Faithful Obedience by Lindsey Tollefson

When a woman loves to pray, sing, and mediate the Psalms -and then encourages others to do the same, you know you want to become her friend. Thank you, Lindsey, for being a woman of the Word, what a gift it is for the church to have women like you!

And thank you for writing today for our continued series on Faithful Obedience.

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Faithful Obedience: Fear and Gratitude
By Lindsey Tollefson

Obedience requires a command. We cannot obey unless there is something to be obeyed. I often give me children a list of what I want them to do with their time. Giving them something to obey is a kind way of helping them stay out of trouble. We have a kind Father in Heaven who has given us clear instructions about how we should be spending our time, how we should be thinking, and how we should be living. One of the most frequent commands in Scripture is “Do not be afraid.” The phrase “Fear not” is found 365 times in the Bible. Our faithful obedience to God means that we do not give in to fear. We do not fear the future, we are not afraid of how the past has affected us, we are not afraid of what God is asking us to do in the present.

It sounds so simple, but I think we all know that eradicating fear is not as simple as telling ourselves not to be afraid. In Psalm 118:6, the author writes “The Lord is for me, I will not fear. What can man do to me?” He goes on to remember all the ways that God has rescued him. In verse 21 he says, “I shall give thanks to you, for you have answered me, and You have become my salvation.” He is not afraid because he rests in the protection of God, and He rests because he is thankful. Gratitude is the great antidote to fear. In order to obey the command to “fear not” we must offer gratitude for everything.

A couple of months ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. This did not come as a surprise to me, as I’d been feeling half alive for a few years. But having the diagnoses brought about a new opportunity for fear, and therefore a new opportunity for me to faithfully obey. I found myself being tempted to fear my future. Would I be able to be the kind of mother that I want to be? Would I be able to be a helpful wife who brings blessing to my husband? Would I be able to serve my church and show hospitality? Would any of the treatment plans we put into place be effective or would I continue to get worse? In the midst of my uncertainty, I knew one command that I needed to obey: “do not be afraid.” If I was going to obey without fear, I needed to give thanks for the disease every single day. On the days when God pours out a gracious amount of energy, I give thanks. On the days when I am struggling to walk up the stairs, I give thanks. On the days that I am frustrated with how little I am able to accomplish, I give thanks. I give thanks for my illness.

Whatever circumstance you are in, faithful obedience to God means that you resist fear. It means that you use thanksgiving to crowd out your fears. If you are home with a bunch of small, needy children, do not be afraid that you won’t have enough energy. Do not be afraid that you are missing out on things the culture tells us are more important than children. Give thanks for the children and the fatigue. If you are praying that God would give you children, do not be afraid of the possible future without them. Give thanks for the barrenness. If you are working at a job you don’t love and earning a paycheck that barely sustains you, do not be afraid that you are wasting your time. Give thanks for the job. If you are struggling with relationships in your life, do not be afraid of what the future holds. Give thanks for those people.

God always takes our obedience and turns it into blessing for us. As soon as I started giving thanks for my sickness, I began to see all the ways that God was transforming our life through it. I began to see that there were weeds that could not have been uprooted any other way. I began to see that my health struggles are the goodness and mercy of God chasing me down wherever I go. When you take off the glasses of fear and put on the glasses of gratitude, everything comes into clear perspective. This is faithful obedience. Switch glasses and start seeing how your troubles are bringing glory.

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You can find the introduction and index to this series here.

Faithful Obedience by Nancy Wilson

Nancy has been a faithful friend to me. She continually points me to Christ, to His Word, and always away from myself! Isn’t it true that we need more friends like that? Thank you, dear sister for your prayers, your friendship, and all the many cups of tea you have served me! 

I trust that you will be blessed by her encouragement today in our series on Faithful Obedience.

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Faithful Obedience
by Nancy Wilson

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

From my experience, and I imagine from yours as well, God seems to like His people to wait. We wait for deliverance from all kinds of afflictions: healing from sickness and disease, financial provision for our bills, or direction and guidance when we are confused or lost. A single woman waits for a husband. A married woman waits to get pregnant. An expectant mother waits for delivery. Those who grieve wait for comfort. The soldier waits for his homecoming. We wait for so many things: the outcome of a job application, an offer on a house, a letter in the mail, a deal to come through, the plants to grow, the child to speak, the weather to change, the surgery to end, the repair to be finished, the team to score, the house to be built, our apology to be accepted, the line to move, the light to change, the test to be over, the dinner to be served, the ride to arrive, the waiting to be over. Much of our lives are characterized by this waiting. We even have a name for it: the waiting game. And we have places for it: waiting rooms. Waiting is a universal human condition, so it seems we should learn to be good at this. But it is hard to wait, and we are not good at it.

God’s kind of waiting is not like the worldly variety of impatient waiting during an inconvenient delay (think airports). It’s not a game, but a difficult, character-building, spiritual exercise. If we are truly waiting on the Lord, we are are not looking at the clock or the calendar, and we are not tapping our foot. We are looking to Him (perhaps desperately) to supply us with the patience, courage, and strength we need to endure the waiting. We pray for the outcome that we desire, but we also pray (just as fervently) for strength to wait on the Lord with patience.

Notice the repetition in the psalm quoted above. “Wait, I say, on the Lord.” It bears repeating. We are to wait on the Lord and for the Lord. We are to wait and watch with readiness, alert and hopeful that God will soon act. But we cannot do this at all unless our waiting is with our eyes on the Lord. We cannot look at the circumstances without growing hopeless. We cannot look at the calendar without getting distracted. We cannot run out all the scenarios in our minds without getting worried. The right kind of fruitful waiting comes only when we look to the Lord with faith, counting on Him to supply patience, courage, and strength while we wait. We are waiting on the Lord, not just on the outcome or the verdict. That is an important difference. But how do we get there? How do we wait on the Lord?

First, when you are in a season of waiting, remind yourself (often) that God has perfectly ordained the timing. He has given this situation to you (on purpose) so you can steward it as an opportunity to look to Him with expectation. Rather than focusing on the possible outcomes, we are to focus on our Father in heaven and wait patiently for Him to act. We are to draw near to Him, we are to be content in Him, and we are to wait some more.
While we wait, we are to stick to our duties. We do the next thing, and we do it with joy. We work hard to keep our mind full of gratitude and thanksgiving, and that means singing with joy in our hearts to the Lord. This is what it means to abide in Him, and this is how we continue to watch and pray with courage.

This kind of waiting is obviously not a natural human ability, but God is able to provide all the strength we need to do this. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). The context of this verse is about contentment. Waiting patiently is certainly an example of practicing contentment. Contentment says, “I am satisfied with His time table. I am pleased with how He is writing my story. I am content to wait on the Lord. He does all things well.”

“They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). If we wait with our own feeble strength, we will soon collapse. But if we wait on the Lord, He gives us fresh supplies of strength, and this gives us hope, encouragement, and endurance. Wait on the Lord. This kind of waiting is faithful obedience.

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You can find the introduction and index to this series here.

Nancy Wilson has written some wonderful books that I highly recommend. You can find them here. Mu favorite ones might be Learning Contentment and The Fruit of Her Hands.

Faithful Obedience by Hannah Grieser

Hannah is a precious friend of mine, and having her share with us in this series of Faithful Obedience is a gift. I enjoy her conversations because they are always rich, thoughtful, and fun -always infused with the Scripture and the sure hope we share in Christ. Hannah has walked through some deep valleys and in all of them she has seen how in the hardest times , when the clouds we most dread  are heavy on us, we can always see God’s kindness leading us all the way through.

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Coveting Cancer and Taking Pride in Pain
by Hannah Grieser

When my oldest son, Jonah, was diagnosed with cancer at age 10, the blow to our family’s predictable way of life was sudden and severe. We ended up having to divide our family between two different cities for months, trying to figure out what to do about school, about money, about transportation, about housing, and about our sanity. With one forceful gust, our tidy little map for the road ahead blew out the window and sent us speeding toward the Great Unknown through back roads and precarious switchbacks, sometimes plunging us up to our axels in despond.

But as hard as those new struggles hit us, new blessings came at us just as hard. Overnight, we went from living an utterly unremarkable existence to standing at the center of a swirl of attention from concerned family members, kind friends, and generous strangers. People I’d never met started following our story on social media. My blog traffic spiked. Boxes of gifts arrived from churches on the other side of the country. Opportunities arose for us to meet famous people and travel to exotic places. And everywhere I went, acquaintances would stop to find out how we were doing, ask how they could pray for us, and tell me what an encouragement we were to them as we were walking through this trial in faith.

And this second list is where some truly unexpected temptations arose.

Obvious and not-so-obvious temptations

The trial was very real, it’s true, and all the goodness and grace we experienced throughout that time were very, very real, too. But the temptations that accompanied both experiences were real as well, and some of the temptations were not the most self-evident.

In a sudden crisis with an uncertain outcome, fear and worry are all-too-natural temptations. They certainly were for me, and I—and many others—have spent a great deal of time and ink on the topic, urging people to lay aside their fears and to find their joy and rest in God as they endure various trials. The Bible is full of such admonitions, and so these are things that need to be both said and read. But as yet, I have said and read much less about the more subtle temptations that can sneak in during times like these—the temptations to envy and pride. The Bible has more than a few words to say about these sins, too, so we must not forget them just because we have entered a period of suffering.

I’m sure the temptation to envy does make some sense because enduring a trial clearly means not enjoying the easy, painless lives that our friends seem to be living. Suffering can mean comparing our plight with others and resenting the chapter we are in. Why me? Why not the other guy? What did they do that I didn’t? And envy can gradually take hold when we turn our focus on those who appear to have a better lot in life. Envy is always an ugly and destructive sin, but these are not the objects of envy I’m most concerned with here.

Trial Envy

The envy I want to highlight is the envy directed not at those who are better off but at those whose stories appear to be worse than our own. Yes. You read that right.

On the face of it, this may sound crazy. (And it is. Sin is always a kind of madness.) But here’s the thing: if you’ve suddenly gained a kind of small-time notoriety, a freshly minted identity, and a heroic new status as She Who Has Suffered Well, then oh, how it can sting when somebody else suddenly comes along who threatens to topple that hard-earned title.

Here she comes (How dare she?)—with her bigger, newer, sexier trial and (Oh-ho! Well, lah-dee-dah!) a godlier, wiser, more long-suffering response to it all. When we’ve gotten comfortable with the attention, the pity, the respect, and the perks that can come from a period of suffering, we really do need to take care that we don’t start to find our identity and sense of worth in those experiences, or things may get ugly the minute something or somebody threatens to take them away.

There are women (and I’m afraid it very often is the women) the world over who must constantly and forever imagine themselves in the role of the martyr. They cannot bear to allow that anyone else has suffered more or could deserve more pity. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis paints an awful picture of self-centered and destructive grief when he introduces a bereaved mother who has turned a family tragedy into a form of tyranny to which all others must submit. She has destroyed lives by forming her entire identity around the pain of her loss. And in The Four Loves, Lewis also gives us Mrs. Fidget who makes sure that everyone sees how she suffers, working “her fingers to the bone” for her family—and thus drives them all away.

But suffering should not grant a free pass for selfishness, and grief should never be a weapon to hijack the joy of those around us. God has told us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Th 5:18). God has told us to look to Him for our peace and to supply all our needs (Mat 6:25-33). And the risen Christ told Peter, even as He prophesied Peter’s martyrdom, not to concern himself with how the other disciple was to suffer or not: “What is that to you? You follow me” (John 21:22). This is a good admonition to all of us as we face the prospect of suffering: follow Christ. Fix your eyes on Him.

So when the next person comes along with her own trials, believe that the grace of God is big enough to fill both your needs. Do not take her story as an invitation to complain more and worry louder, lest the world forget you. God does not require our melodrama or Mrs. Bennett pity parties (“Nobody can tell what I suffer!”) in order to remember our needs. The one time that God tells us to outdo one another, it is in showing honor (Rom 12:10)—not in griping about our troubles and trying to steal the honor of others away.

One-upmanship as old as dirt

Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. We humans have a tendency as old as Cain to want to out-do the other guy, to turn the spotlights that shine on others back onto our own sorry selves—and in ever escalating ways: “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold” (Gen 4:24). All of us are born with glory hunger, but in our fallen state, we would rather not pursue it the way that Christ commands: through humility and service and a cross (Mk 9:35). Instead, we settle for cheap substitute glories or attempt to steal the real thing from others. And, in the grip of envy, when we cannot steal glory, we attempt to destroy it—sometimes very subtly.

Some of my friends living down south have joked that they can never mention cold weather without some northerner suddenly appearing to inform them that “until you’ve spent January on the windward side of the Canadian Rockies, you don’t know the first thing about cold!” It reminds me of that old comedy bit about grandparents boasting, to their whining grandkids, that when they were young, they had to walk to school—barefoot!—through the snow!—uphill!—both ways!

“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows my sorrow.” Sounds about right. As egocentric sinners, we really do hate it when our Story of Great Suffering—our conversational trump card—gets beat by the other guy’s Tale of Unparalleled Woe. We hates it, we does.

And we hate it because it strikes us where it most hurts—our pride. It’s amazing how the human heart can turn just about anything into a reason to puff ourselves up and to feed our arrogance, all the while deceiving even ourselves about what we’re doing. Am I really “just asking for prayer”? Or am I using my “prayer request” as an excuse to publicly complain about my situation and to draw everyone’s attention and pity back on me, basking in the accolades for what a suffering saint I’ve been?

I’ll tell you what. I’ve asked for prayer from both motivations, and both can look very much the same from the outside. God didn’t give me X-ray vision to see into the hearts of others, so this is not a call to presume the worst the next time your suffering friend shares a prayer request. Not at all. This is a call for those of us who are facing trials to examine our own motives. Consider the possibility that you’re deceiving even yourself about what you’re doing when you “ask for prayer.”

Pop quiz

A good self-test is this: Does it annoy you—even just a little bit—when somebody else announces that they are now facing a trial that very much resembles your own? Or one that is more socially acceptable than your own? Or more acute and attention-grabbing than, say, your own slow, chronic struggle? Are you bitter because the people with cancer get all the perks, while people dealing with Lyme disease or slander or abandonment are forgotten? Are you upset by women who talk openly about and receive pity for their miscarriages while nobody knows how you’ve quietly endured your own? Does all the fuss over that crippling car accident really bug you because nobody seems to care about the years and years of steady decline that are crippling you?

Does the outpouring of attention and care toward other people’s suffering and not your own bother you? Anger you? Frustrate you? Keep you awake at night? Then very likely, the word for what you’re dealing with is envy. Envy, impure and simple.

Custom-made trials

But here’s the truth of the matter: God has tailor-made your suffering just for you. Your devastating diagnosis that everybody on the internet knows about was made for you. Your silent struggle is the test that God hand-wrote just for you. Your lonely hours in bed with that chronic affliction are a trial that God put into your story for His own glory and your good. Death of loved ones, false accusations, debilitating illness, quiet grief, and public pain are given to each of us in turn because God knows each of us by name. He knows what we need. He knows how to refine us and prune us, even if we may not always understand what good will come from it as we feel ourselves melting or as we watch precious branches fall to the ground.

Sisters, some of us need stitches, and some of us need open heart surgery. But whichever lot is ours, it is ours because the Great Physician knows our exact diagnosis, body and soul, and intends, in the end, to make us whole—to make us perfect, just as He is perfect.

He has promised to be with us in our suffering—not in the suffering of that guy over there. He has promised to equip us to bear up under our trials—not under the trials we wish we had or under the trials we worry we might one day have. We are to concern ourselves with being faithful where God has placed us, not imagining how we would be faithful if only we were where He has placed somebody else.

Even we may not understand our own hearts in these things, but God does see the heart, so ask Him to root out any self-deception, pride, or envy that may have crept in during your season of affliction—however long and however severe it’s been. If we have been called by God, then all things—even my trials and your trials and the trials of the believers around us—truly are working together for good. Let us live as though we believe it. And when we’re tempted to both envy and downplay the trials of others, let us turn again to Jesus and remember His words: “What is that to you? You follow me.”

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You can find the index to the series here.

Faithful Obedience by Lisa Leidenfrost

There are many things I love and respect about my friend Lisa. But if I had to choose one reason why I want to pursue her friendship in the years to come is that she is a woman who prays and fights with the Word of God in hand. It doesn’t matter if you are having tea in her home, or going on a walk with her, she will always encourage you to trust God, pray to God, and fight the Devil and your flesh with the Word of God.

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing with us today.

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He Has You, that Much
by Lisa Leidenfrost

People say “God is so good” especially after an unexpected answer to prayer or when someone is delivered from a trial in a great way. But, what if, after praying hard for deliverance or for a certain answer, that answer goes against what you had wanted, almost in the opposite direction? Now where are you? Can you still say with all your heart “God is so good” and really mean it? Yes, you can, and I can tell you why. It is because God is – period. He doesn’t change. His character remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is sure, constant, and does not move with the variables of life. He is someone you can count on over and over and over again.

So, when life gets scary, He is the only safe place to be. But, in the confusion of the unexpected that quickly turns to alarming, and when you are trying to make sense of it all, it is very easy to get derailed. That is why it is important to always go back to what you do know, and to stand there first before you interpret the rest.

So, what do you know about God that doesn’t ever change based upon the truth of His word?

God is good.
 God loves you (John 17:23). 
God listens to your prayers.
 God is open to your cry and answers when you call (Psalm 145:18,19). 
God is in control of your life.
 God gave the trial and means good from it 
God wants to bless you through this.
 God will walk with you every step of the way and will not forsake you (Hebrews 13:5,6).

These promises, along with many others, can be found in His Word. They are solid and don’t change, therefore you can rely on them. These are the positive things that you can know. But, the Bible also says that you have an enemy against you, the devil, (Eph. 6:12) who will be undermining all the above by telling you lies like: God does not love you. You are all alone and He doesn’t hear, nor will act on your behalf. So therefore, you must scramble to act on your own, or curl up in a ball and give up.

These lies come on the heels of feelings that are caught up in the turmoil of the moment. When it doesn’t feel like the above things are true because bad things are happening to you, that is especially the time you need to stand on what you do know to be true and make the choice to stay there by faith. You stand on God’s promises because they are true. Feelings on the other hand are fickle and change depending on a host of variables. They are not based on anything super solid, which can lead you astray. Hanging onto the truth in the battle is the only thing that can keep you standing in the thick of the fight. When you use the shield of faith (Eph. 6:16) in God’s promises you can quench all the fiery darts (doubts) of the enemy. But you have to be in His word to know what those promises are and to know how to use them. Then, you have to choose to believe them in faith, because doing so gets you back up on the God who is the giver of those promises. Resting on God alone is the surest foundation. It is believing what He is telling you. It is not being fearful because He has your situation in His hand, in spite of the emotion that is right there telling you the opposite.

Do I know what I’m talking about? Yes. We, as missionaries to the Ivory Coast, have just completed a Bible translation in a language that hadn’t been written before. We raised our children in a village, in the tropics, with no electricity or running water. We’ve had various health issues, including typhoid with no doctor nearby. We went through numerous times of unrest, got caught in a war, and had to flee when they were after whites. During the hardest time of the evacuation my health crashed, leaving me a functional shut in for years with an unknown and potentially scary condition. Then on top of all that, later my daughter, who had helped me when I was down, got Multiple Sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease. Speak about things not going the way we thought they should! Yet God still triumphs through it all. How do I know this? Because He says He does, and I’ve seen it in action. I have learned to see things through His perspective rather than mine.

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14).

He triumphs not in spite of the problems but because of them. When we need Him, His strength comes through. He acts, then blesses, and turns hard situations into opportunities that glorify Him and form His character in us. And in doing so, He is advancing His kingdom and getting us fit for eternity with Him.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor. 12:9).

So, how did He come through for us? By God’s grace I was healed of my condition years later, and just recently the translation was finished even after many set backs and hindrances. We thank God for all these things. And even for the things that have not been answered yet, like my daughter Noai’s healing, God has been so faithful in helping my daughter and her husband walk through this, one step at a time. We all can see the hand of God doing marvelous things, teaching them His character, wisdom and glory. These are all things that count and that will not be taken away from them. And, in spite of all their challenges, they are a very joyful family.

No matter what the outcome, God is so good through it all. God’s wild path is always better, over our ideal one, because it is the path to glory, hardships and all. Therefore, when you choose to give your ‘Amen’ to the hard path He has chosen, it will be credited to you as faith because you are believing He will come through in His way. If you wait to give your ‘Amen’ to it after you are in heaven and can finally see that it was the best path, it will no longer be faith. So, you might as well give your ‘Amen’ now and at least be credited with faith.

Yet, if we could choose, we would choose the path that is not so hard. We can wonder, why can’t God just let us live an ideal life and still accomplish His purposes? That would be nice but consider this, when we are weak, when we really need God, that is when we have to rely on God’s strength alone. God’s strength is the ultimate strength, so when we have access to that power and use it, we have access to everything, and therefore are truly strong and are becoming more like Christ. Consider that we often don’t access his strength when we can still stand on our 
own. So, needing Him, and building up our faith means far more to God than letting us live our life of ease, because without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6) Do we really want a milk toast life with an immature faith that has not been tested in the fire?

Another aspect to consider is that He is up to something good because the trial always goes beyond just yourself. It affects others too in God’s overarching plan. When you go through a trial faithfully, which means looking to Him continuously in all the ups and downs, God is 
working in your heart and this affects others, giving them courage to walk in faith as well. This process is moving His kingdom forward by building up His people through the great cloud of witnesses that keep accumulating. He has eternity in mind because this earth is not all there is.

Even though we may understand all the above, it is still hard down in the trenches. So how do you handle a great disappointment, or disastrous turn of events? The first thing you do is to run to the one who gave you that trial. If you run away because God is too dangerous, you will be 
doubly hit, first with the trial and secondly from being cut off from the help you would have gotten. You must daily cry out to Him. And, it is OK to cry, to feel grief, to mourn a loss because we are human. But when we do, we need to do it in faith and not despair, in hope and not in fear, with a joy that rests on God’s character alone and not the situation. So, run to God. Tell Him all about it. Let His love wash over you and let those everlasting arms catch you underneath. He knows and understands, and He wants to take your hand and lead you.

“I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8).

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

Let Him protect you, pick you up when you collapse, comfort you when you cry, carry you when you are weak, and gently lift you up when you are down in a pool of discouragement.

“As a father pities His children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For he knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13,14).

Yes, He does pick you up, forgives the hopelessness that has engulfed you, then places the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith back in your hands and teaches you how to fight anew. You are never without help in whatever form you need.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1,2).

God is either who He says He is, or He is not. Therefore, we can get up and fight with hope and above all to stand in confidence. So much so, that you can even go off rejoicing after you have given your burden to Him, because He has you that much.

Lisa Leidenfrost

-You can find the index to the series Faithful Obedience at the bottom of this post.
-The latest in this series: A post by Laurie Ditton on how God has been faithful to her and her husband as they submitted to His will bringing her sick and elderly mom to live with them.

Faithful Obedience by Rachel Jankovic

Rachel Jankovic is a friend who has taught me many things. And of the things I’ve learned from her is how obedience, simple obedience looks like on a day to day basis. It looks like a joyful task, and it actually laughs out loud. It smells like bread coming out of the oven. It looks beautiful, like vibrant colorful threads in the loom. It loves to work hard, and never complains about a messy kitchen, little dirty hands, and the  to-do list that never ends but keeps growing. Faithful obedience, she has taught me through her example, is always grounded in the Word of God and grows when it feeds on the perfect obedience of Christ.

The wonderful thing about pursuing this kind of faithful obedience is that, by the the grace of God and with His blessing, it bears loads of fruit. But we know that if we have lots of fruit -even the most delicious and beautiful- sitting in a basket it will rot very quickly. So this kind of obedience gets all the fruit it bears, puts it in many baskets (one is never enough!), and then sets those baskets on the porch, on the corner of the streets, in the church, so that anyone who passes by may freely take all the fruit they want! And as all things that God blesses, the seeds of all this fruit multiplies a thousand times!

So thank you, Rachel, for your friendship, your example, and your willingness to write for the Faithful Obedience series today.

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A statement of faith is a way of communicating what you believe about God and His relationship to man throughout history in a short and succinct way. But it covers creation, the fall, redemption, the mechanism of salvation, and ultimate destiny for mankind. It is simply a way to put a hand hold on the biggest beliefs that we have so that they can be quickly communicated.

A profession of faith is a Christian personally expressing a statement of faith. It is the same words, simply with “I” in front of it. I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in the resurrection of the dead, etc.

But faithfulness is walking through your life holding fast to your profession, and living your statement of faith. Hebrews 10:23 says “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)”

Faithfulness has to hold fast because life is moving along. We are inevitably carried by the passage of time through many changes and events that will make holding fast necessary.

I remember when I was a young mother of several children realizing that I was being called to live – to actually live – what I had only up until that point believed in the abstract. I believed that children were a blessing. I believed that this was a good thing. I believed that my work was important, that my joy and contentment in it were meaningful. But I was being called to hold fast to that profession through the things that might want to separate me from it. There comes an inevitable moment when if you do not hold fast to your profession you will no longer be professing it. And that is where faithfulness comes in. Holding fast when the storms of life are inviting you to let go.

I was raised in a believing family and have been blessed monumentally by the faithfulness of those ahead of me. I can see with my own eyes what it is to hold fast through so many different phases of life. My Grandfather is finishing his final laps in the Lord – holding fast his profession about what life and death means to a Christian as he approaches the finish line. My parents are living with him to care for him – holding fast their profession that God has called them to honor their father and mother. Those two have walked together through cancer, holding fast their profession that God is faithful, and that He is God even of cancer. They have lived their christian lives in front of us, alongside of us, always joyfully bearing more burdens than us, always rejoicing in the goodness of God with us, always blessing us with their example.

My husband and I are closer to being grandparents now than we are to being newlyweds – and God invites us to hold fast to our profession daily. As we grow older we find we have more opportunities to claim as our own parts of our statement of faith that we had up until this point only believed. Now we must live it. We are surrounded by siblings who are holding fast to their professions through different callings and obstacles and life phases. Holding fast through a brain tumor, through a life that will always be affected by that. Holding fast their profession as they live faithfully whatever God has called them to. And we have our children and our nieces and nephews – some holding fast to their profession as they enter adulthood, some holding fast as they learn to negotiate adolescence and even the three year old – learning what it means to salute Jesus and hold fast.

The Christian life is a life of profession. We profess Christ in whatever situation we are in. And so the work of faithfulness is no different if you are being crushed by the weight of blessing or crushed by the weight of trial. The calling is the same – cling to Christ. Grab hold of your profession, which is found in Jesus Christ. For He that is faithful has promised.

Rachel Jankovic

You can find the table of contents of this series here.
The latest post on the series was about how to cultivate faithful obedience in our own lives.

How To Cultivate Faithful Obedience

Screen Shot 2019-05-04 at 5.30.59 PMWe have been reading testimonies of God’s faithfulness in the lives of Christian women in the series of Faithful Obedience (we’ll read many more in the next months), and we have seen how these women have learned, by God’s grace, to respond in obedience to God’s will for them.

But maybe you have been reading this series and keep thinking how is it even possible to learn to respond in this way? How can these women face chronic diseases, the loss of husbands, infertility, the loss of children, the diagnose of breast cancer with such a humble and joyous heart? How is it possible to open our hands and receive God’s will for us with so much gratitude even when it looks like a heavy loss? Yes, you have been going to church for many years but you wonder if you would be able to respond in faithful obedience to God’s Providence in your life when a hard Providence comes your way?

The truth is that none of us will be able to submit to God’s will with joy and gratitude and faithful obedience on our own strength. None of us. We are shortsighted, our vision most of the times is blurry. Left to our own, we can’t submit joyfully to what we don’t understand. And faithful obedience to God seems just something beyond our capacity. So how can we cultivate this kind of response in all sort of trials?

Our brothers and sisters who have gone through the toughest trials, have been able to submit willingly and joyfully to God, and to respond in faithful obedience to Him because they have learned to do one thing consistently: look up to Jesus. And Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith, the One who is sited at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us.

And how do we keep looking up to Christ? How does that look like? “Look up to Christ” is not an inspirational phrase, but a reality that has the power to sustain us through it all.

1. We first look up to Christ when we recognize that we can’t do anything to save ourselves from our own sin and the consequences of our sins -or the sin in the world (sickness, abuses done to us, etc). This is the place to start because only those who look up to Christ can be saved. And only those who have been saved can look up to Him for comfort, strength, mercy, and grace.

2. We look up to Christ when we take God’s Book, the Bible, and see Jesus on each one of its pages. God has chosen to reveal Himself to us and the way to come to Him in the Scriptures. We have not been left to ourselves to try to imagine God or find our own way to Him. Who He is and how we can approach Him is written, so we open our Bible and read it.

When we read our Bibles we are confronted with the Holiness of God and the Spirit convicts us of our sins. The Holy Spirit then uses the same Word of God to bring us repentance and wash us, and transform us into the likeness of Jesus. And once our sins are forgiven, we can see more clearly what a wonderful Savior we have in Jesus. We look up to see Him without a veil in our eyes we see Him more clearly and brightly.

We look up to Christ when we read our Bibles because it is a way of saying “I truly don’t know the way, Lord. Teach me your ways and guide me in them. I want to obey you in the here and in the now.” And on the other hand, when we fail to come to consistently to the Word of God, we are in a way saying, “I know the way, I can be my own guide” and in doing so we deliberately take off our eyes from Jesus and put them in ourselves, or in an idol that we think can save us.

We look up to Christ each day when we read our Bible because it is only there that we can see Jesus as the source of food that sustains and water that quenches our thirst. We look up to Christ when we read His Word because it is there that we come to understand that He Himself is our shelter and sure help in time of need. The journey is long and only those who eat the Word and delight in it will find the strength needed to persevere until the end.

In our Bibles we can also read the warnings of all the dangers and the enemies that we must face. But as we read chapter after chapter, book after book, we learn how we are to fight in this world -and we read how victory is only possible to those who have their eyes fixed on Jesus, to those who persevere looking up, waiting on Him for their deliverance.

We also find in the pages of the Bible the promises of God which belong to His children. Promises that build up our faith, that cause us to rejoice in the midst of a storm, that remind us of the hope that we have -one that is never in vain. Promises that point us to Jesus and remind us to live looking up to Him.

And the more we come to the Word, the more Scripture we intake, memorize, mediate, and believe, the more we will be ready to use it as the only effective sword to fight the Devil, our own sinful thoughts , and our feelings when they rebel against God.

3. We also look up to Christ when we pray without ceasing, for there is nothing like a life of prayer to declare how much we need Christ and how lost we are without Him.

A Christian who loves the Word of God loves to pray, and a Christian who loves to pray loves the Word of God. These two can never be separated. If we separate them our time in the Word will be fruitless and dry, and our prayer life will lack substance and words. The whole Bible is full of examples of prayers so that we may learn how to pray in all circumstances. When we cannot find the right words to pray and our minds are heavy and confused, we can find in the Psalms the words to express our anxieties, our fears, our many “Why, God?” and “How long, Oh, Lord?” Jesus prayed these prayers and in His name we can pray them too.

It is only through the merits of Jesus that we can approach the Throne of Grace and find grace and mercy in time of need. And it is only in the name of Jesus that we can make our requests of God with the certainty that He will hear us. How can we not look up to Christ if He is the way to the Father of all Comfort?

4. Another way in which we look up to Christ is when look around and see how many brothers and sisters we have in Christ. When we stand in the congregation of those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and are ready to encourage many and be encouraged by others in the Lord, we are, in a very practical way, looking up to head of body which is Christ. Sometimes we will have the opportunity to give a glass of water to one who thirsts, but many other times, God will put us on the other end. And when that times come, we must be ready to stretch out our hand in gratitude and receive that glass of water that we desperately need as if the Lord Jesus Himself were giving it to us -because He is indeed.

So we look up to Christ when we look up to Him to be saved, when we are in the Word of God each day, when we live a life of dependence to Him praying at all times, and when we are an active part of the body of Christ, serving others and being served by them too.

When we live looking up to Christ, we will find that faithful obedience will become the natural response to His Providence in our life. And by “natural” I don’t mean that it will necessarily be easy every time, but that it will always be possible.*

The more we train ourselves to look up to Christ, to be in the Word, to live by prayer, to do life with other believers, the more we will long to respond in faithful obedience. “Not my will but yours be done” will become the heart of each one of our prayers.

The Lord has prepared many circumstances to test us and to teach us to respond in faithful obedience to Him. He has prepared seasons of want and seasons of plenty, and in both we are called to walk in obedience, just like Jesus did. We must learn to ask ourselves, how does faithful obedience would look like in my present circumstance?

Look up to Christ even today so that through His merits, His perfect life, His perfect death, and His perfect obedience to the Father, you may find great satisfaction in obeying Him in whatever season He may have you now.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

 

 

 

* I learned this from Elisabeth Elliot. In her book Discipline: the glad surrender she wrote,”Choices will continually be necessary and — let us not forget — possible. Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them.”

Photo by Jan Romero via Unsplash