Faithful Obedience by Robin Zarate

Welcome to another post on this series Faithful Obedience. The aim of this series is to encourage you to be faithful to God and His Word and persevere in faithful obedience. For this, I have invited some friends to share with us how they have learned to live in this faithful obedience to God in the “here and in the now” trusting that you will find good words that will exhort you to press on.

We all know that there are gifts that keep on giving. Well, let me tell you that Robin Zarate is a friend, a gift from God to me, that keeps on giving! We have been friends for many years now and she just keeps pouring into my life!  Robin is a woman that has learned how to be live in faithful obedience to God through many hard circumstances (for example, she has been a widow twice -with four sons, now adults, to raise on her own). And through all these hard Providences she has become more lovely, more joyous, and more like Christ each day. She is a remarkable woman and I am honored to have her share part of her testimony of God’s faithfulness with us today.

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The bathroom light pierced the dark, it was time to get out of bed. I wandered down the steps and caught the smell of fresh brewing coffee. Peter sat with his open bible near the fireplace motioning for me to join him for prayer and a few passages before taking our morning run. We were in our thirties and life was busy living in Mexico City, learning a new language, a new culture, growing a business and a family. I cherished the hours before the sun came up, before the responsibilities of life took us in separate directions for the day. I would joke with Peter that I got him “first” before the rest of the world. Seldom were many words spoken in those predawn hours. At that moment, I had no idea this mundane morning routine was soon to become a treasured memory.

The shocking news of Peter’s death came unexpectedly late that evening as I anticipated his arrival, a taxi robbery gone wrong. The headline of the newspapers the next day called it “Rogue Taxi Crime” as gangs would steal taxis in the city and rob unsuspecting passengers. I looked up the word rogue and found a definition that included, Rogue- “sinister in nature, meant cause to harm.” Like a demolition wrecking ball this news threatened to destroy the sturdy and secure looking life I had. I was heartbroken. Disbelief and shock obscured my view as I fought to make sense of my life being turned upside down.

Sleep never came that first night and as odd as it sounds, I could not cry. Oh, I cried out to God in anguish but not with actual tears. Sitting by the fireplace alone I felt the heat of the glowing embers against the numbing news that caused a deep agony in my soul. So many questions swirled in my head. Peter had been my rock, my husband and father of our children. Parenting four sons together was the joy of his life, how would I do it without him?

My mind raced as I thought of how I was going to break the news to our four small boys, asleep upstairs, unaware of the event that would change their world. I was in shock, everything in me was trying to remember. Remember the last time I saw him, his touch, our last words, my mind naturally wanted to recreate these moments, trying to come to terms with the truth of these unwanted set of circumstances.

I remembered the contents of the last sermon we heard together from Luke 1, the birth announcement of Jesus. I opened my bible and was amazed at how the narrative of Mary encouraged me to consider perhaps, just maybe God was up to something, greater and grander and more glorious than my eyes could see. It gave me hope that night and in the years since then.

The angel Gabriel announced the stunning news to Mary that though she was a virgin she would conceive a son. The scriptures state that she was greatly troubled and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. She could never have expected to hear the most incredible news that she would have a son who would be the promised Messiah. Although she could not comprehend how she would conceive the Savior, she responded to God with humble trust and obedience.

God has used this familiar portion of His word to teach and encourage me to learn to respond to life’s challenges with an informed faith that obeys.

Mary was a good Jewish girl, she knew the Holy Scriptures, she knew the prophecy of Isaiah:

“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.”

Although God’s plan for Mary held great honor, it required a costly obedience and would demand great suffering as well. There would be pain in childbirth and pain as mother of the suffering Messiah. Mary embraced God’s word by faith, despite her plans and how she thought her life was going to go. Her response was “Let it be to me as you have said, behold the handmaiden of the Lord”, she humbly put herself at God’s disposal. I pondered her response in a way I never had before.

In Mary’s famous song of Praise, The Magnificat, we see the evidence of her Old Testament knowledge and her wholehearted trust leading her to praise. As I rehearsed memories that led up to this night, it appeared while I went about my daily life, God’s providential plan was unfolding. No surprise to God, yet a big surprise to me. That’s what we find happening here in Mary’s story, and it planted a small seed of hope that God was up to something in the midst of my pain.

The first part of living a life of faithful obedience is knowing where our obedience comes from, how it is produced. Foundationally it comes as a result of God’s grace through faith because of our union with Jesus Christ. God gives the grace needed to strengthen us to live in faithful obedience amidst life’s painful and confusing circumstances. Genuine faith in Christ produces obedient lives that give God glory.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

It has been twenty-one years since Peter’s death. God continues to use Mary’s narrative to comfort and convict me. Her example of knowing God’s word and it’s call to trust, obey and praise God has been a constant theme. I have reared my four boys who are now grown men. That difficult part of what God called me to is behind me and yet, life circumstances continually give me fresh opportunity to trust God and the grace He supplies to bring about the obedience of faith.

There have been times of questions, doubts and deep wondering about how to live life this way, but God has been faithful. Through His word, the fellowship, love and prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ, God continues to expose the ways I still need be changed to the image of Jesus for His glory. By His grace my faith and love for Him has grown. When the circumstances of life threaten to overwhelm me, I especially remember Mary’s response to God’s appointed plan. Her example of simple but complete trust has encouraged me.

I look back after all these years to those difficult hours the night Peter died, and I see it differently through the eyes of faith. God’s loving care for me there in that room is evident in my mind now. He knew what it would take to grow me up and to this day it is a picture of His grace.

In my mind, I remember how the soft rays of sunlight began to illuminate the dark room in the early morning hours on my first day alone. The memories of my morning routine with Peter greeted me as I picked up the Bible sitting near the fireplace where he had left it. I opened where he had bookmarked and began to read these verses and as I did the first tears began to fall.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:21-25

Robin Zarate

 

Faithful Obedience -A New Series-

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One of the reasons why we love to read the biographies of Christian women -and the stories of faithful women in the Bible- is that we can see how they endured many difficult circumstances not with a bitter attitude or a complaining spirit, but always focused on doing the next thing in front of them by grace through faith. In prisons, in the jungle, in their sickbed, in their kitchen, in a marriage with unfaithful husbands or  unbelieving children, these women set an example to us of joyful and faithful obedience to God in all sort of situations.

I love the story of Rahab (found in Joshua 2). She was the kind of woman that we would encourage our sons to run away from and yet, one day, she believed that salvation comes from God alone. She had a change of her heart, which was evident in her change of loyalties.  Rahab hid the spies that Joshua had sent to Jericho and helped them escape through the window of her house. Faithful obedience was the first fruit of her conversion. Rahab didn’t submit to the king of Jericho, but to her new King, the God of Israel and God blessed her for that. Rahab’s story doesn’t end there, the fruit of her faithful obedience is evidenced in that she became part of the linage of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 1).

Ruth’s faithful obedience was hard too. She was a widow with empty hands in a foreign land. The possibilities that her life would change for the better were few, but she chose faithful obedience instead of the despair of an unbelieving heart. Ruth came under the Covenant of the God of Israel leaving behind her false gods, and in doing so, she started doing the next thing  that God put in front of her. Event after event, all lined up as in a most natural sequence, God led her in His Providence to a path of obedience. And because she walked faithfully there, God brought her under the wing of a redeemer that  transformed all her circumstances and the history of the world -she became the grandmother of King David, and we know that from that line, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, would come.

Mary the Mother of Jesus is another example of faithful obedience in the Bible. She was chosen to carry in her womb the promised Messiah that would save the world. Faithful obedience could have cost her her own life, but she put aside her fears -which were real!- held fast to the Word of God (compare her song with the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1) and did the next thing: she answered to the announcement of the Angel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Her faithful obedience brought her to a place of true blessedness.

There are many more women in the Bible whom God used because of their faithful obedience. In the book of Acts, for example,  we read how women of great influence were key to the growth of the early church. Faithful obedience for them meant that they had to use their preeminence to support the apostles and the church. Persecution was always a danger, but they persevered faithfully where God had them and faithfully did the next thing.

And we can go on and on, telling the stories of many women in the early church whose faithful obedience led them to places in which blessedness looked differently than what the hashtag #blessed would mean today. The mouth of the lions, the stake, dark dungeons witnessed the day when they laid down their lives in faithful obedience to God. They loved Jesus more than life itself. They died as martyrs so that we could be encouraged to face opposition by the grace of God.

Monica’s faithful  obedience drove her to her knees day after day to pray for the conversion of her son Augustine. And after 17 years of faithful obedience -that in her case meant praying without ceasing for her son, the Lord answered her cries for mercy and she saw her son coming to the Lord. Augustine later became one of the most strongest pillars in the Christian faith.

Women in the Reformation were ready to offer their faithful obedience to contribute to the revival God was bringing to the world. They opened their homes, hosted meetings, sang hymns, wrote books, married and had children. They were faithful in the face of all opposition and set an example for us, so that we may too be encouraged to follow their steps.

Centuries later Corry Ten Boom and her family risked their lives hiding Jews during WWII . Why? Because they knew that obeying God rather men was where true joy was found. She and her family were taken prisoners into the Nazi camps and even there their faithful obedience to God was always present, always transforming the most horrible moments into opportunities that let them see God’s grace at work.

Darlene Deibler Rose tells her gripping story in her book, Evidence Not  Seen, A Women’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II. And as we turn pages, we see a woman who loved God and His Word so much that had a life in which faithful obedience was a mark of her Christianity. And her faithful obedience in extremely painful situations should make us want to persevere in faithful obedience where we are at today.

Elizabeth Elliot is another woman whose life was characterized by faithful obedience. She put aside over and over again her own feelings to do the next thing she knew God asked from her. She was never a slave to her emotions but at all times she submitted her emotions to the Word of God. Her faithful obedience is worth imitating.

The examples abound and they are not far from us or hidden from us. Even today, I can confidently -and very gratefully- say that we are surrounded by women whose lives are an example to us of faithful obedience to the Lord. They live faithfully in their own “here and now.” These women keep doing the next thing in front of them, and in their obedience they find their joy in the Lord increased and His peace in their hearts.

This is the heart behind this new series: How does faithful obedience looks like today in the life of ordinary Christian women? Some friends of mine will be sharing with us some of the stories in which they have experienced how choosing faithful obedience to Christ and His Word is better than anything else. I trust that the Lord will use these stories to encourage you to will and to work towards a life of faithful obedience.

As you read this series (every upcoming Wednesday)  you will notice one thing, faithful obedience to Christ is not possible because of the determination and forbearance of hard-core women. Faithful obedience is only possible when we are in Christ (read Ephesians). And it is only because of Him that learning contentment through the hardest circumstances is possible. It is only through Christ that we can do all things that He calls us to do. It is only by His grace that these women can say, “Faithful obedience to Christ and His Word is possible even in the midst of this.”

Let me close now with these words from Elisabeth Elliot,

“Does it make sense to pray for guidance about the future if we are not obeying in the thing that lies before us today? How many momentous events in Scripture depended on one person’s seemingly small act of obedience! Rest assured: Do what God tells you to do now, and, depend upon it, you will be shown what to do next.”

May we have a heart willing to obey God in the here and in the now.

Under His Sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

 

 

 

 

 

 

PC by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash