If you’re anything like me, you like to make plans. You appreciate being organized and knowing what is ahead, and you love to be prepared. Maybe you’re the opposite and prefer to go with the flow, tackle what comes and enjoy the ride along the way. Regardless of which side you fall on, we can all easily be led more by things of the world than things of God. It isn’t always obvious, either. In fact, usually, it begins with subtle things and before you know it your focus is off in left field, God’s desired path for you is out of your sight, and you are left feeling stressed and defeated. Intentionally seeking what is pleasing to God helps to keep your focus on His desires for you. But how do we know what is pleasing to God, and how do we keep our focus on Him and not the distractions surrounding us?
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.
The world is full of distractions. There are temptations and shiny new things all over the place. Look to the right and your neighbor seems to have greener grass and a newer car. Look to the left and there’s a shop with those new shoes you really want, but there’s just not enough after paying that pile of bills. Look behind you and there are people that look like they are having such a great time doing things you know you shouldn’t do, but they just look like they are having so much fun. Opening Twitter may seem a lot more appealing than opening your Bible right now.
It is important that we do not grow attached to things of the world or let them distract us. By being content with what we have, where we are, and what God calls us to we can find rest in God’s design and desires for our lives, and we can confidently do what is pleasing to God.
9 For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,[a]10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you[b] to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.
We need to constantly, daily check our hearts and align our intentions with God’s design. Our life exposes our desires. If we are truly intent on honoring God, it will be evident in the way we live and the fruit we bear. If we are not, this will also be evident.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.[a]
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
We need to filter all things through the Word of God in order to test what is pleasing to God – don’t test something you think might be wrong – test what is good. Bring it to scripture and to God in prayer, and lean on the promptings and reminders of God’s Holy Spirit. Then, we must obey the wisdom God reveals to us through His Word and Spirit.
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light[a] consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth— 10 testing what is pleasing to the Lord.11 Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.
Do you feel a tug to help someone but are not sure God is telling you to? Test that.
Think maybe you should invite that friend to church but you are worried the timing isn’t good or they’ll say no? Test that.
Have an opportunity to share your faith with someone in your favorite game, at the grocery store, at a party, at work, at Thanksgiving dinner? Test that.
Did someone make you angry, but you could forgive them and show grace? Test that.
Have an opportunity to serve someone just cuz? Test that.
8 Finally[a] brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.
Satan is absolutely going to whisper to you, discourage you, tug you the other direction, convince you to stay where you are more comfortable, where it feels more convenient, that you will have another opportunity later, that someone else will come along and do that instead, that someone else is better suited to the task… the list of lies and discouragement goes on and on, and we latch on to these excuses far too easily. What we need to do, though, is do what is pleasing to the Lord, not what is convenient or comfortable for us. Don’t let Satan throw you off and steer you away from God’s desires for you. Stay watchful, diligent, and constant in your loving obedience to the Lord, doing what is pleasing to Him above all else.
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
We test by doing something, not by staying still and silent when it is time to act. Testing doesn’t mean we just wait around for something to happen – there is a time for waiting, and there is a time to act. Test what is good by DOING what is good, doing what scripture says is pleasing to God.
If you are doing what is pleasing to God (with the right heart and intention), you will please God. If you test what is pleasing to God by doing nothing, you will never know, and you will miss opportunities to please God. If you test by doing what is likely or clearly unpleasing to God (again filtering through scripture), you are not testing what is pleasing – you are making an excuse to do what you want even though you know it isn’t what God wants. We must seek to learn what is pleasing to God, and then actively apply this wisdom and guidance to our lives.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.[a]2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
What do you need to correct in your life right now? Are your intentions out of alignment with God’s desires? Are you resting in what is pleasing to you over what is pleasing to God? What steps should you take to get right with God and do what is truly pleasing to Him and not the world?
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
No matter how rocky my family relationships were, they were always the most important thing in my life. I sacrificed much for them and did whatever I could to get their approval for years. If I had read Luke 14:26 while I was growing up I would have completely missed the point. At the stage in my life that I am now, all purely by the grace of God, I have a godly husband and child, have forgiven, am healing broken relationships with my family, and have a growing relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ. I can now better understand what Jesus is saying when He tells says to hate your family.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.
When I first became a follower of Jesus I had no one in my life that understood, and most people discouraged me from going down this path at all. I was often mocked for my faith, my shortcomings were hung over me, and I was treated as though I could never be different, that my faith was a joke, and that it was for no one’s good. I lost my friends, I grew distant from my family, and I took time to focus on my relationship with God, my understanding of His Word, and being filled with the strength I needed to stand firm.
Luke 14 came to me again after spending some time with my dad recently, after not seeing him for around two years. In all that time I’d thought I was going to be separated from them forever. I thought I would never have a good relationship with my family. No matter how broken and hurtful my relationships were with my family, I have always deeply desired to be in a relationship with as much of my family as possible. I am big on family and this separation ate at me. I had made peace with being separated from them, though, because I knew God had called me to withdraw and I trusted His plan, even if it hurt and didn’t make sense to me at the time.
God removes distractions to bring our focus to Him
Sometimes God will call us away from relationships in order to rightly align our hearts to Him. In Luke 14:26 Jesus is telling us that we should love Him so much that it would seem in comparison that we hate our own family. He is not saying to actually hate your family but to put obedience to and love for Him first no matter the cost. He is telling us that there is a cost to following Him and that we must be willing to put His will and instruction first in our lives at all times, no matter what that cost is, even unto our own lives.
To follow Christ we must to be willing to give our full life to Him
I experienced this on a bit of an extreme level over the last several years. After a while, I was willing to give up these relationships with my family in order to honor and obey God. In this willingness to obediently sacrifice these relationships, God changed my heart and my priorities. I no longer live to serve other’s expectations or desires for me or fulfill the labels people have given me all my life. I am firmly planted as a Child of God, and His will is the only one I strive to follow. This has brought me peace, joy, and great humility. God has been healing me and teaching me His truth, love, and kindness.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has[a] come!
The last conversation I had with my family was that of forgiveness, love, and renewal. God has changed my heart, aligning my life and heart with Him, so that now I can be effective in all the work He has created for me to do for His glory, which includes being an example to my family. I prayed for them the whole time of separation, and I am seeing that God has been working in them as well. We are all works in progress, and He is always working in all of us whether we recognize it or not.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
There are many callings a follower of Christ may have in their life, but one, in particular, is shared between us all. This shared calling is so important, so special that we should all long to band together to tackle it with the utmost importance in our lives, and the utmost care to do it properly. We should have a true desire to grow in our wisdom and faith in order to ensure we’re doing the best job we can and utilizing every bit of resource and knowledge available to us. We should be so filled with gratitude, awe, and unexplainable love that we can’t help but press forward in this calling no matter what. This is the way each follower of Christ should approach obedience to the will of God.
“But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
The unfortunate truth is that we live in a fallen, broken, sinful world that is filled with temptation at every turn. This sinful lawlessness is deceptive yet alluring to our humanness. This sin separates us from God, but because of sin God sent Jesus Christ to be the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of all mankind allowing those who choose to accept Him as their sacrifice to come into a relationship with God and no longer be separated from Him.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
And said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
God calls on us to come to Him with a repentant heart and to atone, or be reconciled to God, through the forgiveness of our sins. This forgiveness is made available through accepting salvation offered by the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we come to God in love, obediently bringing our sins to Him for forgiveness with a truly repentant heart, desiring to be in a right relationship with Him, and accept Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, we are then justified by faith, which comes from a heart of submissive obedience to the Lord.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Obedience to God also includes the constant and mindful study of His Word. It is through His Word that we find help in times of trouble and encouragement when we are feeling low. His Word is alive and active, teaching, correcting, and speaking to us.
The Holy Spirit promises to bring to memory the lessons and messages we are taught and to guide our lives to be in obedience to God but we must learn to listen to Him. Learning to turn aside from our own understanding and lean into God to provide for all our needs is an act of obedience and one that strengthens our relationship with Him as well as causing our faith to grow exponentially.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
How does my relationship with God grow with my obedience?
Our relationship with God grows as we learn to come to Him in all things, through prayer, and work to align our hearts with His will. Scripture promises us that when we are aligned to the will of God that He will provide for the desires of our hearts. God is not a genie that we can simply ask for wishes and He will grant them. God does what He knows is best for us. While we can ask for all things, we need to understand that if God is saying no, or wait, it is because He knows what is best for us.
Learning to submit to God’s will is another form of obedience as we learn to cast aside the desires of our flesh and place God on the throne of our hearts, His rightful place. The peace that we receive is beyond human understanding, is not related to our circumstances, and can be obtained as we live in obedient faith.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Faith, hope, and love are at the heart of Christian values. We receive them from God and are called to continue to live in obedient faith by sharing God’s truth and blessings with the world.
Our relationship with God begins with faith, which helps us to recognize that we are freed from the sins of our past by Christ’s death and resurrection. Hope grows as we learn more about God’s love for us, that He has promised to be with us in all things, and that this life is not all there is.
We can rejoice in the fact that no matter the trials that come, nothing can separate us from the love of God when we place our faith and hope in Him. Jesus provided us with the greatest commandments of all time; the first is to love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength. The second is to love others as Christ has loved us.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Developing and growing our faith is an exercise of obedience that God calls for from all those who are known by His name. We must learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and to respond to the promptings that He provides which requires effort and intent. A personal relationship with God, through Christ our Savior, facilitated through the Holy Spirit is the only way in which we grow in obedience as faith is obtained through willful submission to God’s will.
Obedience is a personal choice
We cannot find obedience through the faith of our parents, our friends, or our church leaders. Faithful obedience is developed only through a willing heart and spirit to do as God commands. Faithful obedience is like a child submitting to the discipline of his father, not the actions of a slave submitting to his master. A slave does not know the coming and goings of his master nor does he understand the methods by which his master conducts his business.
When we submit to Christ, we are adopted into the family of God and become His children. God disciplines those He loves and when we accept that discipline with a willing heart we learn to be obedient in conforming to His will and are blessed. We will be disciplined in order to help us conform to the will of God and obtain His blessings, and we also will undergo trials and suffering that can test and grow our faith and obedience to His will.
Rejoicing in our sufferings does not mean that we celebrate the trials but rather that we can place our faith and hope in a saving God, one who promises to never leave or forsake us when we follow His commandments with obedience and trust. We can find hope in that God works all things to His glory and for those who love Him.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Endurance, or “perseverance”, is the ability to continue on without giving up, remaining obedient to the call and command of our loving Heavenly Father. It does not mean that life will be trouble-free, but that through our obedient faith in God, He will continue to strengthen us for the trials we will face.
God is using the trials and attacks that we face in this life to create a stronger faith within us which deepens our relationship with Him and instills an even greater sense of hope for the future. The more we submit to Him and His will in faith and love, the deeper He can work within us.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Character, also translated as “proof”, is used in the concept of the purification of metal. As the metal is heated, the impurities found within are brought to the surface and cast off causing the metal to become stronger. Self-discipline is necessary for perseverance, which leads to a change in habits, a transformation of character, and becoming more Christ-like.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Through the Holy Spirit, we are intimately connected with God at all times, we can receive revelation and guidance directly from Him through prayer and the reading of His Word. Prayer is our personal communication with God and through the Holy Spirit, we can receive revelation and understanding of God’s desires and will for our lives.
When we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Redeemer, the Holy Spirit comes upon us to dwell in us, guiding and helping us throughout our life. When we don’t know what to pray for, or we lack the words to express ourselves, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with wordless groanings. Through the Holy Spirit, we are convicted of our sins, allowing for us to humble ourselves before Him and seek forgiveness.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
According to God’s plan, in His scheduled time Christ came, died, and was resurrected so that all people may be saved and reconciled to Him. Christ died for all people, but in order to receive that salvation, we must faithfully accept His sacrifice for our sins out of love and obedience to Him, fully intent on turning from our life of sin into the new life He gives us in Him.
Through faith in Christ, being justified before God, we are saved from the wrath of God. Jesus stepped in and took the punishment that we should have received. Through accepting the resurrection of Christ, we are also raised again – saved from the eternal separation from God that sin requires. Just as surely as Christ took our punishment, He has secured our future in heaven with God if we choose to accept Him in faith, love, and obedience to Him.
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Jesus taught us through a parable just how our obedient faith works. In this parable, Jesus is the Vine and God the Father is the gardener. We become the branches that the gardener prunes in and out of season, preparing us to bear more fruit in abundance. We cannot bear fruit if we are not connected to the vine and branches, and those that do not produce good fruit are cut off and cast into the fire. Jesus concludes that when we keep His commandments the fruits of the Spirit will become evident in our lives. We are not saved because of our works, but our works are evidence of our saving faith and obedience to Him.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
We live in a world that sees being obedient as being dominated and giving someone control over us. Our culture screams that obedience takes away freedoms and pours hate and intolerance into our world. The world teaches us that we should create our own destiny while God offers us the Way to a better destiny – through obedience to Him. There’s a difference between obedience to the world and obedience to the Word, and obedience to the Word always leads us to a better destiny.
God loves us so much that He paid the ultimate price, sacrificing His Son on the cross so that we may be justified and come into a right standing with Him through the salvation and acceptance of Jesus. We are so deeply loved that His blood was shed so that we could come into relationship with Him, and receive all that He wants to bless us with, and all that He promises us.
Obedience is how we show our love and gratitude to God as we are sanctified, growing spiritually, purified of sin, and learning to live more like His son who sacrificed Himself for our sake. When we express our love for our Father in Heaven this way, He fills us up with His Spirit, who is our helper as we learn to obey God’s commands and keep His Word.
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
It is easy to cling to this selfish, dark, broken world. We’re seeing intense examples right now as society rips itself apart over the things we cannot have or do while this pandemic rages. We had grown so comfortable day-to-day and now God is reminding us that He is the one who gives and the one who takes away. When He is put first, above the world, above fleshly desires, above people, we open the door for Him to bless us. When we trust Him to provide all we need we will see Him show up time and again. We must cling to the provisions of the Lord and trust His promises. If He calls you to it, He’ll provide for you through it. Trust God over people, money, and things. He will never fail you, but the world always will because He is the only one in control and He provides the only Way to eternity, salvation and freedom. He provides out of love, and we are called to obey Him out of love.
‘Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’
Through various seasons and trials of our lives we will stray from His Word and commands. We will lose our passion sometimes and need to regain our craving for Him. This is not a one and done, it is a daily choice. Obeying God is strengthened through practice, through acting with intentional faith, prayer, and surrender to Him again and again. We cannot accomplish this on our own, and cannot conquer the storms of life on our own. We need to spend time with Him in prayer and in His word every single day to hear from Him more, recognize His voice better, learn about Him, apply what we learn about how we’re called to live, and become stronger in our faith and trust for Him. Faith and obedience are built through obedient perseverance which builds character that glorifies Him and habits that honor Him. His commands revive our souls, provide clarity throughout life’s circumstances, give us wisdom to live by, and His Spirit will guide and remind us along the way.
And I heard the voice of the Lord say “Whom can I send? Who will go for Us?” and I said “Here I am! Send me!”
Have a heart so filled with love for the Lord that you obey His call without worrying about the mission or the cost. Grow closer to Him through prayer, His Word, His Spirit, and His salvation. Yearn for Him in all you do, and be so filled with love for Him you develop a habit of obedience and overflow with His love into the world around you. Obedience to God is an act of love and gratitude for all He does and promises. It is a beautiful gift that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us so much He takes all of life’s burdens and provides us with all we need to survive this dark, broken, sinful world.
I am a wife, mom, writer, crafter, and above all, a Child of God. I love to study the Bible, fellowship with other Christians, and serve God. I am thrilled to invite you to join me in seeking to satisfy our thirsty souls with the Living Water of Christ, which is what Water On Thirsty Land is here to do.