Day 5

Blessed Obedience

from the Daniel reading plan


Daniel 1:17-21, 1 Samuel 12:24

BY Kaitlin Wernet

My dog will do anything for green beans, hot dogs or chocolate. Even together. I know. Chocolate is terrible for dogs, I know. Before you begin to think I’m the worst pet owner, I promise I do not serve my dog any of these things purposely.

Okay, maybe once or twice, but only when times are hard.

When she had a bellyache and wouldn’t eat anything for days, green beans did the trick. When she’d run away down the street, the only thing that would send her galloping back was my voice yelling “HOT DOG!” (Or maybe it was my classy demeanor. Who knows?) And the chocolate? The only thing the dog could hunt was a Reese’s peanut butter cup.

So, when I think of obedience, I think of my dog. She isn’t the most well-mannered, but girl knows how to get what she wants.

Puppy obedience school runs on a principle our human hearts know too well:

If ______, then _______.

If you sit, stay and roll over, then you’ll get a treat.
If you run, hydrate and eat well, then you’ll lose weight.
If you read, study and work hard, then you’ll ace the test.

As we read about the young men at the end of Daniel 1, the same seems to be happening. They have probably prayed, listened, kept faith and now they are blessed! But see, when I hear that, my heart fills in the blanks for me: If I pray harder, obey more and read the Bible, then I’ll be blessed. I begin to confuse blessing with a means to getting what I want, and I’m left feeling defeated.

Here’s the thing: our failure to perfectly follow Christ has already been defeated on the Cross. The connection between faith and works can become muddled and sticky, especially when we involve our own sinful, yet well-intentioned, minds to straighten it out. However, we can rest assured that, from God’s holy perspective, faith and works are never in opposition because His design for both is purposeful and good. Daniel and his friends didn’t follow a prescribed regimen for holiness. By God’s grace, they humbled themselves as His servants, so He would exalt them at the proper time (1 Peter 5:6).

When my dog isn’t running away for prepackaged meat treats, she spends the other half of her time perusing my closet. Other than maybe catching my contagious love for fashion, I don’t know where she learned this, because I absolutely did not teach it to her. Especially the part where she likes to welcome guests with a presentation of my dirty laundry.

Each day, she picks items of clothing, sinks her teeth gently into the fabric and parades it downstairs to her favorite spot. She sits in her scented souvenir pile each day, never hurting it, only lounging. Now that I think of it, this too, is my fault.

Because I leave my closet door cracked slightly, she can push it open with her nose.
Because I feed and love her, she wants to surround herself with my scent.
Because I allow this to happen, she can go straight to the reward, without an “if” or “then.”

The same is true for us.

Our obedience is always and only prefaced by God’s goodness and grace to us. The only “if, then” statement in the Bible we need to worry about is the one that was completed by Jesus—He turned our “if” into a “because”!

Because we are in Christ, we get to seek first the reward: the Kingdom of God!
Because we are in Christ, our obedience is no longer driven by lack but by taking joy in The Giver!
Because we are in Christ, His blessings are given with specific Kingdom purposes.
Because we hold this as truth, we get to obey him by fearing the Lord and worshipping Him faithfully with all of our hearts (1 Samuel 12:24).

Friends, whether in exile or eating chocolate, we can only obey because of God’s grace.

May our obedience flow from the reward we already have in Christ. Amen.

 

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Post Comments (110)

110 thoughts on "Blessed Obedience"

  1. Jackie says:

    Funny how changing one word can change perspective. Replacing the word if with the word because makes all the difference!!!!

  2. Barbara says:

    I'm a day behind. I'm tempted to forgo this comment, because… no one will really see it. And isn't that why we share? So perhaps others will see our comments and agree, or learn something? Perhaps validate us?

    Regardless, here I offer a dog metaphor that I heard some years ago. It really stuck with me because of the power of the image in my mind. And if there is someone out there that needs to see this, well… I am choosing to trust that our amazing God will place it before her eyes.

    It was a Christian radio 'blurb' from a 'top dog' (sorry, couldn't help it!) in the arena of Christian teaching. He said something like this. I'm paraphrasing, as I can't possibly remember word-for-word:
    I was prodded in my heart to watch my little dog, and I noticed her absolute focus on me – how she waits to see if I'm staying put, or getting ready to walk to another room. I became very aware of how she watches me constantly when she is awake. She follows my every movement. She trusts me absolutely and will go where I tell her to go. She doesn't wonder where her food will come from – she knows that I have it and I will provide it. (You are seeing where this is going, right?) I am the center of her universe… she never fails to stick close to me when she is afraid, she never fails to keep me in her sights on any given day. I am her all and everything. Her reason for scampering this way or that. And I realized there was a great spiritual lesson here, in this amazing level of trust and awareness.

    And I asked myself:
    What if WE were THAT kind of devoted to our Lord and Savior? If we, like my sweet doggie, watched Him closely and followed Him everywhere without question – trusting without reserve? What if HE were the lodestone and we the magnet? (did I use that image correctly? My dictionary isn't available. Apologies if I got the definition of lodestone wrong…)

    But you get the idea. Even if you aren't a dog owner, surely you can imagine, based on stories and movies, how intense and focused a dog's awareness is – how trusting her little doggie soul is, how much her world revolves around her owner, her 'Alpha'.

    What if we trusted Jesus like that? What if we didn't make a single move without Him? What if we – without 'over-thinking' it – gave our whole focus and awareness to our Master? Watched His every move, centered our very existence around Him with no question, no debate, no argument, no temptation to move away from Him? MUCH food for thought….

    I wish I could give credit to the author of that Metaphor. Since I cannot do that, I shall say "thank You, Lord, for opening my eyes to another gem of truth!!"

    1. Sarah_Olsen says:

      Thank you for this! I keep coming back to this post for more comments because I’m at turmoil with the if then idea.
      One minute I get it the next I don’t.
      1 John 2:12-14 shows us that Because of Jesus we are forgiven, we can come to know God, and we have overcome.
      Other than that I find so many “if/thens” in the bible and am confused. Your story you shared shows me that it’s not so much an “if/then” or even a “because” but a simple obedience and awe to my Creator, my Provider, my Father. That it’s more about my relationship with Him, my trusting in Him, and my paying close attention to Him than anything else. I should stop tossing ideas around about the “if then” concept and just admire God. I pray to have the kind of love and admiration, like a new little puppy to their owner. I pray that I will seek out God and watch for Him, submitting fully to His control and will.

      1. Cortina says:

        Your comment has hel

      2. Cortina says:

        Your comment has helped me, reminded me, as I need to be reminded. Every once in a while I get the “if/then” equation in my head and I get a little self-righteous. And you are right, there are “if/then” situations in the Bible but we misinterpret those instances if we don’t remember the “he loved us” first part, “while we were still sinners”, “his surpassing greatness”, the cross…and all that you wrote and all the countless reasons to first and foremost be awed by our god, and after that then we can try to think “practically” about our obedience toward him. Amen!

        1. Stacy says:

          "If/then can cause us to be self-righteous" you hit the nail on the head for me that was so convicting. Thanks for your post. God did it all and He loves me the same today and tomorrow and forever, I will be in awe of Him and keep both eyes on Him and follow Him because he loves and cares for me so much.

    2. Nancy says:

      Barbara, I too am a day behind. I read the content this morning and just sat down to take a quick look at what people posted. I am so glad I got to read your post. It is amazing and makes so much sense. I do want to trust Jesus like that but then the human in me takes over and I try to run my own show. Praying for all the SRT ladies that we can be that faithful to our Master. Thanks!

    3. JessHH says:

      Thank you for sharing, even a day later! Just wanted to say that I read your comment…what a great analogy! I'm not a pet owner myself, & never would have thought about how intently a dog watches its owner. Thanks for sharing!

    4. Misce says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this Barbara… I copied your words in my journal as my take away from today’s devotion… i,too has fallen days behind… :)

    5. Viki says:

      So glad I am a week behind so that I was able to read your post! Love the mind image….this one will stay with me! Thank you!

  3. Pam Kirven says:

    Love love love this analogy! And praying for you Sarah

  4. Lavy says:

    I love the concept that the reward is Jesus, not getting what you want. Also, my cat loves oreos so this devotional made me laugh.

  5. Sarah_Olsen says:

    Jesus says if you love me you will obey my commands (John 14:15). The whole bible is filled with if, thens from God so I’m struggling to understand the concept of because.
    I get the point that because we love God we obey him. I don’t know. I’m just confused today. Please pray for revelation for me sisters!

    1. Chelsea says:

      I struggled with this devotional too. I think, to your point, that is a different kind of if, then. Jesus was talking about a natural reaction that will happen if we genuinely love Him. The devotional focused more on the idea of “if I do a good deed, then this blessing will come to me.” Using that model can be a way to just get what we want, but in reality God has already promised us blessings and love–we don’t have to work for them. So yes, if we truly love Jesus, then He will change our hearts to yearn to obey His commands. But also, it’s not “If I obey and worship God, then He will love and bless me.” It’s “Because God already loved and blesses me with so much, I will obey and worship Him.” That’s what I got after wrestling with the idea for awhile. Hope that makes some sense!

      1. Sarah_Olsen says:

        Thank you!

  6. Jess says:

    Thinking with my sister in Christ, Elisabeth, and wondering if your sister in law had her baby girl? Still in my prayers x

  7. Caroline says:

    Yes yes! May we have more revelations of THIS truth! So good!!
    http://www.in-due-time.com

  8. Danielle says:

    It is very true. It’s because of His grace and love for us. Because he continues to bless our family immensely among our struggles and I often don’t feel I deserve it. It’s simply because God is who He says He is. It just only makes me want to draw closer, and grow.

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