“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.” –Elizabeth Elliott
I have witnessed so many times in my life, people dismissing the obvious, simplest steps it takes to make the greatest advancements in life—steps that accumulate over time and bring you into greater opportunities and achievements. These steps are steps of obedience. Those who perpetually resist these steps will moan and complain of their plight, never realizing that they are where they are because they refused to obey God’s laws and principles of life. Actions in life create consequences and life without rules creates a life of chaos and folly. God gave us rules and principles to guide us toward self-governance. Obedience is the “act” of self-governing that enables us to advance beyond obstacles that hinder success and maturity.
As a child, I was trained by my parents to govern my will and emotions through the spankings I received when I didn’t control my childish ways. Disobedience, whether in attitude or action, brought immediate retribution. I learned quickly that a child left to himself winds up in folly, and because I did foolish things as a boy, discipline was necessary to ensure obedience to my parents so that I wouldn’t hurt myself in my youth or adult life. Proverbs says that folly is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him. My parents understood this for my sake and didn’t shy away from applying the rod. I’m glad they didn’t for they taught me self-control.
Proverbs says there’s a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death. Without “self-governance” sin will always prevail, and sin, in some fashion, creates death. To help us in this—as did our parents—the Lord disciplines those he loves, so that we’ll mature through the process of learning self-control. That’s the prime objective for obeying God in everything he tells us to do. Within his commands comes a plan for our good. To obey him, therefore, is to embrace an outcome of success and maturity. And the beauty of it is, Jesus doesn’t make us but invites us to obey him. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” He leaves it with us to choose to obey out of our love for him.
Obedience requires trust in the one we submit to, though we may not possess all the facts or reasoning behind their commands. It works that way in the military and secret operations. Only the people leading the objective need to know the details because they play a leading role in the outcome. There are multiple examples of this in the Bible, where God commanded his people, and certain individuals, to do or say things they didn’t understand. God rarely explained himself as to why they were to do what he told them to do. The only thing certain for their obedience was that his commands, whether fully understood or not, would lead to a better outcome than if they had chosen their own path.
Jesus said, “If you would be my disciples—you must …”
Coaches say, “If you want to be on my team—you must …”
Paul says, “If you want to win the race—you must …”
Employers say, “If you want to advance in this company—you must …”
Jesus said, “If you want to be an overcomer—you must …”
The military says, “If you want to serve your country on this team—you must …”
All of those “you must” statements will be tested throughout your life. This is why my parents drilled into me and my siblings, “If you want to go far in life—you must …”
To be a leader, a good leader, you must learn obedience. Everywhere we turn we run into some type of authority. Authority demands compliance. Authority demands obedience. Authority requires response-ability. You will never be in a position of authority if you haven’t first learned how to be “under” authority—and that comes through obedience.
God is the author and source of all authority. Authority comes directly from him. Anyone in a position of authority is there because of God’s authority. Therefore, if you resist parental, civil, or spiritual authority, you resist him. If we don’t learn this early on, we hinder our usefulness to God because we don’t listen, can’t listen, or won’t listen and, therefore, don’t obey. Jesus had to teach and train his disciples to obey his authority if they were to become representatives of his authority in the church. Even Jesus learned obedience by the things he suffered. He obeyed his Father’s authority in every way—“I do only that which I see the Father do.”
To become a disciple of Jesus, and an effective leader of others, requires small steps of obedience to Christ’s commands and his Word. It requires the ability to discern his voice and respond to his daily assignments at work, at home, at church, and in the way you touch the lives of others. God will insert a notion, a conviction, or unction in your spirit to obey him in a matter that may be contrary to the desires and will of your carnal nature—many times inconvenient. But if you respond—no matter how small the assignment might seem—over time, you will learn how to hear his voice and benefit from the accumulative actions you’ve taken to be an obedient son or daughter—a servant of God. And as God’s servant, a well-rounded, self-governed, disciplined leader of those whom he assigns you to serve.