Blessing follows obedience, not the other way around.
I wish I had a dollar for every time, in thirty years of teaching, I’ve heard a student say something like this: “I’m applying for the nursing program, so I really need to get an A in this course.”
I’m all in favor of students earning As. What strikes me, though, is how people act as if their desire to enter some demanding area of study should dictate the grade I assign. They don’t seem to get it: You earn entry into that program–nursing, med school, whatever–because you did the hard work and had the ability necessary to gain those lofty grades.
Anybody can see the sense in that, but how often do we foolishly think that we should obey God only after He comes through with the blessings? It makes us sound like kidnappers on a cop show. “You leave the blessings where I say and then I’ll tell you where the obedience is!”
God doesn’t work that way. Or does He? As redeemed believers, we have already gained the greatest blessing we’ll ever see. How petty do we appear when we ask, “What have you done for me lately?” and wait for God to come through with the equivalent of a bowl of soup?
Obedience must come first. Otherwise it really isn’t obedience.
- In what area of your life do you find it hardest to put obedience first?
- What is an example of a time when God showered disproportionate blessings on you in response to your obedience?
- Pray that God will help you put obedience first in your heart and allow the blessing to follow as He sees fit.
What matters to you matters to Jesus.
People sometimes have a hard time keeping my grandsons separate. It’s easy to understand the confusion as they all three have a three-letter name that begins and ends with a vowel: Ira, Isa, and Uri. If you’d like a bit of help, let me explain that Ira is the one whom you’ll see walking around, almost all of the time, with a Rubik’s cube in his hand, its squares constantly clacking as he solves it, scrambles it, and then solves it again.
Although I think it is pretty cool that Ira can solve the traditional three-by-three cube in something like thirty seconds, I honestly have no interest in learning the various algorithms and patterns necessary to move beyond dumb luck.
On the other end of the scale, Ira is utterly obsessed with the crazy things. He owns practically every type of cube (and other shapes) available. The highlight of his summer will be coming up this weekend as he travels to Des Moines for a competition.
Who knew there were Rubik’s cube competitions? They have all manner of events and their own star system. Ira today described himself as a “peasant” in the cubing world.
As I said, I have no interest in cubing, but I have an interest in Ira. That’s why I don’t mind supporting him in this, paying for entries, and so forth.
How much more does Jesus care about the minutiae of our lives. If it matters to me, then it matters to Him. Why would I keep it to myself?
- Are there aspects of your life that you believe are too trivial to involve Jesus with? Why?
- What else might keep you from allowing Jesus to take an interest in what matters to you?
- Examine your life and systematically open every part of it to the One who is your greatest advocate.
It’s not the problem you face but how you face the problem.
We used to spend a good deal of time with Pat, a woman who had an endless string of problems. Perhaps you know someone who seems to always have a terrible crisis coming down the road, but actually that wasn’t Pat. While she thought that she had an endless string of problems, what she really had was a steady flow of fairly insignificant matters, many of them created by her own folly.
“My supervisor complained that I made too many personal calls!”
“The bank repossessed my car, and now I can’t get to the casino.”
I listened and gritted my teeth. Finally, one day, as she cursed “my luck” because something really important–I think maybe her toaster quit working–had marred her day, I had listened to enough.
“Trent is paralyzed,” I noted.
Trent, a father of two, had gone from a capable, active young man to a hopelessly paralyzed fellow in a motorized wheelchair in the course of a few weeks. His wife didn’t know how they could pay for their house, pay for his care, or raise their daughters.
All the while that Pat complained about her luck, Trent and his family kept as strong an outlook as you could hope. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t experience some dark days, but mostly they kept their faces toward Christ throughout the worst of times.
Pat, I’m afraid, kept her face toward the toaster. I’m sure I needn’t mention that her outcome was less satisfactory.
- What is the biggest problem that you are facing at the present?
- Do you find it easy or difficult to turn first to Jesus in the face of problems great and small?
- Ask God to assist you in making your problems His problems.