Faithful Obedience by Emily Abens

I am so happy to have my friend Emily Abens writing for this series today. She is such a fun and thoughtful friend who makes the yummiest meals ever. When we get to have lunch together,  I always find it a delight to see how the Lord is at work in the lives of all His children. Emily’s love for God and His Word are evident in her life and that is always contagious!

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A Roadmap to Walk in Faithful Obedience
by Emily Abens

What does faithful obedience look like in my season of life? I have a “roadmap” of sorts that helps me as I do my best to live a life of faithful obedience. These are big picture concepts and they will apply in the tiny details differently for each person. How this roadmap plays out in the nitty gritty, everyday, practical ways of my life will not be the same as how it plays out in the details of your life. Nor will this roadmap play out the same for me tomorrow as it did 10 years ago. This is a beauty of life, yes? The practical details of faithful obedience differ from woman to woman and from season to season, yet the big picture concepts remain. So let’s dive in.

We ought to take care how we build our foundation, and Christ needs to be the cornerstone (1 Corinthians 3:10–15 and Ephesians 2:19-20). Building and keeping a firm foundation is one of the most important things we should do as Christians. If our foundation is off or needs work, we need to fix what is faulty before moving on. Our foundation centers in Christ and throughout the years I have found that these three things help me maintain and strengthen my foundation:

First, live your life knowing that no amount of works can save you. Nothing you do will get you into heaven. It is only by Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Salvation is a gift–the most amazing gift–and nothing we do allows us to boast in anything other than the Gospel.

Second, stay close to God. Pray and be in the Word daily. Even if you don’t “feel” fed that day, you are being nourished. Stay disciplined in this. I find I have days when I do not feel like reading my Bible or praying – even when I do read and pray these days, I still don’t “feel” fed. Yet I know that although that’s how I’m “feeling”, it isn’t true. God is feeding me because that’s what He’s promised to do and we can trust that His word is truth (John 6:35). church membership and weekly attendance are another critical component for my walk with God. These are very important in staying close to God and helps with accountability.

Finally, surround yourself with a team of people who will push you to be more Christ-like. This team will know that works cannot save you–only Christ can. They will walk alongside you, keeping you accountable in your walk with the Lord, reminding you to pray and be in the Word daily. They will pick you up by the bootstraps of your baptism; they will point out what’s right and wrong; they will remind you when you forget who Christ is, what He has done for you, and what that truth means for your life. I’ve found that it is especially important to have people in my life who will notice when I’m in the wrong. These people will graciously come alongside to lovingly correct me by emphasizing Biblical truths when I’m forgetting the love of Christ.. You become like the people you spend the most time with or they become like you. You are either being influenced or you are influencing others in each relationship. Make sure your Christian brothers and sisters are pushing you towards Christ and you are planting seeds of the Gospel in the non-christians in your life. For me this team of people is anchored by the Godly family I have been given and includes close Christian friends. If you don’t have an obvious team–pray for one! Ask God to give you ideas of who might be members of this team and then ask them if they would be willing to come alongside you! This team is especially helpful in fleshing out the details of the rest of the roadmap. They are often the people I give myself to most, and they do the same for me.

Living my life knowing that nothing I do will ever save me, staying in the Word, and being surrounded by Godly people isn’t simply a matter of checking off the boxes and “calling it good.” Rather, these three points are continuous–keeping a firm foundation is part of becoming a better image-bearer of Christ, which is a never ending process. This foundation allows me to confidently jump to the rest of the roadmap, knowing I can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13).

God calls us to live a life worthy of our calling and for the Lord, always giving glory to Him (Eph. 4), so what now? You’ve built and will continue to build a solid foundation, so the next step is figuring out what giving yourself to others looks like. Figuring out what this looks like can often be challenging, but throughout the Bible, God promises that He will act and make our paths straight (Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 3:5–6)! Pray bold prayers–God promises to hear and answer them (Matthew 7:7-11). Pray for direction and ask God to make your next step clear!

However, don’t move towards the next step or responsibility without asking the Lord if you are being diligent with the ones He has already given you. Luke 16:10 tells us that one who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much. Faithfulness in a lot of little things adds up to a big thing, so don’t be surprised when being diligent with what God has already given you takes a lot of time, energy, resources, and sanctification. What does diligence and faithful obedience look like in your God-given roles (being a Christian, daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, church member, employee, boss, etc.)?
Being diligent and faithful does not mean being perfect. I often ask myself whether or not I’m pushing brothers and sisters in Christ towards Him and whether or not I’m trying to share the Gospel with non-Christians. If you’re unsure whether you’re being faithful and diligent in your God-given responsibilities, don’t be afraid to ask your trusted team of people I mentioned earlier!

If you’re being diligent to the best of your abilities, take the next step God gives you. Pray that God gives you clarity on what that next step is and that He equips you with the wisdom and skills to do that task well to His Glory.

As you look to God for the next step, ask yourself whether you’re equipped with the skills needed for the upcoming stage in your life. This could be preparing to be a student, employee, boss, wife, mother or grandmother. If you aren’t prepared, work on those skills. Titus 2 calls older women to mentor younger women – how cool is that? Find a Godly mentor with the skills you are lacking and diligently watch and learn from her. While receiving wisdom from her, try to help out where you can to assist her with her duties. This can be as simple as helping her fold the laundry while you chat!

For me, preparing for the next stage looks like giving myself to the church, mentoring younger girls, helping my siblings with their kids or watching others run their households, seeing both Godly examples to follow and ungodly examples to run from. Being single gives me more time and energy to choose what I spend time, energy, and money on. Those who are married don’t have this flexibility and although it is my desire to be married, I know God has graciously gifted me this time of singleness to bless those who are around me as much as I can.

The next part of my roadmap is something I’m very passionate about–people. Specifically, giving myself to others. Giving to others is seen frequently throughout the Bible, yet it gets run over in today’s age of self-love. John 15:13 says “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”. Christ died for us and calls us to do the same for those around us. To do this, start by asking a few questions:

First, what has God placed in your path? God has called each of us to serve. Every week in this series, we have seen how each woman has a different calling within faithful obedience. I have always felt called to the people God has placed directly in my path; this is how the Lord “wired” me. If God has called you to be a missionary in Timbuktu and your top priority is the tribe that you are serving, glory be to God. If God has allowed cancer to take over your body, again, glory be to God. If God has given you four little souls under four years old to change diapers for, to disciple, to love, yet again, glory be to God. It’s important to examine your sphere of influence and who we are called to serve. For now, I know that I’m called to help equip the Saints and share the Gospel with unbelievers that God has placed specifically in my path such as my immediate and extended family, church, friends, coworkers, clients, and acquaintances that I spend time with on a regular basis (i.e. bible study group, members of various sports teams, neighbors, etc.). These categories are very malleable–there have been times when I spend most of my time with an acquaintance or when a specific friend needs me more than my family does.

Second, what does it look like to give yourself to others above and beyond the responsibilities God has given you? Before answering this, I think it’s important to know the skills you have. Are there things you do that don’t feel like work? Things that come naturally and often bring you joy? Is there something or someone God continues to place on your heart? Something you notice that blesses you when present, but the lack of it bothers you? This could be childcare, cooking, crafts, event planning, communicating, creative thinking, problem-solving, organization/administrative work, networking, including others, empathy, cleaning, car maintenance, medical skills, gardening or landscaping, budgeting, reading, studying, laundry, or other household items. I love what Doug Wilson had to say about this in a recent sermon:

“Recognize that when you see a need, this is not given to you so that you might blame everybody else for not meeting it. Your ability to identify a need should be taken by you as an indication from God on what you ought to be doing. If you look around at the body, and see a bunch of discouraged saints, then perhaps you have the gift of encouragement. If you see doctrinal ignorance, then perhaps you have the gift of teaching. If you see dirty bathrooms, perhaps you have the gift of helps.”

 

This doesn’t just apply to the church – it applies to all areas of life! God has given me a certain set of skills, ones that are unique to me. He has given you a certain set of unique gifts also. Use the skills God has given you. God equips each one of us differently for His Glory and to His Glory. The body of Christ needs every part of the body – we can’t all be ears or eyes. If you aren’t sure about the gifts God has given to you – check with the people who know you best. What do they say?

What it looks like to give myself to others is something that ebbs and flows. Sometimes we are on the receiving end: a friend is working hard to bless us. What a gift! Other times, we are on the giving end and we have the opportunity to be that blessing to someone in need. Again, what a gift! In both circumstances–whether giving blessing or receiving blessing or a combination of both–we are called to be faithful and thankful.
I fail in many things, and often could live this roadmap out much better than I do. There are opportunities to serve that I pridefully look over, or that I’m blind to. There are also times that I serve and God allows me to fall flat on my face! Giving ourselves to others is often hard, but this is one of the things I love about life: we can’t do anything on our own. We need to fully surrender ourselves to Christ and, oddly, there is so much comfort and confidence in that. It’s sacrifice, it’s laying down your life, it’s often enduring hardship, but it’s also important Gospel work.

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and when we have a firm foundation, we can confidently live our lives for the glory of Christ, whether on the giving end or receiving end of His perfect blessing. I think faithful obedience can be summed up simply: pursue hard after Christ first and foremost, and then work to make an impact for the Kingdom in what God calls you to–pursue the people God puts in your path, giving yourself to them with the skills God has given you.

Now of course for most of us, none of these concepts are mind blowing or new– we’ve heard that we ought to be in the Word, surround ourselves with Godly men and women, and give ourselves to others. But often the most obvious, basic truths are the ones we most easily forget–everyone wants to change the world for Christ, but no one wants to be faithful in the little, nitty-gritty, often hard things. But what I’m telling you is the way to change the world is to do exactly that: be faithful in all things.
All for His Glory and to His Glory!

Emily Abens (With help from my team of absolutely wonderful God fearing and faithful people whom I love and cherish dearly. They help me stay faithful and help me follow and flesh out this roadmap on a daily basis.)

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