Charles Stanley — The Requirements of Obedience
All of us need guidance in our life no matter who we are. Guidance, for example, in whatever our calling may be, whatever our work may be. Guidance in our family and our relationships in the family. Guidance in our finances and certainly guidance in our health. Guidance in our relationships with other people and certainly, guidance in our relationship to God.
I wonder who's giving you guidance today. There are a lot of strange voices out there, clamoring for your attention. Who are you listening to? Who's guiding you? Who's making the suggestions? Who wants to influence and impact your life? And if you follow those voices, where will it lead you? Well, the Heavenly Father's promised to guide us. And if we're wise, we'll listen to His guidance. If we're unwise, we won't. And so, what I want us to talk about in this message is simply this, God's Guidance. And there are three steps to that guidance. First of all, if He's going to guide me, I must listen to Him. Secondly, I must trust Him. And thirdly, I must obey Him. If I don't listen, I'll miss it. If I don't trust Him, I'll miss it. If I don't obey Him, I'll miss it.
There are many people who miss God's best, miss His plan for their life because they're unwilling to listen or to trust, and unwilling to obey. I pray in Jesus' name that as you listen to this message, you will look at your life and ask yourself the question, "Who's guiding me? Is this myself? Is this a strange voices of the world? Who's really guiding me"? And I want you to turn if you will to one simple passage of scripture, and I want you to look if you will at Psalm thirty. Let's go back to Psalm thirty-two, we've read this before. God says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you or guide you with My eye upon you".
The second one is Proverbs three, five and six. Listen to what he says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones". So, when I think about this and think about how God does work in our lives and how He speaks to us, He speaks to us throughout the Word of God. Throughout His servants, He was always speaking and giving them guidance. There's not a time in our life when we don't need guidance.
And think about this: If you have small children, you need to teach them very, very early in life to listen to Almighty God. And parents, the only way they're going to do that is when you learn to listen and you teach them how to pray and how to listen to God, because they need desperately to know how to listen to Him. Now, there are three requirements if I'm going to follow the Lord. I must listen to Him. I must trust Him and I must obey Him. So, somebody says, "Well okay, I know what obeying my parents means. What does it mean to obey God"? So, I'm going to give you a very simple definition. Simple as it can be, but it is absolutely the truth. How do you define obedience before God? It is doing what God says to do, how He says do it, and when He says do it. That absolutely encompasses all of obedience. To do what God says do, to do it the way He says do it, and to do it when He says do it, all three of those are important.
If you don't do what He says and you don't do it, for example, the way He wants it done, you just do it any way you want to at any time, that's what you call disobedience. But disobedience is a pretty good word, but let me tell you what that really means. If I do not do what He says do, the way He says do it and when He says do it, I am rebelling against Almighty God. Disobedience is a pretty good word, rebellion has more weight to it. In other words, rebellion says, "I am purposely, willingly doing what I want to do, when I want to do it, how I want to do it in spite of what God may say". Which says I am saying to Him, "My way's better than Your way. I'm smarter than You are. I know better than You do and I reject Your sovereignty over my life. I'm rejecting Your control over my life. I'm rejecting," for example, "what You want to do for what I want to do".
And so, people like to excuse it and call it all kind of things. "Well, I made a mistake". No, you rebelled against God. I'm not saying you never make mistakes, but to deliberately know what to do and you don't do what He says, when He says or how He says it is rebellion against God. And so, either I'm going to allow the Sovereign God of the universe, who loves us absolutely, unquestionably and loves us in the best way that anyone could possibly be loved. If I refuse Him, then I choose to live in rebellion rather than being led by God who loves me and knows me perfectly.
So, I would ask you a question: Who is guiding your life? Now, to live obediently before God and to live the kind of life He wants us to live, a life that will bring us life's best. And a lot of people think that they can do it better than God, but they cannot. Life at its best is a life lived in obedience to Almighty God, because He knows what's best. He created you. Having created you, He knows exactly how you think, your personality, your gifts and all the rest, your weaknesses, your frailties, your strengths. And so, when He says this is My plan for your life, here's what I want you to do that's the best. It's the best that a sovereign all-loving God could possibly do. So, for me to turn my back on Him is to rebel against truth; rebel against the best that God could possibly provide for me. So, in thinking about that, there are certain requirements that God has for us if we're going to live an obedient life.
So, these are the ones I want you to jot down and I hope you will. But I want to go back to the whole idea, and I want to get it deep in your heart. Disobedience is rebelling against Almighty God. God's desire is that we do what He says do, how He says do it, when He says do it. You can't leave out any of those and have a life of obedience. So, the question is what does it require of us to be obedient to God and to walk in His ways? Well, the first one is simply this, and that is that God requires of us to meditate upon His Word. Now listen to this carefully. You say, "Well, what do you mean "meditate upon His Word"? Listen to the hundred and nineteenth Psalm and the hundred and fifth verse. Listen to this simple verse, but it's so absolutely important.
The scripture says, "Your word," the Word of God, "is a lamp to my feet," because sometimes we have to walk in darkness, "and a light to my path". That is, God will guide us. Now here's what I want you to remember. Meditating upon His Word, that is, reading it, thinking about it, asking questions, asking God to speak. What do You mean by this? How do You apply this to me? That's what meditation's all about. If you do not meditate upon the Word of God, and at your house the Word of God is closed until the next Sunday, you're not going to live a life of obedience to God. This is a wicked, vile, ever-changing, threatening world. And what happens is when you and I meditate upon God's Word, we read a portion of it every day, it keeps me in touch. It keeps me in contact.
Now I don't need to, I don't have to do that to live a life of obedience for a season, but I'm guaranteeing you, people drift away from God when they neglect the Word of God. The Word of God, as He says, "Is a lamp to my feet". "It's a light to my path". So, I'm walking this path and there are times it's very dark, there are holes in it there are places I could trip and fall, fall off the cliff, whatever it might be. The Word of God is my anchor. It's my light. It shows me the truth. It shows me that path. And when I step off the path, the light is there to show me where I should be walking. If you're going to be obedient to God, this book must be a vital part of your life and all the arguments in world fall apart. Look at the world in which you and I live. Look at our own nation, for example. We have departed from the Word of God. Look who we are and who we look like to the unbelieving world. When you close the Book, you are shutting God out. You're saying, "I can make it this week without Him". No, you can't.
So, if you're going to obey God, you've got to keep the compass with you. You've got to keep God's Book, God's Word close to your heart and you need it every day. Now listen, I read the Word of God every day, for me. Not for something to tell you, but for my own heart. Now the other part is studying for the message, but I read it for me. I want God to speak to me. So, first requirement, if you're going to follow God's leadership, is the Word of God in your life. Secondly, is simply this: and that is I've got to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Now, let me define for you what that means. A lot of people know what that means. But you remember when you were saved, the Holy Spirit of God is the One who convicted you of sin, helped you understand the truth, now the Holy Spirit dwells in you. Every single believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and is there to give us guidance and direction.
Listen to what Jesus said. He said in the sixteenth chapter of John, "When He, the Spirit of truth, comes," which He came at Pentecost, "He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come". You and I have the awesome, awesome gift of the Holy Spirit to give us guidance in our life. And so, when you and I are reading the Word of God, we have the Holy Spirit to help us interpret it correctly. When we are living out our life at work or whatever it might be, we have the Holy Spirit to bring to our mind, to remind us of things we ought to be reminded of, to convict us of sin, for example, convict us of a wrong word or wrong attitude or wrong look.
And so, we live an obedient life because we have these two awesome elements to help us, the Word of God and the Spirit of God who will interpret it for us and enable us. It's the indwelling Holy Spirit who enables us to live a godly life. We can't do it in our own strength. We're all weak. And so, He's given us the Spirit of God to enable us to be what He wants us to be. A third thing is this, and that is you must walk according to God's timing in your life and be sensitive to God's timing in your life. And I think about a passage in Isaiah, chapter sixty-four and one of my favorite verses, verse four. Listen to the latter part of that. He says, "Acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him".
Now watch this, this is why listening to the Word and listening to the Spirit of God, He will over a period of time train you to listen carefully and know what He wants you to do. Many people mess up their lives by getting ahead of God. "Well, I just got to be married, so I got to have it now". Or, "I've just got to have this now and I've got to have that now". And so, their timing is totally different from God's timing. Watch this, since God is omniscient, that He knows every single thing about everybody, He knows what is best for us and in all situations and circumstances. We don't have to worry about God making a mistake.
So, if God says, "Don't do that". When you ignore a "don't" from God, you're in trouble. And when God says, "This is the way I want you to walk," then you walk that way. And as I look, look at this passage of scripture, "Trust in the Lord God with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He'll direct your path". And He directs the timing of it. Living according to God's timing. And you say, "Well how am I going to know about what the timing"? We've just talked about it. You have within you the timer, the Holy Spirit, who will show you when to do what. And this morning I was just praying about something totally different. It's like that God just stopped me right in the middle of it and said, "Here's what I want you to do. Not today, but later. Here's what I want you to do," so crystal clear that I had to stop thinking about what else I was praying for and to say, "Okay, God, I'm willing, I'm willing to do that".
Now you say, "Well, now God doesn't speak to me that way". Yes, He will if you will be wise enough to listen to Him. If you're going to follow Him, then you must be willing to walk according to His timing. Another thing is this: You may be forced to walk where the way is not very clear. That is, it's not always as clear as we'd like for it to be. And He says in Proverbs, in this wonderful, wonderful passage, that I want you to memorize, in verse five and six, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart," trust Him with all your heart. Don't figure it out. "Don't lean your own understanding. In all your ways," not some of them, "acknowledge Him," obey Him, trust Him, "and He will make your path straight". Not crooked, but straight. You save time and energy, and oftentimes finances, walking His paths straight. If I'm going to be obedient to Him, I must be willing to do just that. And that is, simply to walk where it may not be clear. Because sometimes God will require of you to do something that doesn't quite make sense at, at the time.
And I remember when the Lord called me from my previous church to this one, I'd only been there eleven months. And God made it so crystal clear that I could never, never, never once doubt it, but it didn't make any human sense. The way He showed me what to do was absolutely unforgettable. It's like a benchmark in my life. God knew exactly what He was doing and knew that the timing was right. Listen, God doesn't make any mistakes. When He says do something, remember who's, remember who's doing the talking. The Sovereign God of the universe is doing the talking and you can trust Him. So, if I'm going to follow Him, do what He says, how He says it, when He says it, then I must remember also there are going to be those times when the way may not be clear at first. Then, sometimes I must obey Him when the command appears sort of unreasonable. Sometimes it's unreasonable.
And I remember on one occasion when I was very afraid to assume a particular responsibility, because it was gigantic. And I didn't feel adequate to do it. I didn't want to do it. There was nothing about it that appealed to me, but it was a life-changer and it would affect millions of other people over a period of time. I didn't want to do it. And so, I think about this when I think about things being totally unreasonable. I thought, "God, somebody else can do it a whole lot better than I can". And so, because I didn't understand, I thought about what God said to Joshua in that sixth chapter when He said, "Now we're going to take Jericho". And normally, Joshua knew how to arrange the battle forces in order to attack, whether it was a fortress or whatever it might be, but this time, God said to him, "Now here's the way we're going to do it. You're going to line up your soldiers. And what, what you're going to do is you're not going to attack, you're just going to march around the city. You're going to march around the city the six times and then there'll be a seventh time that'll shock you". And so, by the time the seventh trip came and walking around it seven times and blowing trumpets and all the rest that went on, what happened? The walls fell down.
God knew exactly what to do. And sometimes you're going to face situations and circumstances and God will tell you what to do and you think, "Ah, You couldn't be saying that, God. You certainly could not be saying that". Yes, He could. You see, you can't put God in a box and say, "This is my God. This is how He works". Well, the truth is, this is our God and you can't contain how He works. Every circumstance is different, every one of us is different and God knows exactly what we need in order to walk in His will and to show us the way. Obedience requires that I do what He says, how He says, when He says do it. He's responsible for giving us guidance and direction of all that that involves. Another thing that's important, sometimes it takes courage, just plain courage to do what God wants you to do.
And I think about the times in my own life when I've said, "Oh Lord, surely You've got somebody else". Courage, and you should just jot down Joshua one nine. "Be strong and of a good courage. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go". Listen to that. The Lord, Jehovah, Yahweh, Sovereign of the universe, is with you wherever you go. And so, if I'm going to do what God wants me to do, the way He says it and when He says it, I need courage. Because He will ask you to do things, for example, that you think that, "Mmm-mmm, well Lord, I'm, the truth is, God, I'm afraid". Have I been challenged with things that cause me fear? Yes. But I learned a long time ago, even if you have to close your eyes, just walk that way no matter what and you'll find out God will be with you every step of the way.
So, think about this. He's really made it simple. He says, "I will guide you with My eye upon you". That is, we have an Almighty God who is committed to guiding us. Once you trust Him as your Savior, He assumes responsibility for giving you guidance in every area of your life. He has sealed you with the Holy Spirit, who is living within you to give you guidance and direction. And so, what does He require? Really simple, He requires that you and I listen to Him, that we trust Him and that we obey Him. That's it. And the problem is somebody says, "Well, I'm not sure about this listening".
Do you want to learn to listen? Then listen. You want to learn to listen to God? As we said, "Get in the Word of God and begin to meditate upon the Word of God. He will speak to you". And when you listen to Him, and trust Him, and obey Him, you're going to find yourself growing in your Christian life, becoming stronger and stronger, more and more confident, more assured, and more and more able to recognize the presence of God in your life and in your relationships than ever before. So, when I think about what God promised, He promised to guide us. We don't have to worry about whether He will or not. The issue is what's my responsibility? So, what is my responsibility? Will you tell me as a congregation? What is our responsibility?
Number one, to listen to Him. Secondly, trust Him. And thirdly, that's it. And you know what? If somebody had taught you that when you were about ten years of age, wonder where you'd be. Here's the three things you need to do. You need to listen to Him. You need to trust Him and you need to obey Him. Now anyone who will reject that is playing the fool. This is God's love. "What I want you to do is just listen to Me and I want you to trust Me and obey Me and watch what I do". Listen, you cannot fail. You cannot fail obeying God. You cannot fail listening and trusting Him; following His leadership in your life. You can't fail. And so, we ended up with one simple statement. My responsibility is to obey God, leave all the consequences to Him.
Now watch this, you could obey somebody else, but whether you can leave the consequences with them is something else. The only person about whom we can say that is Almighty God because He's in control of all the consequences. Obey God, leave all the consequences to Him. Let me ask you a question: Is there anything He can't handle? No. Anything He doesn't know? No. Anything He won't provide? No. So, what do we do? We obey Him and leave all the consequences to Him and watch God work. I don't know where you are in life. I don't know what's going on, but I know this: Wherever you are, maybe you're in a big mess, maybe you're going through a difficult time in your life, you can start right now by asking the Lord Jesus Christ, first of all, to come into your life and save you.
And then you can say to Him, "I want You to guide me, God. I've made the biggest mess of my life. I want You to guide me. And I'm willing to listen to You. And Lord, I want to trust You. And Lord, I want to obey You. I need Your help in all those areas". He will enable you in every single one of those areas to do what you're asking because it's the will of God. Now we have two choices. The choices are simply this. I can recognize that God is the Sovereign of the universe, in control of everything. I can recognize that He loves us unconditionally, no conditions. And I can recognize that He's willing to guide me personally if I'm willing to listen to Him, if I'm willing to trust Him, if I'm willing to obey Him. And if I am, God has His best waiting for us. That's the promise of God.
And Father, I pray that every person who hears this message would be wise enough to stop and think about who's controlling their life. Who are they listening to? And recognize they need to listen to You and start trusting You and obeying You. And they'll find life at its best. Thank You, Father, for making it so simple for us. I pray that every person who hears this message who's never trusted Jesus as their Savior, to recognize they've just heard the truth and that truth will change their life if they're willing to believe You. In Jesus' name, amen.