Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's OK to Live the Christian Life Out of Obedience

A Dangerous Trend

Over the last several years, I've noticed a dangerous trend in Christianity in regard to living out the Christian life. My concern has been in regard to motivations for living out what God's Word has called each of us to do in our lives. This concern has been birthed upon hearing statements such as:
"I can't give back to God in tithes and offerings right now because I would be doing it with wrong motivations. I don't think I would be doing it out of a love for God."
"I just don't feel like reading God's Word and spending time with Him in prayer each day. And because I don't 'feel' like it, I probably shouldn't do it. If I did, then I would doing so out of a sense of obedience and duty."
"If I serve the Lord in the way that I think He wants me to serve Him, I think I would be doing so out of guilt, and I wouldn't be very joyful about it, anyway. When I feel like doing what He wants me to do, then I will act."
Suck It Up

Everyday, each and every one of us has to do things that in the moment we don't feel like doing. When my daughters were little babies, I never "felt" like changing their diapers. I mean c'mon. Does anybody really enjoy changing poop-filled diapers? I never did. But I did it because I wanted my little girls to have clean little bottoms and not have diaper rash. The consequences of not changing the diapers were much worse than the act of simply changing their diapers on a regular basis. A screaming baby with diaper rash is not a fun experience!

And, does anybody really enjoy doing weekly laundry, grocery shopping, or cleaning the house? But, if you want clean clothes, food to eat, and a clean home, many times you just need to "suck it up" and get these chores accomplished.

Falling On The Ball

My pastor likes to refer to these type of activities as "falling on the ball." He came up with this analogy from doing football drills during practice when he played high school football. Nobody enjoys doing these types of skills practice because they are boring and tedious. It's much more exciting to go out there and play the game. If you want to win football games though, then you have to do the disciplined work that is necessary to play the game well.

I view the Christian life at times in the same way. Many times (even as a pastor), I don't feel getting up early to read my Bible and pray. Hey, I'd rather get a few extra minutes of sleep. That's what I feel like doing. That's what my "flesh" is telling me to do, you know, that little "demon" sitting on my shoulder saying, "C'mon, Larry. You're tired. You need your sleep. You and your family would be better off today if you sleep in. You've earned it." Believe it or not, sometimes I may not even feel like going to church on a particular Sunday [gasp!]. I must and I need to, obviously, because that is my vocation. And, even as a stewardship pastor, there are times that I don't really want to manage my money God's way. I can get lazy and get "stuffitis" like everybody else. That little demon shows up on my shoulder, again, and starts telling me that I've worked hard for my money (even though it's really God's money), and I deserve a new flat screen digital TV or MacBook Air.

Feelings Often Follow Actions

Because I don't have an emotional feeling to do something that is right, that doesn't mean I shouldn't "fall on the ball," follow through, and do it. Also, because I feel like doing something else doesn't mean I should take that particular action. Consider the following quote by Zig Ziglar,
Feelings follow actions. so when you don't really want to or feel like doing what needs to be done - do it and then you will feel like doing it.
The Apostle Paul likened this struggle that we all have to running a great race. This great race is our life here on the earth. He wrote to the church in Corinth,
Do you know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
In the book Crazy Love, Francis Chan gives us an illustration of loving God through obedience:
A friend of mine was speaking recently. Afterward a guy came up and told him, "I would go serve God as a missionary overseas, but, honestly, if I went right now it would only be out of obedience." My friend's response was "Yes, and...?"
Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). Jesus did not say, "If you love me you will obey me when you feel called or good about doing so..." If we love, then we obey. Period. This sort of matter-of-fact obedience is part of what it means to live a life of faith.

In a perfect world, we should do everything for God out of love. We should read our Bibles and pray every day. We should offer our natural talents and abilities in service to our churches. We should be "salt and light" to the world around us. We should be generous givers.

The challenge is that we all have a fleshly, sin nature. We are selfish, and we are rebellious. In order to "beat down" our sin nature, though, we have to take action that is often contrary to what we feel. We have to push back. At times, it will seem like a lot of work. It won't necessarily feel like we are taking action out of a pure love for God. My response: take action anyway. The love for God will flow out of your right actions.

Living out the Christian life is a race of endurance. We must discipline ourselves over the long haul and be obedient to what our Lord has asked us to do. Am I suggesting in this post that our salvation is a work-based one? No, definitely not. But, if I have yielded myself to Him, if I have accepted Jesus Christ as not only my Savior, but also my Lord, my life and my actions are going to look radically different from those who do not know Him.

Does this mean I'm perfect? Of course not, but each day, I should be heading in the direction of Jesus. I crawl out of bed, put one foot in front of the other, and "fall on the ball" in my spiritual walk in order to live a life that honors God and pleases Him.

In what areas of your spiritual walk do you need to discipline yourself, today?

Also check out these related posts:


  1. Nicely put. I enjoyed the post. I seem to wrestle against the same issue often. Just recently, I was teaching a class at my church on the basics of the Bible and money and was asked after session-"Do you think there is value in giving even if we don't want to?" An honest question that led to a really fruitful discussion making points similar to your post.

    Also, I did a post a couple of weeks back that goes along with what you are saying:

  2. Thanks, Rob, for your thoughtful comment. I also enjoyed your post on legalism, especially the paraphrase example of Matthew 6:19-24. Excellent!