Obedience, not results, is what matters to God


My husband went to a Christian college. For one of his business class projects he created a coffee mug designed to show words when heated. When hot coffee filled the mug quotes from school professors and special speakers from chapel meetings appeared. As I started reading the quotes I was very disturbed by one I came across. It said “the question isn’t is it true, but does it work?” Why was I so disturbed by this quote? Well, it is completely backwards and the opposite of truth. Frankly all we should be concerned with is whether or not something is obedient to the truth. If something produces results, but only through disobedient means, in my opinion, and I know God agrees, it’s worthless. In fact, deception comes from Satan, not God. ALL we need to focus on is whether what we are doing is obedient or not. The results are up to God and God alone. Not only that, sometimes we don’t see the results of our obedience. Often the results are not easily recognized by us, and are simply within our own or another’s heart. Sometimes we are planting for another to water, and another to reap.  Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commandments.” We don’t show Jesus we love him by doing things that we think work. We show him we love him through our obedience. Later in that same chapter He said “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (Vs 21) Jesus told us in His Word that if we keep His commands He will show himself to us. What an amazing truth. Is disobedience worth missing out on this? I have so much work to do in this area. I am incapable of living in perfect obedience to God, which is why Jesus paid the price for my disobedience. All I, or any of us, can do is strive to obey and please God.

We cannot focus on results while ignoring the means in which we accomplished them. The only question to answer? Did I obey God? God can bring forth results from our disobedience. Does this negate our choice to disobey? Absolutely not. We will suffer for it. Let’s look at what happened when Moses disobeyed God.

“Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” Numbers 20:6-8

Moses was off to a great start! He got on his face before God, desperate for his help and leading. Step number one: Always ask God his opinion before action. He has one, and it’s really all that counts. Do you do this about everything? God’s Word tells us to pray about all things. God responded so faithfully to Moses and He will respond faithfully to you. God told Moses exactly what He wanted him to do. So what happened next that resulted in Moses no longer being allowed to lead the people to the promised land?

Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy. Numbers 20: 10-13

God told Moses what to do. Moses disobeyed.
Step number two: When God responds and tells you what He wants you to do, you do it. There were still results, water came out abundantly. So wait, Moses disobeyed God but still saw abundant results? Why then was God so displeased with Moses? God was going to give the people water whether or not Moses chose to obey Him. God wanted to use Moses as His vessel to deliver the blessing. Moses failed. He did not do what God told him to do. Simple as that. It does not matter what resulted after his disobedience.

Important truths:

-God doesn’t need us to accomplish His will. If we choose to disobey He will still get He job done. I heard someone describe God as the master chef and us as His little children He allows to help out in the kitchen. I could bake cookies on my own a lot more quickly than when I let my 3 and 6 year old help. I certainly don’t need them to do it with me, I want them to. This is the same with God and His children.

-“Results” (or what we believe results are) do not automatically mean we have been obedient, and a lack of “results” doesn’t mean me haven’t been.

-“Results” do not negate disobedience. Moses disobeyed, the water flowed. Moses suffered consequences.

-Obedience is all that matters. Literally this is all that matters. If we are obeying Scripture and the voice of the Holy Spirit, God is pleased. “And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22. Scripture makes it very clear that what God wants most from us is our obedience. As soon as we realize this we will stop focusing on results and will start focusing on loving Jesus through our obedience. We need to stop obsessing about “what works” in our own minds, and trust and obey God. God is looking for His followers to be radically obedient. You will face rejection for this, by non-Christians and Christians. We all have to choose who we want to please, people or God? “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10. Paul made it clear that if we are living to please people we are not servants of Christ.

-God will speak to those who ask him to. He will continue to speak to those who obey when he does. In my opinion, if you hear God clearly and choose to disobey He will pick someone else who will obey. Aka Joshua. God still loved Moses but He no longer used Moses to lead the people into the promised land. Moses was forced to pass the torch to Joshua because of his disobedience. God is a God of grace and if we repent of our disobedience and ask His forgiveness He gives it. In this case things could go differently than they did with Moses, but maybe not. That’s all up to God. Either way we need to repent when we disobey and seek restoration with God.

-The Holy Spirit will never contradict or add to Sctipture. You will only recognize His voice if you know sctipture. You cannot obey Him if you do not know Him. I personally believe from studying scripture that God still speaks to us today as He always has. For example, there are things God has spoken to my heart and told me to do. I know it was God speaking because I am in fellowship with Him through His Holy Spirit in me. I do not only hear Him when I read scripture, but what He says to me always lines up with the truth of scripture. How are we supposed to recognize His voice if we do not know Him? When Samuel first heard God speak to him he did not recognize His voice. Eli did, and he told Samuel it was God speaking to him. Eli recognized God’s voice because he knew scripture and He walked with God. If you aren’t doing this and you don’t know scripture it’s likely you won’t hear God or recognize His voice.

-God wants to speak to us, and wants us to listen and obey when He does. I believe that if you are in a place of ministry (actively teaching, discipling, or ministering Christ to others, something we should all be doing) you are obligated to be connected with God, seeking His will, meditating on His Word, hearing Him when He speaks, and obeying what He says. Jesus said He only did the will of the Father. If we are ministering Christ and our goal is not to only do the will of The Father in our ministry, we are way off track.

-If you had to disobey God to produce “positive” results you are dishonoring God. He is not pleased with this, he hates this. “lying lips are an abomination to The Lord, but those who act faithfully are His delight.” Proverbs 12:22. I once heard a story of a youth pastor telling students to lie to their friends from school to get them to come to youth group. He told them to tell them it was a hangout instead of church so they would show up. This pastor believed that lying was okay in this situation because it would result in kids hearing the gospel. What he asked those kids to do was literally an abomination to God, and the opposite of what Jesus Christ did and would have ever done. In fact, many times the things Jesus said drove people away. Why? Because He came to tell the truth. The truth will set people free, but it will also push away a lot of people. If we have to lie to draw a crowd, whether personally or in our churches, we are disobeying and dishonoring God. Guess what? If a kid showed up to youth group based on a lie and received salvation through Christ that’s all because of God, and does not justify this pastor’s disobedient and sinful shepherding. That youth pastor is very accountable. Just like Moses was. Satan’s lie that we have to produce results, no matter the cost, to be good enough and to please God, has brought such destruction. 

A few years ago I was driving to physical therapy and was crying out to God to hear Him speak to me. I felt an intense desperation for his guiding that particular day. I wanted to have a supernatural experience with God and I begged him for it through tears. When I got to my apt. I got myself together and went inside, expecting some divine encounter. Nothing happened. I left and headed for Walgreens to pick up a prescription. While I was there I suddenly felt an indescribable supernatural urge to go outside to the bench where a homeless man was sitting and talk to him. I had actually seen this man sitting on that bench every day for a year and had never spoken to him. This feeling was so overwhelming and out of the ordinary for me. I knew the Holy Spirit was literally leading me to this man. I was terrified! I got in my car and drove over to the spot next to the bench on the very busy road. I prayed for peace and the words to say, got out of my car and approached the bench. I asked if I could sit down, introduced myself and asked for his name. Let me stop for a minute, I was expecting I would be sharing Jesus with this man and he would receive Christ and I would have an awesome divine encounter story to share! What I saw when I sat down alarmed me. This man, Bobby, was reading a bible. He then proceeded to witness to me! I was shocked. I sat talking with him for a while about Jesus, letting him know I did indeed believe. He told me God had him there for now and he wasn’t sure for how much longer. I then offered him money and guess what he said? “Oh no, I have everything I need”, as he patted his Bible. I was again in shock. This homeless man witnessed to me and turned down my money. What in the world? I practically forced him to take the money, I suppose that made me feel good. He smiled and finally agreed. 

After we talked for a while I got in my car in absolute shock. Do you know what I thought? Let me confess this to you. I was somewhat disappointed. I thought the Spirit was leading me to witness to a homeless man and give him money. I was expecting results. It wasn’t until years later (just recently actually) that I realized this was a divine encounter. With the Holy Spirit and me. the miracle of this story is that I heard the Holy Spirit telling me to do something that terrified me, and I obeyed Him. God was working on my heart. This is what matters! Not whether or not I had some cool story to tell about the results. sometimes God tells us to do something just to see if we will obey Him, no matter what. In my experience, the more we obey the more God will speak to us. When we obey we start to realize He is with us and His spirit enables us to do things that terrify us. The next time He speaks it doesn’t seem quite so impossible to obey.

My goal should be to hear and obey. Simple as that. The fruit God allows me to see from my obedience is irrelevant. After all, He is the one who brings forth the increase. God can bring forth fruit even from my disobedience. This is how much he doesn’t need me. He simply wants me, and He wants you, to join Him in the amazing work of His kingdom.

Jesus had one goal. To do only what the Father told him to do. He was a display of perfect obedience and our goal must be to be like him. 

Will I Obey Even When I Don’t like God’s Answer?

bibleHave you ever begged God to show you what to do or where to go, desperate for a direct answer? I was so irritated the other day while reading Jeremiah 42. Check it out really quickly before continuing. There was a remnant of Israel that went to Jeremiah asking him to seek God for direction, promising that they would do whatever God wanted them to do. God responded telling the people not to go to Egypt, but instead to stay where they were and that He would bless them and protect them. Guess what happened next? They disobeyed God and decided to follow their own desire to go to Egypt! This made me really mad because I would give anything for such a direct response from God.

How could this remnant possibly hear from God so clearly and yet choose to disobey and do the opposite of what He told them to do? First of all, it seems to me that they weren’t really close to and connected to God. When they initially went to Jeremiah they referred to God as Jeremiah’s God, rather than their God (vs 2). If you aren’t close to God then what He wants you to do isn’t going to matter a whole lot.

Think of the people in your life who have the most influence over you. You care about what they think and say and long to please them. I would be fairly certain that these are people you feel most close to. In the same way, it is when I am close to God that I truly value His plans over my own and long to obey Him. The remnant was missing this connection with God. this is evident in later chapters when God calls them out for worshiping other gods aside from Him (Jeremiah 44:8).

The second thing to notice is that their hearts didn’t match their requests. Initially their request appeared genuine, at least it did to me. They ask God “show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do.” They weren’t making this request because they longed to do God’s will. They were looking for relief and an easy way out. When this is the reason behind your request there is a good chance you wont obey if God’s response doesn’t line up with your desires. They wanted instant comfort and pleasure. It seemed more realistic to them that they would get this in Egypt, where everything looked nice and pleasant, rather than staying put with the imminent threat of Babylon close by.

Our goal should never be to find relief from difficulty or to feel safe and secure. Our goal should be to please God and to be as close to Him as we possibly can be. Our level of true safety and security comes from our closeness to and connection with God through His son Jesus Christ, and should be totally unrelated to outside circumstances. This is what Paul meant when he said he learned to be content whatever circumstances (Philippians 4:10-13). A poor man without Christ is no less secure than a rich man without Christ.

Reading this caused me to look very closely at my own requests to ensure that my goal is to please God and to do His will, rather than to find relief and comfort. What I found is that I have to set aside any hoped for outcomes and be open to whatever God might have and desire for me and my family. Just recently my husband and I were led to make a decision that went against everything we had hoped for and desired. To be honest it wasn’t fun and it was certainly scary. Knowing that God is in control and close to us enabled us to face it and move forward toward something different, something unplanned for. The remnant was blinded by their hoped for answer from God, which was to tell them to flee to Egypt and find comfort and safety.

How can I avoid making the same mistakes that the remnant made? What I concluded is that I can hopefully avoid this by following three principals I learned from reading this chapter.

Principal 1: Make sure my goal is to be close to and to please God, not to find relief. Isaiah 55:7 tells us “Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LordAnd He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” Hebrews 10:22 says “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” I need to focus on drawing near to God and living a life that is pleasing to Him. 

Principal 2: Release any desired responses I feel I need to receive from God. I need to be open and willing to obey whatever God calls me to do, even if it is 100% different from what I wanted. Proverbs 20:24 tells me “A man’s steps are of the LordHow then can a man understand his own way?” If God’s Word tells me that I wont be able to understand my own way then why am I always expecting to have it all figured out? I need to be willing to give this up and allow God to truly guide me according to His will.  

Principal 3: Trust that He will deliver on His promises. God’s Word is full of promises for me and for you. The remnant gave into fear rather than believing God. Romans 8:28 tells us “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If we know this and believe this then we can trust that no matter how scary or uncertain things look, if God has called us it will all work out. This doesn’t mean that we will be comfortable and will have endless worldly pleasure, what it means is that our lives will bring glory to God and will impact this world for Christ.