One of my biggest faults, and I do consider it a genuine fault, is my inability to say “no” to people. My personal preference is often pushed aside so that I can accommodate others, and even though that may sound noble, it isn’t. Countless times I’ve put myself in positions where I felt stuck and miserable because I didn’t have the nerve to simply say “no.” I didn’t want to seem mean, selfish, inconsiderate, rude, or, God forbid, risk being unliked. Even worse, there have been times I was fearful of saying “no,” even when I knew that saying yes was sinful. I would sometimes compromise my own standards because I didn’t want to seem like a prude (or worse) in the eyes of others. My fear of saying “no” and standing firm by my boundaries has put me situations that eventually the Lord had to rescue me from. It has baffled me for most of my adult life, why I had such strong convictions over many things, yet was willing to occasionally compromise them for the sake of another person’s feelings. It has never been worth it. Never.
Something the Lord has been hammering into my spirit lately is the word “obedience.” Even reading that word here on my screen makes me a tad uncomfortable, because it reminds me that I haven’t always been very good at it. I love to talk about grace, (don’t we all?) both giving it and receiving it. It makes me feel better. But something I’ve realized lately is that I find myself talking about God’s grace at the exclusion of obedience to Him. I’m not suggesting that I walk around in prideful defiance day in and day out. But I think it’s easy for me (and maybe for lots of us) to think about all of the ways I struggle…about where I’m vulnerable…and use that to excuse and justify my behavior. Then afterwards, I bask in God’s grace as if I’m entitled to it. Am I the only one who’s ever operated out of those thoughts? (Please say no!)
I found myself in a position fairly recently where I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me repeatedly, “Missi, you can obey me or not. The choice is yours. This is where the rubber meets the road in your faith. You are acting like you’re a slave to other people and other things. You aren’t. Be a slave to righteousness!” I prayed for God to empower me with His Spirit and to let the truth of His word speak over whatever lies I was believing or was tempted to believe. And I obeyed Him. I stuck to my convictions and held firm to my boundaries. I’m not patting myself on the back TOO hard, because I know that in my humanity I’m doomed to mess up in lots of ways, but I can’t help but be proud of myself for doing what I felt like God was telling me to do in that moment. That might sound simple and like no big deal to many of you, but for me it was a major victory. I said “no.”
It’s surprisingly easy to believe the lies of the enemy when he tells me that I’m a failure. Weak. A hypocrite. Worthless. A bad mom. A bad wife. When he calls me or any of us names like that long enough, not only do we come to believe them, but we may even live them out in a self-fulfilled prophecy. If we believe we’re a failure, we’ll come to act as a failure. If we believe we’re worthless, we’ll behave in ways that will ultimately make us feel more worthless, which sometimes for me, comes from not saying “no” when I need to say “no.” But God, in his perfect love for us, has His own list of names for us as believers: We are His children. We are a friend of Jesus. We are justified and redeemed. We are no longer slaves to sin. We aren’t condemned by God. We are free. We are fellow heirs with Christ. We are accepted. We are a new creature. We are the righteousness of Christ. We are blessed. We are chosen, holy and blameless before God. We are forgiven. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit. We are alive in Christ. We are His workmanship. We are complete. When we can receive and believe that deep in the marrow of our bones, we will come to live it out in our daily lives…not perfectly, but consistently. Pleasing Him will come long before pleasing man. That’s a priority my heart longs to keep.
I remember a beloved hymn I sang in church all throughout my childhood:
When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His word,
What a glory He sheds on our way;
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.
Obedience isn’t always easy. God never promised us it would be. But because of the sacrifice He made for us through Jesus, He fully deserves it. Not only that, it will keep us under His protection. My kids don’t always obey me, but they risk getting hurt or suffering terrible consequence if they don’t. The same is true for us and God. But most of all, like the hymn says, there is truly no other way to be happy in Jesus. When we walk with Him and live in the light of His word, there is no greater joy this world could offer.
Let’s trust Him for that. And obey.
He replied, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28