is to obey God. And what does He say? "Today is the day of salvation".
Call upon the name of the Lord. If you will confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and that He's raised from the dead. He's the living Christ. That His death at Calvary paid your sin debt in full and if you're willing to ask Him to forgive you of your sins and to cleanse you, He will save you this morning, right now. That's the testimony, the witness of the Word of God, the eternal Word of God. And if you do not trust Him as your Savior, what you have to ask is this. What are the consequences? You don't even want to hear them. I plead with you in Jesus' name to make the wisest decision you could ever make. To make Jesus Christ the Savior and Lord of your life and choose to live by this principle. I will obey God in every aspect of my life and I leave all the consequences to Him.
Father, how grateful we are we know that to be true. We never have to wonder whether it's true or not. And I pray at anybody seated here today who is unsaved today, they will determine to be obedient to You by trusting You as their Savior. I pray for those decisions that are being made by people all over this place this morning. That they'll make that decision. "God, I'm going to obey You. I'm going to watch You work. I'm going to leave all the consequences to You. And I'm going to trust You to prove Yourself to me". In Jesus' name, amen.