Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. John 7:17 (NIV)
My widowed aunt, a transplant from Tennessee, prepared herself every day for the tasks ahead. She styled her hair, put on makeup (her nails were always done), and fortified herself to check all the boxes on her to-do list. Well into her nineties, I stayed with her through her final days, and she would ask if her hair was in place. She mused about her responsibilities and seemed content that no task had been left undone. She had been faithful in all she was given. Auntie greeted her visitors with grace and optimism, never fearing her imminent departure. She was a survivor and had learned that preparation and wholesome activity were foundational for understanding and peace of mind.
In a compilation of George Macdonald’s sermons and writings (Discovering the Character of God), obedience is described as the soul of knowledge. Macdonald elaborates by saying that “upon obedience must our energy be spent; understanding will follow. Until a man begins to obey, the light that is in him is darkness.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? Why should God give us more if we refuse (or delay) to obey what we already know? Essentially, once God gives direction, our spiritual growth (and peace of mind) depend on our following through. We cannot substitute thinking and talking about what God would have us do in lieu of the actual doing of his will.
I read somewhere that procrastination is a form of rebellion. God, you’ve told me what to do, but I’m not ready yet. I’ll push that to the back of the list and work on what makes me more comfortable. Although we know God continues to work in us (Phil. 2:13), how can we expect growth in knowledge and understanding if we fail to do what we already know he’s given us to do? Instead, we must rouse ourselves to trust him to give us what we need when we need it—those tasks that will increase our patience, stretch our faith, grow our compassion, and enlarge our dependence on him. And as we obey, our understanding of him and his ways is increased. God doesn’t will that we ever stop obeying or become stagnant in our growth.
When we find ourselves at a dead end this New Year or wishing God would speak to us, we need to see if we’ve already done what he’s commanded. Oswald Chambers calls it, “…doing the task that lies nearest.” Have all the boxes been checked? Is there one more thing we have yet to do? Something that may be lying far back in the closet gathering dust?
A practical reminder for those times when we may feel a bit heavy in our spirits or tempted with depression or lacking understanding is to get moving. Obey the light that is already in us. God will bring more light (understanding) if we walk in the light that’s already been provided. There’s no need to ever fall prey to doldrums as God’s children. We just get up and start moving.
In our office we have a little reminder: Did you hear about the man who started walking? Well, well, well.
Father, we like new things, new thoughts, new revelations. Give us a will to be obedient to those commands you’ve already given us knowing that understanding follows obedience. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.