The Sweet Joy of Obedience

Believe it or not, last week I floundered in my desire to follow-through on a commitment I had made. Have you ever done that? Of course you have! Who hasn’t? You see, each week I dedicate some time to do a little behind-the-scenes work on my computer for our church. And last week–guess what?–I didn’t want to do it! I plainly and simply did.not.want.to.do.it.

Yet God, with great faithfulness and kindness, reminded me of a solid, old lesson He had taught me years ago:

Joy doesn’t come with the anticipation of obedience–joy comes with the actual obedience.

Yet in order for true joy to flow, I had to remember one key ingredient: Who was I doing this for anyway? The church secretary? Nope. My sweet husband? Not even. To preen the vanity of my own self? Still no. The only way that true joy–not just happiness–could sweep across my heart and spirit was if I offered this ministration as my own personal drink offering to Jesus. If I was willing to take that which had been given to me and pour it out through my service to my church, but as unto Him.

Another gentle reminder that streamed across my mind came from the example laid out in The Law: God commanded the Israelites to offer only the best of their flocks and vines. Their unblemished animals. Their firstfruits. They were not allowed to toss “any ol’ thing” upon the altar: God required that it cost them their highest as a reflection of His worthiness to receive their worship. And do you know what? I bet that the heart of each Israelite who truly worshiped Jehovah–despite any original balking–ultimately rejoiced to exalt God with such a blessed offering. For only the heart of one who has considered the cost, yet offered his ultimate sacrifice anyway, could fully enter into that joyful place of true worship.

We all have our offerings to surrender. Our sacrifices of service. Our personal drink offerings. We all know what it’s like to make a commitment, then struggle with the desire to follow through. We have all balked when we realized the true cost. Trust me, it’s rare to understand the full cost at the onset of our service. Yet God asks us to adhere to each word of commitment we have made. Not merely because of others–but for the sweet joy of walking in obedience to Him.

“But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. And you too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me” (Philippians 2:17-18).

The Who of the What and the Where

I know. I know. I’ve been sadly MIA. My humblest apologies. I’ve been facing the end of the school-year “stuff” of a homeschooling mom, my daughter graduated from Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta (Road trip!), and we’ve had a church intern move in for the summer (with another one moving in today for a few days). So when I’m not trying to tackle all of these issues, my ME/CFS drives me to bed. I think I’ve spent the past month either rising up to face each event by God’s grace or down for the count, with nothing in between…and definitely no energy combined with coherent thought left to enable me to write. But that does not mean that I haven’t been thinking!

Actually, now that Amanda has graduated and has started to put plans in motion, one subject has arisen which (I think) bears commenting on. You see, she’s been out there hustling: putting in applications, interviewing, volunteering at the church, and applying for community college. (Plus, she helps around the house, adding her simple and sweet touches everywhere.)

As she steps away from her college routine (which she loved!) and returns to her home, she has to keep in mind that, as a Christian, she does not go backward. Although she has come home, God still calls her forward, which means He has a next step–a next purpose–for her life. She moves onward.

But to where?

And how does she know?

Hard questions? Sure. But I can’t help but remember a quote I heard years ago: “It’s easier to steer a moving car.” So, with encouragement and exhortations from her dad and me, off she goes. Applying on-line or in store. Making the rounds. And, without a doubt, praying.

Although her next job will indubitably fall in the entry-level, get-me-through-college, whatever-it-takes-to-pay-the-bills category, God does not treat it as something He will discount. He has a plan and a purpose for this next phase of her life, just as surely as He had a plan and purpose for her years in bible college.

But God’s plans and purposes quite often differ from our own. We tend to think of where and what when it comes to jobs, while He always considers the who, as in, “Who will be your future co-workers?” “Who will need the unique testimony and witness that you alone bring?” “Who needs your distinct light?”

God did not send His one and only Son for whats and wheres; He sent His one and only Son for each of the “whosevers” flooding your life. The lost sheep. The one.

And so we pray, not for God to place Amanda at a where doing a what, but that God would place her in the life of a who…a very special who, whom God loves very much.

“For the Son of man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. Thus it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish”  (Matthew 18:11-14).

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