Charles Stanley - The Thrill of Obedience
When somebody starts talking to you about obedience, do you have a negative or a positive attitude coming on? Secondly, when somebody starts talking about obedience to you about your life, do you think in terms of success or failure? And then a more important question than all of these is this: Do you obey God because you fear the consequences of disobeying Him or do you obey God because you really and truly want to with all of your heart? When you think about times past that you've been challenged to obey God, times that you have obeyed Him and then you look at the consequences, what do you remember? Do you remember what the consequences were when you were really challenged to obey Him and you obeyed Him, what were the consequences?
Well, what about those times when you were challenged to obey Him and you didn't obey Him, what were the consequences then? When you think about obedience, do you feel burdened about it? Is that some kind of a heavy burden on you? Or do you think about obedience being a wonderful, thrilling adventure with Jesus Christ day after day in your life? That's what it's all about. God never intended for us to think in terms of obedience as being a burden. He does not intend for us to think about obedience as being something we have to do, but rather something we want to do. Motivated by our love for Him, motivated by our devotion to Him, motivated by our desire to walk in His way and to discover what He's like and to experience His blessing.
And think about it for a moment. Is it not the wisest thing that you and I could do? If God is the good God He says He is, and He certainly is, if He has stored up goodness for us, if He has a good will and a good purpose and a good plan for your life, is it not the wisest thing you and I could do is to have lifestyle of obedience? To let obedience be the very guiding area of our life, that is, everywhere we go, obedience here and obedience there and obedience here. In other words, that's just the way we think. We think walking in obedience to Him. Well, I'm afraid a lot of people don't feel that-a-way, and many people who are Christians, when they think about obedience, they think, oh God, what are You up to? What have I got to do now? When I think about that, I think about you don't know who God is. If you're thinking about what have I got to do now. It's not what do I, what have I got to do now, but what does my Lord, who loves me unconditionally, want me to do now? Because I know that whatever He wants me to do now, what He's doing, He's just getting me ready to get blessed.
Well, the title of this message is "The Thrill of Obedience". Rather a different kind of title than most people think of obedience. And I want you to turn, if you will, to Luke chapter five. Luke chapter five is a familiar passage of Scripture because of the miracle that took place. And what I want you to remember is this: these narratives in the Scripture, things that Jesus did, events that took place in His life, they're not here simply to give us some history, though that is certainly part of His life, but rather to understand His ways and to glean from these events those principles that you and I can apply to our life.
And so, oftentimes people will read some passage of Scripture and they'll say, "Well, you know, that's a good story". That's not what God intended for our response to be. Not that's a good story, but what is God saying to me in this passage? And so, I want us to read this passage and then I want us to come back and look at several very important principles. Beginning in verse one of chapter five, "Now it came about that while the multitudes were pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret," which we know as the Sea of Galilee, "and He," that is Jesus, "saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake, but the fishermen had gotten out of them, and they were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's," that's Simon Peter, "and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the multitudes 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.'" Said, "Let's go fishing, Peter".
"And Simon answered and said, 'Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but at Your bidding I will let down the nets.' And when they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break. And 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. And when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus's feet, saying, 'Depart from me, 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 James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not fear, from now on you gonna be catching men.' And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him".
You say, "Well now, that's a fish story. That's a fish story. What's so significant about that"? Because maybe many of you don't fish, don't like fishing, not interested in fishing, and don't intend to go fishing. So, what does this story have to do? My friend, listen very, very carefully. If you will listen to this message, I'm gonna say one thing over and over and over again on purpose. If you'll just get it, I guarantee you something will happen in your life. Something will happen about your attitude about the Christian life. Something will happen about the way God works in your life. Something will happen about the way you begin to relate to Jesus Christ. Something will happen to your life in such a fashion you will not want to go back to your old lifestyle, to the way that you've been living your life.
And so, these are simple principles but they can change your life if you're wise enough to listen carefully and to apply them. And the first principle I want you to jot down here, something that is certainly a lesson worthy of learning is this: that obeying God in small matters, obeying God in small matters is an essential step to God's thrilling rewards. Obeying God in small matters is an essential step to enjoying God's thrilling rewards. Now, what is this small step? Well, think about what's happening. Wherever Jesus went, people or multitudes gathered around Him and He was teaching them about the Father, and these were amazing things because they never heard this from the Pharisees and Sadducees.
And so, on this particular day, He was down by the sea, and what was happening was this. He was standing on the edge of the shore and the people were gathered around Him and the multitudes. And what people do is they want to edge up a little bit closer and the folks behind want to get a little closer, so they just push a little bit closer to the folks in front of them. And so before long, He's standing with His feet in the water. So, He looked around and He saw these two boats and He saw these disciples, not disciples then, but He saw these fishermen cleaning their nets and He said, "I want to get in your boat, Simon, and if you'll push out a little ways, that'll give Me an opportunity to sit down in the boat and then I'll be able to speak clearer because I'll have some distance between Me and the people, the people on the periphery, on the back there, on the edge, they can hear Me". And so it was a simple request. He simply said, "I want to get into your boat and I want to teach from your boat".
Well, if Peter had said, "Can't borrow my boat. Too busy, cleaning my nets, borrow their boat," the second request He would not have made. The incident that happened thereafter and all the rest of Peter's life as you and I know it probably would never have taken place and never be a part of Holy Scriptures that's lasted all these hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years and will be here till Jesus comes and throughout eternity there will be the Word of God. Very, very insignificant request. That's why you hear me keep saying we must learn to listen to God. We must be sensitive to His still, small voice. We must be sensitive to His requests that appear to be insignificant. There is no such thing as an insignificant command. Every single thing He says to us has a purpose behind it, a plan behind it, and one thing for certain.
Remember this, every time you and I obey God, we will be blessed. The blessing may not show up immediately, but we will be blessed. The blessing may not even appear to be all that significant at the time, but it is significant. Because what He does, it's like a chain reaction all of our life. This relates to this, relates to this, relates to this, relates to this, relates to this. And when you and I choose not to be obedient to Him, what we do is we break the chain. And so therefore, oftentimes people ask themselves the question: Why doesn't God bless me? Or, why doesn't God prosper me? I'm a Christian, I read my Bible, I pray, I go to church, I serve God. Why doesn't He bless me like He blesses other people? Could it be because things that are very significant to God, you've overlooked? Things that are very significant to God, you've just chalked those up as just sorta ordinary, mundane parts of life, and therefore do not see how important every single thing is. Because we're the children of God and because He has this awesome plan for our life, every single thing is significant.
So, when I look at Peter's life and look to see what happened, I'll have to realize that he would have been a lifetime loser, a lifetime loser. And you have seen me and heard me say over and over and over again, there are forks in the road in our life. There are forks in the road in our life. And all of a sudden, we're moving along in life and we come to one of them. We usually don't realize it's a fork in the road. Sometimes we do because it's a major decision. We come to that fork of the road. If it's something that is a fork in the road in God's eyes but I don't see it that way and I just keep moving on my way, sometimes I can miss those pivotal decisions, those pivotal points. But when I learn, listen, when you and I learn to listen daily, our ears are attuned to what does God want me to do in this situation? What would He have me to say? Where would He have me to go? What's my decision here? When it's our lifestyle, when it's our way of life, when it's what we naturally, normally do day by day. You know what's gonna happen?
We come to the forks of the road, we'll be sensitive to them. We come to the forks of the road, we'll be aware this is a significant time. He will make you aware of the significance of some decisions that normally you would not have been. Once you begin to form that kind of a lifestyle, today I'm gonna choose to walk in God's way. Lord, I'm gonna trust You to guide me, to lead me all day long. I'm gonna be on Your schedule. Whatever You allow in my life, You're in control, and therefore I'm gonna walk in Your way. Here's what'll happen. What you do is you, listen, you set a lifestyle for yourself that gives God the privilege, opens the door, flings the door open for God to provide you, give you the best that He's already prepared and planned for you. Every decision significant in God's eyes. So therefore, one of the most essential things we have to remember is this: obeying God in small matters is indeed a very essential step if we're going to reap the best rewards that He has for us.
The second principle I want you to notice here is this, and that is obeying God will never prove to be disappointing. Obeying God will never prove to be disappointing. Think about this for a moment. When you think about what happened in Peter's life. He said, "All right, okay, you can borrow the boat. You can borrow the boat as a pulpit". And then He said to him, "Let's go fishing". Watch this, Peter was certain, I believe, in his heart that he was going out for the second empty trip in a row. But what an awesome surprise. You know what? You and I can't disappoint God. Watch this now, you and I can't disappoint God because to disappoint somebody, you have to have expectations. Secondly, God can't disappoint us. It's not even His nature to disappoint us. Now, sometimes things may not work out the way I expect.
Now, watch this, they may not work out the way I expect at that moment. But here's what I've discovered, and I've been a Christian over fifty years. I may not see or experience the blessing right then, but I can look back in my life over and over and over again and say, "Lord, my, my, my, was that wisdom on Your part. Thank You, Dear God, for shoving me into obedience. Thank You for get me in the center of Your, thank You, thank You, You didn't let me do it my way"! I'll tell you one thing. Hindsight is absolutely fantastic when it comes to looking at what God's done in your life. Because He doesn't promise to give me the reward immediately. There'd be no test of my faith.
If I know if I do this today, look what I'm gonna get tomorrow. Secondly, you don't know what the blessing's gonna be oftentimes. We don't know how we're gonna be rewarded. And I believe with all of my heart that a great part of God's reward for those apparently insignificant things, listen, it's what He's doing. He is preparing us for another test, preparing us for another challenge in order, listen, that what? The big blessing, the big reward. Whatever it is out there in your life that He has for you. What is He doing? Those little things are stepping stones to get us ready. So part of the reward is what we learn. And so, when these things seem to be unreasonable, what is He doing? He's testing us. Not only that, He's growing us up, He's growing up our faith. So, part of the blessing is that every time we obey Him, what we've done is we've trusted Him again, trusted Him again, trusted Him again. And so, what does He do? He blesses us and we see, oftentimes more than not, we see how He rewards us and how He works out the minute details of our life as a result of obeying Him.
Now, nobody else may think you've obeyed Him. Everybody else may disagree with you. Everybody else thinks you're absolutely foolish and you ought to do it this way and that way, you should do this and you should do that. You know what? The only person you ultimately have to please is Almighty God. When you obey Him, He will do for you what nobody else and everybody else together can do for you. When you obey Him, you're gonna come out better than if everybody else in the world persuades you to do something else. They cannot bless you like Almighty God can bless you. It is very important we obey Him in little things and I'm telling you, you won't be disappointed. You can't disappoint Him, and He won't disappoint you. Can't disappoint God, He won't disappoint you.
Well, look at another principle, and that is, obeying God always results in a deeper understanding of ourselves and of Himself. Look what happened. They, Peter and those disciples, those men, those fishermen, they knew Jesus as an itinerant preacher and so forth, and those kind of things. But you know what happened? When Peter obeyed the Lord Jesus Christ by simply saying, "Okay, I'll take You out, You can use my boat for a pulpit". He probably heard things he would not have heard otherwise because he was in the boat with Him. Secondly, what do you think he learned about Jesus when he went fishing? He learned that Jesus not only was the master fisherman, but here's what he said. He said, "Oh Lord, I am a sinful man". What was he saying? I doubted You, I didn't believe You, I thought You were off the wall. You didn't know anything about fishing. And now I realize that I'm the ignorant one and I am a sinful man, oh Lord.
You know what happens? When somebody says, "Well, you know, I can't teach". How long you been a Christian? Forty years, fifty years. "I don't read the Bible very much cause I don't understand it". How long you been a Christian? Thirty-five years. You know how you learn who God is and what He's all about? Reading the Scripture's one of the primary ways. But listen to this: when you and I begin to obey God in little things, here's what happens. We begin to see, we begin to see how very interested God is in little things in our life. We begin to see His expressions of love. And I can tell you in my own personal life, there's not a day goes by that I'm not thanking Him for this and thanking Him for that and thanking Him for the other and thanking Him for the other because I hope He has learned, He has taught me to look for the evidence of His fingerprint, His handprint, His footprint, pointing in directions of my life and blessing me here and answering this and doing this and doing that, things I didn't even ask Him about.
We, listen, a believer should live their life in such a relationship with Him that it's a continuous thanksgiving and praise You, thank You, Lord. Not just gimme this, gimme that, oh God, what about this, what about? We're gonna have some of those, but you know what? When obedience becomes your lifestyle, you're gonna find yourself thanking Him over and over and over.
Now, think about this. Usually, it's when some threat comes and we come through it that we, "Oh, thank You, Jesus"! But what about waking up tomorrow morning to a beautiful sunshiny day and feeling good? Do you stop before you get out of bed and say, "Thank You, Lord. You awakened me this morning. I just want to thank You that You're in charge of my life. Thank You that You're gonna guide me all day. Thank You for giving me the desire to be obedient to You, to walk in Your will and do the things that please and honor You". God is so willing to bless us. And you know what? The more you and I show our gratitude toward Him, the more He shows us the way to make this wise decisions in our life. Obeying Him, we're gonna begin to understand ourselves. We're gonna understand where we are weak. We're gonna understand the kind of things that cause us to doubt. We're gonna understand where our strengths lie. And we're gonna understand oftentimes what area of our life He wants to work on. He wants to work on the weak areas so that you and I are not walking around like this as Christians.
You know, we are pretty good over here, we're not doing too good over here. He wants us balanced in our life. He wants every aspect of our life balanced, whether it is in our giving, whether it is in our trusting, whether it's in our relationship to others, whatever it might be. He wants us to walk a balanced life. And what does He do? He works in those areas in which we are not so balanced. Well, let me give you one last principle here as I think about His life and how Peter responded to what Jesus said. When I think about that, I think about obeying God in small matters can result in dramatic changes in our life. Obeying God in small matters can result in dramatic changes in our life.
Look what happened to Peter. Here he was a fisherman and the next thing you know, he's pushing out and letting Jesus have his boat as a pulpit. Next thing you know, he's out here fishing and he has seen the most absolutely miraculous, unbelievable thing in his life. When you wouldn't normally catch fish, his boat is sinking with them. Have you ever felt so blessed by God you thought you couldn't handle it? Well, I only see a few smiles. Let me ask that again. Have you ever been blessed by God so much that you couldn't handle it? Say amen. That's pretty good. Can you imagine what Peter thought? His boat's sinking. Now, usually a sinking boat's a bad sign. This one's a great sign! I mean, the fish are falling out of this thing it's so full. Look at the dramatic change in his life. Watch this now. And you see, I'd like to open every teenager's head, cut off the top, pour this in, screw it back down so it can't ever get out. If you will learn the lesson of obeying God early in life, He will make the most dramatic changes in your life.
Now, watch what happened. One day, he's a smelly fisherman, cleaning his nets, cleaning his boat, out fishing, working hard, trying to make a living. Before the night's over, here's what he heard. "Peter, from now on you're not gonna catch fish, I'm gonna teach you how to catch men for the glory of God". He had his doubting moments. He doubted around the fire, yes. But how would he ever forget the day that he walked on the water? Listen, on the day that Jesus said to him, "Push out a little bit," never did he ever believe that one day he'd be able to be out there on that same sea with no boat under him walking on top of the waves. Suppose he'd a said, "Borrow somebody else's boat". Experience after experience, he was one of those who ran to the empty tomb and looked in and saw that his Master who used his boat as a pulpit conquered death! It was Peter along with those other disciples and followers who watched Him ascend into the heavens. It was Peter whom God chose on the day of Pentecost to preach that absolutely awesome sermon which three thousand people were saved, and the church of the Lord Jesus Christ exploded.
Suppose he'd have said, "Use their boat". Suppose he'd have said, "I'm too busy. I am busy doing what fishermen do, cleaning their nets, and you don't wait all day to clean this junk off these nets, you clean them now". He said, "Nevertheless, at Thy will, at Your bidding, I'm gonna do what You say do". Now, remember this, you will never, never, never, never, never lose obeying God. You will never, never, never, never, never win by disobeying God. That is a biblical, eternal, unchangeable, irrevocable fact and truth. And that being true, would you not agree the wisest thing you can do is to obey our Lord? I don't know what He's telling you to do right now in your life. But if I should ask you this question, if I could see you face-to-face, and some of you I can and I would say to you: As you've sat here and listened, what is the next thing you need to do in your life to obey God? What has God told you to do that you've been holding off on? What is it that you have defended yourself against? What is it that you've argued with Him about? What is it that you have rationalized away?
He's given you a very specific, clear command. You know it. Lives in your heart, sits on your shoulder, God reminds you of it continually, yet you've not done it. Simply want to ask you a question: Do you want God's best? Then do the next thing that you know is an act of obedience to Jesus Christ and, my friend, you will set yourself on the path to enjoy the best that God has which He prepared beforehand before you were ever born, as He planned His purpose and His will and His place for your life. You want His best? Trust Him and obey Him and you get it.
Father, how grateful we are. You're so patient with us and You love us. You see us in our weak moments and in our frailties. You pick us up when we falter. So full of forgiveness, so full of love, so full of goodness, so full of the best of everything. I pray that the Holy Spirit will sink this message into the heart, deeply into the heart of every person who hears it. And that we will respond in wisdom, what does obedience require of me, and walk in that obedience and find the awesome, thrilling joy of obeying our Living God. In Jesus's name, amen.