Charles Stanley - The School of Obedience
It's not always easy to obey God, but it's always the wisest thing to do and it's always the best. And it's interesting that throughout Scripture, God continually reminds us of how important it is to obey Him. And over and over and over again He promises us to bless us if we simply obey Him. So, what I'd like to do is to begin by taking you through some Scriptures just to give you a little idea of His promises when you and I obedient to Him. Because I want us to learn how to obey God and to make that our lifestyle, and not just something that we do once in a while. And when you and I develop the spirit of obedience and it becomes a way of life for us, then what you're gonna discover is a lot of pressure's all gone because when you're committed to being obedient to God, there are a lot of decisions that you've wrestled over, you won't have to wrestle over anymore. You just know that's the way of the Lord, that's the will of God, and that's the purpose of God.
So, I want you to turn, if you will, to Deuteronomy chapter twenty-eight to begin with, and the title of this message is "The School of Obedience". Turn, if you will, to Deuteronomy twenty-eight and look, if you will, beginning in verse one. And we'll read through several of these verses, "Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you on high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God". Then he mentions many of the blessings there.
Turn, if you will, to Isaiah chapter one. First chapter of Isaiah, and here Isaiah the prophet is speaking to those who are not believers, and listen to what he says. Beginning in verse eighteen of this first chapter, he says, "'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord, 'Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow, though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool. If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.' Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken it".
Then if you'll turn to Jeremiah chapter seven, just over one book, Jeremiah chapter seven, and I want you to notice, if you will, in verse twenty-three. Jeremiah seven, verse twenty-three. He says, "But this is what I commanded them, saying 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people, and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.'" Verse after verse after verse is what? God says, "You obey me, here's what I'm gonna do for you. You obey me and I'm gonna bless you". Remember this, it is absolutely impossible to obey God without blessing because God has chosen to bless obedience. And we as His children, as we learn to walk in His ways and walk in His will, then we're going to be blessed over and over and over again.
Somebody says, "Well, just define for me, what is obedience anyway"? Obedience is, listen, obedience is doing God's will, God's way, in God's timing. It's doing what God says, when He says it, and the way He says do it. So, when you think in terms of obedience, that's really simple, doing what God says, when He says, and how He says do it. And so, when we think in terms of obedience and we think in terms of the fact that that's what God requires of us, what I'd like for us to do, I'd like to take a few moments to talk about some principles here that will help you in obedience. For example, obedience isn't something that you and I just know automatically since we trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior. And we know certain things would certainly be obedience to God and certain things would not be.
And so therefore, what we want to talk about is how do we learn to obey God. The school of obedience. So, I want us to think about some of these things. And when I think about how do we learn? How do we learn to be obedient? Well, one of the first principles is simply this, and that is, first of all, you must trust Him. You will not obey a God you do not trust. You just will not. And so, most disobedience is a lack of trust in God. "Well now, I know that's what He said, but". Whenever you put a "but" behind something God has said, you're just about to head out in the wrong direction because God doesn't make any promises that He either cannot or will not fulfill.
So, one of the first things I must learn to do is to trust Him. I want you to turn to a very familiar passage of Scripture that we quote over and over and over again, but I want you to see something here. I want you to turn to Proverbs chapter three, if you will, and I want us to look at a couple of verses that most of us know by heart, certainly the anchor verse of my soul, and listen to what he says. He says in verse five, "Trust in the Lord," now watch this, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him". That doesn't mean that God's up there, but acknowledging Him means in all your ways acknowledge Him, obey Him, "and He will make your paths straight".
Now, what did He place first? He didn't say, "Obey and then trust". He said, "Trust the Lord, don't lean on your own understanding, there'll be things you don't understand". Obey Him, and he says what? He'll make your paths straight. So, if I'm going to be obedient to God and I'm going to learn to walk in obedience, I have to settle this issue of who God is, that He's the sovereign ruler of this universe. I have to settle this issue that He is trustworthy, that He's reliable. He doesn't make promises He does not fulfill. And that every promise He makes He will fulfill. He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. I can rely upon Almighty God to be the faithful God that He is.
And so, when you look at that passage of Scripture and you think in terms of your own life, you have to ask yourself this question: Is my life characterized by obedience? And somebody says, "Well, okay, how do I learn to trust God"? It's just this simple. How do you learn to trust Him? You say, "Well, if that's the first step to really learning how to walk in obedience to Him, how do I learn to trust Him"? Just this simple: you do what you know God tells you to do and then you look for the results. And then you observe the results. Did it work? Yes, it did. Then you may falter and fall and you disobey Him and you didn't trust Him and you look at the results. Didn't work out, didn't pay off, caused me hurt, caused me pain. It won't take you long, listen, if you are an observant, honest person, genuinely honest about your life, genuinely, listen, willing to observe what's going on in your life and the lives of others, it won't take you long to realize when you put your trust in God and obey Him, you're going to be blessed.
And when you don't trust Him, you miss God's blessing. So, it's just that simple. How do you learn to trust Him? You do what He says do and you back off and look at the results. When you falter and fall, you look at the results. Won't take you long to figure out trusting Him is always the wisest, best thing to do. So, step number one in the school of obedience, and it's simply this, and that is trust Him. He's faithful, reliable. No one has ever been able to point out to anyone else how God was unfaithful. God by His very nature and character is a faithful God. He's trustworthy, you can rely upon Him.
The second lesson, I think, in the school of obedience is this, and that is learning to wait upon the Lord. Learning to wait upon God. And this is probably one of the most difficult things we have to deal with. Here's a decision that you and I have to make. Go back, if you will, to Psalm twenty-seven. A very important verse along this line because we're in such a rush in every aspect of our life. This is a "I gotta have it now," "I gotta do it now," "can't wait," I mean, "waiting is something in the past". But listen to what he says. Psalm twenty-seven, the last verse, verse fourteen, "Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage, yes, wait for the Lord". I'm glad he put that middle part in there because sometimes, listen, we have to be strong and we have to be courageous and take heart because sometimes everything in us says, "Move, move, move". And somehow in our spirit we know we have no business taking a move yet. You don't move until God tells you to move.
Here you've got a decision to make and you don't know what to do and so somebody says, "Well listen, man, just buckle up and do it"! That, listen, that's the admonition of the world. The admonition of Scripture is, "If you don't know what to do and don't know how to do it and don't know when to do it, you wait for God to show you what to do". Now, look at that verse. Psalm twenty-seven verse fourteen. "Wait for the Lord," that is to give you instruction. "Be strong and let your heart take courage". That is, listen, why did He say let your heart take courage? Because oftentimes, listen, here's what happens. We are afraid we're going to miss something. We're afraid we're gonna lose something. We're gonna be fearful of being left out, so we want to hurry up and do it. When he says, listen, take heart, be courageous, stand strong, stand firm, don't move till God tells you what to do.
The third lesson that you and I want to learn in the school of obedience is this, and that is, learning to meditate upon His Word. If I want to know the mind of God, where do I find it? In the Scriptures. If I want to know the will and ways of God, where do I find them? I find them in the Scriptures, so that if I want to know what to do in a given situation, I want to get in God's Word and start reading, saying, "Lord, speak to my heart". Now, remember this: God is committed, listen, God is committed to showing you His will in every circumstance. God is committed to showing you His will. God is responsible to show you His will. God assumes full responsibility for giving us direction in our life because He has a will and a plan and a purpose for our life. He has the best stored up for us. And because He does, He assumes responsibility to show us which way to go. So therefore, He says we are to meditate upon His word.
When I say meditate, what am I talking about? I'm talking about reading it and asking God to speak to your heart and praying it back to Him and saying, "Thank You, Lord, and I understand what You're saying". And what's gonna happen is this: you'll be trying to make a decision, you're reading God's Word, He's gonna bring a verse to you, a simple verse to you, that you'll think, "Uh, just like it's got my name on it". And sometimes I've said that, had my name so secured to address and telephone number on it. Absolutely could not be anybody but me when it was written two thousand years ago, absolutely the answer to exactly what I needed to hear.
Now, listen, if the Bible is a stranger to you, in other words, if this is a strange book... You say, "Well, you know, I'm not very familiar with it". How do you get familiar with it? Looking at it on a shelf? You get familiar with it by opening it and beginning to read. You say, "Well, I don't understand all that". You know what, join the crowd. Because there are things at times we read and we think, "Now, Lord, what in the world are You saying here"? You keep studying it long enough and you keep reading it long enough, He's going to show you. Sometimes God will bring you to a verse or to a passage of Scripture, He won't let you get away from it. Why? Because He's trying to rivet that into your soul to help you understand He's trying to say something to you. "Here's what I want you to do. Here's how I want you to do it". And oftentimes it'll conflict with human reason, so you have to decide: Am I gonna be obedient to God or not?
Now, remember this, the next time you have a decision to make, you have to decide. If you were in the woods and you didn't know where you were going, would you want a flashlight with batteries and bulb, or do you just want to find your way through? I mean, you know, how am I gonna get there? And I've been up in Wyoming one time hunting and pitch-black dark at nighttime and sitting on this horse and I had to trust him because I had absolutely no earthly idea where we were, none whatsoever. But I knew that horse knew exactly how to get back to the stable. So I'm sitting up on the horse thinking, God, I don't have any idea where I am. It's pitch-black dark, there were no stars, no moon that night, and riding along. And every once in a while, something would pop me in the face because I couldn't even see a limb. If I'd-a just had a little bit of light, I could have spared myself a lot of scratches right across here. But you see, the horse knew exactly where the stable is. He was gonna get there sooner or later. You know what, we have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us to help us and guide us. But He has given us a light.
Listen, we don't have to walk in darkness. In fact, walking in darkness is not what God's people do. But remember this, this is my light. This is the compass. This is gonna show me where to go. You can't think of a single solitary question, any decision that you have to make that you can't find an answer somewhere in God's Word. Now, it may not be the very incident that you're talking about, but the principle is there somewhere to help you find out exactly what God's up to in your life. So, if we're gonna learn obedience, we must learn to meditate upon God's Word. The next thing I'd have you jot down is simply this, and that is, if you and I are gonna learn to walk in obedience to Him, we must also learn, listen to this, learn to listen to the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit.
What the world you mean about that? Well, I want you to look at two or three Scriptures. But jot that down. That is, learning to listen to the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit. God does not shout in an audible voice. Every once in a while, I think I've heard Him shout quietly to my own heart, maybe when I was stubborn and was not listening or whatever it might be. But God doesn't shout at us. Now, remember this. When you got saved, the Holy Spirit came into your life to indwell you and to seal you as a child of God. One of His works is the work of being a helper. So we have the wonderful promise of the Holy Spirit to prompt us, to guide us, to give us a sense of direction, to help us in our reasoning, to help us in our thinking.
Remember He's the Helper. To help us in our faith, to help us in our struggle, to help us in our questions, to help us in our doubts, to make the wise decision to do what the Holy Spirit would have us to do. That is, listening to the Spirit of God. That's why waiting, being quiet, being alone, meditating upon the Word of God, listening to Him, we're going to get the right answer because God's committed to showing us exactly what to do. Well, one other principle I'd like for you to remember is this, and that is if I'm gonna learn obedience, I must be willing to trust Him and leave all the consequences to Him. Now, as long as I wait, and I've said this two or three times already, I'll say it again.
As long as I wait until I can evaluate the consequences, then here's what I'm saying: I'm willing to consider God's will, but I'm not committed to it. If I have to wait till I get the consequential picture, then what I'm saying is I'm considering it, but I'm not committed to it. God wants us so committed to doing His will and walking in His way that it really doesn't make any difference what the consequences are. Now, watch this. God assumes full responsibility for the consequence. If you and I obey God, God is, listen, He is committed to guiding us and directing us, and even though He may take us through some valleys, through some pain, through some heartache, through some suffering, you know what, we're gonna come out successful, we're gonna come out, listen, we're gonna come out prospering. God is going to prosper us, first of all, in our soul, in our Spirit.
Listen, tell me anything any more valuable than knowing you walked through the valley, you walked through the fire, you walked through the flood, you were obedient to God. You trusted Him in spite of all the opposition. You walked out on the other end and here's what you got. And God said to you, "Well done good and faithful servant". You know what, forget the other award. Just to know in your heart that you have God's approval for doing God's will, God's way. Listen, people say, "Well, what kind of blessings am I gonna get? What kind of award"? You know what, you leave that up to God 'cause I'll tell you something, whatever God has in mind for you is a whole lot better than you ever figured. Listen, what I've discovered in all these years I've been a Christian, He's always, without exception, outdone my greatest expectation in the times of the most difficult, trying, painful, weeping times. Obedience to God, He has always outdone my greatest expectation. You know why? He's God. He's an absolute, wondrously wonderful, absolute, unbelievable sometimes, the blessings that He pours out upon us when we simply obey Him. Why? Because that's the kind of God He is.
Listen, He has planned the best for us. He desires the best for us. He's waiting to give us His best. What is He waiting for us? He's waiting for us to get in the pathway of obedience to walk in it so that we are able to handle the blessing. If you can't beat it and you can't equal it and you suffer the results of disobeying it, wisdom says obey the will of God no matter what and you come out winning every single time. Leave the consequences to Him. Then the last thing I'd simply mention is this, and that is if I'm going to live it, really and truly walk in obedience, I must be willing, listen, I must be willing to accept God's discipline for my disobedience, because there will be times when you and I disobey Him, and accept it with thanksgiving. Oh, now wait a minute now, hold it, hold it, hold it, wait a minute. You telling me when God whips me, I'm to thank Him? Yes! Well, you can't really do that. That's just some preacher talk. That's not real. No it's not, it's very real.
Now, let me tell you why it's real. Turn, if you will, to Hebrews chapter twelve for a moment, and listen to what he says. Hebrews chapter twelve, beginning in verse five. He says, now have you forgotten this? He says, listen to this, "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint," don't lose heart, "when you are reproved by him; for those whom he loves," listen, for those whom the Lord loves, "He disciplines," He chastises, "He scourges every son whom He receives". Now, think about this. And this is so very important. We're all in moments of weakness, we're going to disobey Him at times. And you know what He's going to do? Listen, if we instantly recognize it, ask Him, thank Him for His forgiveness, repent of it right then, we'll miss most of it. We'll miss most chastisement. If there's instantaneous. And we get into something or whatever it might be, God's going to chastise us.
Now, why is He going to do it? Because He loves us and because, listen, because He has this fantastic plan for us. And because He has a will for our life and He wants us to walk in His path. He doesn't want us out of His path, so what is He gonna do? He's gonna send enough pain to get me back in the path. Now, therefore, when I see what His motive is, it's always love. I'm going to thank Him for not letting me stay off the path. I'm gonna thank Him for loving me enough to whip me back on. I'm gonna praise Him for reaching down and not ignoring me when the truth is I ignored Him, and not just walking away from me and letting me just move on and on, putting enough pressure and enough pain and enough heartache until I finally say, "Yes, Lord, forgive me. I just want to thank You for that. I repent of that".
Get back on the path. Chastisement is a blessing from God. And if I'm going to learn to walk in obedience, here's what I'm gonna learn. I'm gonna learn that when His chastising hand stings me, when I feel the pain, I'm gonna learn to, instead of grumbling and complaining and moaning and groaning, first of all, I'm feeling the pain because of something I did or did not do. And therefore, what's He doing? He is expressing love to me. It's love from His heart, pain to me. Love from His heart, suffering for me. But what is it doing? What's He doing? Getting us back on path, getting us back in His will so he can do what? So, listen, so you and I can experience the maximum of God's blessing.
If you could just rivet that into your children's hearts. If you could just somehow rivet that into their minds, that God's best waits in store for those who are willing to walk in obedience to Him. And you cannot beat that lifestyle. There is no way for you to have what God has in mind until you walk in obedience to Him. And so, the school of obedience is a process. I've taken many of those lessons and I've failed them all probably at one time or the other, but you know what? Watch this, this is a key. If you will observe what happens in the life of those who are obedient and you observe what happens in the life of those who are disobedient, it won't take you long to figure out that anybody who is thinking at all is gonna say, "Not worth it". Disobedience is not worth it. The pleasure of the moment is not worth the, listen, the consequences of the future.
And this is the way most people live, just like this... as far as they want to look, just like that. The only thing they're interested in is what can I have today? What satisfies me today? What gratifies me today without looking at the consequence? What are the consequences of sin? Pain, hurt, suffering, loss, ultimately the wrath of God. What's the consequence of obedience to God? Blessing upon blessing upon blessing. It may be through a valley of pain, may be hurt, may be trials, may be tribulation, may be conflict, or it may not be any of those or some of them. But the ultimate result is God's very best for His children. And the issue's just real simple. Do I want to develop a lifestyle of obedience? Do I want the spirit of obedience to absolutely control my thinking and my feelings?
You see, it's one thing to obey God because of fear of what's gonna happen. It's something else to get so free that you obey God just because you want to. Now, listen carefully. If I were to ask you today: Do you love God? Raise your hand. No, don't have to do it. Raise your hand if you love God. And probably everybody in here would raise their hand. Then I ask you this question. Well, what is the evidence that you love God? Well, I go to church, I'm faithful at church, I tithe my income, I read the Bible, I pray, I'm good. Yeah, I love God. Did you know that none of those answers are right? What do you mean they're not right? Isn't that what we're supposed to do? All those are good things. You know what Jesus said? Listen to this. He can say so much, just wipe me out sometime.
Listen to this, how simple and short. If you love Me, you will obey Me. His phrase is, "Keep my commandments," but if you love Me, you will obey Me. You know how I can tell whether I love Him or not? Not how many sermons I preach, not how hard I may study, not how all things that I do for the glory of God, has nothing to do with it. You can do all those things with a wrong motive. You know how you can tell how much you love Him? Look at your record of obedience versus disobedience and you'll tell yourself how much you love Him. He's a wonderful God who's provided the very best for us, wants the best for us. To get the best, you get on the path of obedience. That's why you should pray: God, give me the spirit of obedience.
Now listen, listen carefully. When you have the spirit of obedience, here's what's gonna happen. Things that used to pressure you terribly about obeying, you won't even feel it. You know why? Because you're committed to being obedient to God. Now what'll happen is things that used to harass you and trouble you when it came to those decisions won't trouble you any longer. You're committed to Him. It's your spirit. Your spirit is the spirit of absolute obedience to Him. And you know what'll happen? You'll begin to enjoy blessings that God has had in store for you all these years that you've been missing. Why? Because you took the flashlight of His Word and you began to follow it and you stayed on the path and you come to a great treasure that God had in store for you all along.
Father, how grateful we are for Your grace and love and mercy and kindness and patience and goodness. How many times we have faltered and fallen. You're always there to pick us up, get us back on the right path, heading in the right direction. May the Spirit of obedience be the spirit and the heart of every single person who is listening to this message. Have Your way in each one of our lives, may obedience fill the heart of every person who has a decision to make. In Jesus's name, amen.