WISDOM FOR LIVING DEVOTIONAL
JANUARY 6, 2021
TOPIC: OBEYING GOD IS NOT ALWAYS EASY
BY T. O. BANSO
“It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac” (Hebrews 11:17 New Living Translation).
Whereas some people’s problem is finding out the will of God, the problem of others is doing His will, which is so clear to them but painful to do. Those in the latter group are not confused about what God wants them to do. They are considering the high price they have to pay.
The truth is that it is not everything God tells His children to do that is easy. It could be painful to do some things God has asked one to do and, sometimes, the consequences of obedience could be painful. Nevertheless, as children of God, we must obey Him because of our love for Him (John 14:15, 21,23-24;1 John 5:3) and the faith we have in Him that He has the best plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11).
Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44 New King James Version). How easy do you think it is to obey this? He says a similar thing in Luke 6:27-30. Except someone is being controlled by the Spirit of God, he can’t obey this revolutionary teaching of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 5:16 says walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. “What I say is this: let the Spirit direct your lives, and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature” (Galatians 5:16 Good News Translation). Every child of God should be controlled by the Holy Spirit to obey God even in difficult situations. The spirit could be willing but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38). Nevertheless, we must do the will of God as Jesus Christ did.
As said by the author of the book of Hebrews, “It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac” (Hebrews 11:17 New Living Translation). This is a reference to the event of Genesis 22. Verse 1 of Genesis 22 says, “Later on God tested Abraham’s faith and obedience” (New Living Translation).
I don’t think that Abraham considered that instruction of God a very easy one when he first received it. To sacrifice a child one has waited for 25 years before he was born cannot be considered something easy. How could God have said that Abraham would become the father of many nations and still asked him to sacrifice his only child – the child of promise?
It must have hit Abraham like a thunderbolt. It is not clear how he presented it to Sarah and her reaction to the instruction. It was a test of Abraham’s faith. Nevertheless, he went with the child to sacrifice him, and just at the point of killing him, the angel of the LORD stopped him. “And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Genesis 22:12 New King James Version). Abraham saw a ram caught in a thicket by its horns, took it, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of Isaac.
Because of Abraham’s painful obedience to sacrifice his “only son Isaac” (Genesis 22:2), the LORD blessed Abraham again (Genesis 22:15-19). Suppose you were Abraham; would you have obeyed God? Even if you have five children, would you have killed one of them at God’s command to offer as a sacrifice to Him? That was painful obedience by Abraham, which nobody can minimize.
Of course, other than Abraham, God has never asked anyone else to do that but His instructions or commands to other people in the Bible were not always without pain. God still does that today. And we have these Bible characters who obeyed God, despite the pains they suffered, to learn from. Obeying God is not always easy but it’s possible. By faith, Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
Will you obey God always even if it’s painful? If you were the prophet Hosea, would you have obeyed God to marry a prostitute! “When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, ‘Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshiping other gods’” (Hosea 1:2 New Living Translation). Hosea obeyed and had three children with this prostitute. The infidelity of Gomer and Hosea’s love represented God’s love for Israel and forgiveness of her unfaithfulness to Him.
Hosea’s wife, Gomer, thereafter went back to prostitution and despite the fact that she didn’t repent, God told Hosea to buy her back and continue to love her as his wife. Hosea did (Hosea 3).
Bible scholars have been debating whether God actually told the prophet to marry a prostitute or the scripture is saying that the woman would become unfaithful to the prophet later. However, I will take the verse to mean exactly what it says. If you were the prophet Hosea, would you have obeyed God? Obedience to God sometimes comes with pain.
Consider also God’s strange instructions to prophet Ezekiel to lie on his left side for 390 days and on his right side for another 40 days. Both instructions symbolized God’s impending punishment of the Northern kingdom, Israel, and the Southern kingdom, Judah.
The LORD said, “Now lie on your left side and place the sins of Israel on yourself. You are to bear their sins for the number of days you lie there on your side. I am requiring you to bear Israel’s sins for 390 days – One day for each year of their sin. After that, turn over and lie on your right side for 40 days – One day for each year of Judah’s sin” (Ezekiel 4:4-6 New Living Translation).
That did not mean that he lay down throughout each day because subsequent verses state other things God asked Ezekiel to do with regard to the food he should eat. We don’t how long he lay on his side each day Ezekiel’s food during this period also symbolized what would happen to Israel and Judah (verses 9-17).
Ezekiel obeyed these painful instructions. He even paid a greater price in the death of his wife and God told him not to mourn! “Then this message came to me from the Lord: ‘Son of man, with one blow I will take away your dearest treasure. Yet you must not show any sorrow at her death. Do not weep; let there be no tears. Groan silently, but let there be no wailing at her grave. Do not uncover your head or take off your sandals. Do not perform the usual rituals of mourning or accept any food brought to you by consoling friends.’ So I proclaimed this to the people the next morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did everything I had been told to do” (Ezekiel 24:15-18 New Living Translation). Did you see that? Ezekiel did what God told him to do, which was painful.
In Luke 1:38, Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus Christ, answered the angel, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (New King James Version). Don’t think that Mary found it easy carrying the pregnancy of Jesus, which was of the Holy Spirit. She must have suffered shame and ridicule from people who didn’t know the details of what happened.
You’ll remember that Joseph was contemplating divorcing her secretly because he was afraid to take to himself Mary as his wife until he had a dream that made him change his mind (Matthew 1:19-21). Obeying God can sometimes bring shame and ridicule. Nevertheless, we must obey God.
Don’t promote pleasure or enjoyment above doing the will of God. Today’s enjoyment could lead to suffering tomorrow. Obey God by faith. “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26 New King James Version).
When you get to heaven and you see these Bible characters, ask them about how they obeyed God. They will tell you they didn’t find it easy doing everything God commanded them to do. Nevertheless, they obeyed because they trusted the Person who gave the command. They knew that they were in the right hand. They knew that God could never fail them. They knew that He knew what He was doing.
Though Jesus was a Son, He learnt obedience by the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). Because of the joy that He knew would be His afterward, He endured the cross and despised the shame; He willingly died a shameful death on the cross. Therefore, He is now seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 12:2). Painful obedience to God is temporary and is never in vain.
Obey God. There is a reward for your obedience. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land (Isaiah 1:19). Obeying God is for your own good.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Holy Spirit, help me to obey God, no matter how painful it is. Let me not promote enjoyment above doing the will of God. Father, deliver me from any power that would want me to enjoy today and forfeit my inheritance. Holy Spirit, help me to be willing and obedient.
(For over 400 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit: www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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