There is a story of the mother who shouted up the stairs for her son to come for dinner. There was no response. So she shouted again. Again, no response. She shouted a third time with anger in her voice, and the son came running down the stairs. When asked why he did not respond he said “I didn’t hear you the first two times.” It was not that he did not hear, just that he did not obey. We want to consider obedience in our thoughts today. Are we ignoring God’s voice which comes to us through His Word and His Spirit? We need to be a people that desire to obey God’s leading.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
“But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:28).
The Bible clearly lists obedience as a vital part of the Christian’s walk with the Lord. Without a proper understanding of obedience, a Christian young person will fail in his youth, but will also develop bad habits for the remaining life here on this earth. As we grow older, obedience does not leave in importance. It is still a vital part of the Christian life. (Obedience: The Key to Christian Living by David Sorensen, p.3-4)
Consider the following statement from A. W. Tozer, “Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late—and how little revival resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work. To pray for revival while ignoring the plain precept laid down in Scripture is to waste a lot of words and get nothing for the trouble. Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience.”
What Is Obedience?
Let’s define obedience both in the aspect of dictionary definition and then a Biblical definition.
Webster’s 1828 dictionary definition
OBEY, verb transitive [Latin obedio; Gr.] To comply with the commands, orders, or instructions of a superior, or with the requirements of law, moral, political or municipal; to do that which is commanded or required; to forbear doing that which is prohibited.
The Biblical Concept of Obedience
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
“If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).
Looking at both the dictionary definition and some of the Biblical references, we can draw some important conclusions about obedience in a young person’s life.
- Obedience can be defined as following commands from someone superior to you. This can be a parent or an authority that parents have put over the youth such as a babysitter, a teacher, or a coach. The pastor falls into a unique category because families are members of a church. The pastor needs not to undermine parental authority, but his job is to help parents lead in their homes. This leading and guiding occurs through preaching and teaching. Because God ordained this, we don’t have to worry about teenagers “pitting” their pastor against the parent. This would be the same as a young person “pitting” one parent against the other. Both have authority, and the teenager is wrong in “pitting” authority to get an advantage in their way of doing things or in getting away with sin.
- There is authority beyond just parental authority. Adults have God-given authority such as employers, spiritual leaders, and governmental authority. It is not right to rebel against authority. It is imperative to lead our young people in good relationships with the authority that is around us. There are ways and times to “resist” authority, but this must be approached with much caution, prayer, and fasting. Breaking down authority will have grave consequences for our younger generation.
- Submission or surrender is a very important aspect of obedience. The devil will tell a person that they are weak by surrendering or submitting to authority. The devil will tell them that they should do their own thing and go their own way. In reality, they are submitting to the flesh and the devil. This is still yielding or submitting. It is surrendering to that which is wrong. This submission is the first step in the direction you will go. Many have grown up wrestling in our academy or have watched it and have an understanding of some of the techniques. Wrestling uses some aspect of this concept; the wrestler is executing moves to force his opponent to go in a certain direction. He desires submission. Submission to God and His authority will help us to head in the right direction of obedience.
- Obedience to God is an expression of love for Him. This is revealed in John, Peter and I John. All of these texts indicate that our love for God will be expressed by us doing what He says. We cannot say that we love God and then do our own desires which will be contrary to the Lord.
Why Is Obedience Important?
First, obedience is important because it is commanded in Scripture. We listed numerous Scriptures that show clearly that God is concerned with obedience. There is a well-known story in the life of King Saul. He was told to utterly destroy the Amalekites. King Saul had a different idea of what “utterly” meant. Most can recall the prophet Samuel coming to King Saul and then remember the well-known verses.
“And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” (I Samuel 15:13-14).
“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (I Samuel 15:22-23).
Obedience is a very important attribute for a believer. It is not a light thing to let a command of the Lord go undone. Obedience is also important because it reveals that we truly love the Lord. Love is shown by actions. Words are cheap, but actions reveal the desires of the heart.
Love and Actions
I love Thee, I love Thee
and that Thou doest know;
But how much I love Thee,
my actions will show.
When Do I Stop Obeying?
This may seem like a silly question, but many children and young people dream of the day that they will be “adults” so that they “don’t have to obey NOBODY!” This however is not reality. The Bible clearly defines other authority besides just parental authority. There is governmental authority. The Bible tells us in Romans 13 that we are to be subject to those higher powers. In Hebrews 13, we are told as believers that there are pastors given to a church that watch over the souls of its members. We see also in Romans 12 and in Ephesians 5 that there is submissiveness that is to be common among all Christians. The “ladder climbing” and “stepping-on” attitude that permeates the world is to not be evident in a believer’s life. Christian love is that which makes the world see that God has saved and made believers different according to John 13.
Arabian horses go through rigorous training in the deserts of the Middle East. The trainers require absolute obedience from the horses and test them to see if they are completely trained. The final test is almost beyond the endurance of any living thing. The trainers force the horses to go without water for many days. Then he turns them loose and, of course, they start running toward the water, but just as they get to the edge, ready to plunge in and drink, the trainer blows his whistle. The horses who have been completely trained and who have learned perfect obedience stop. They turn around and come pacing back to the trainer. They stand there quivering, wanting water, but they wait in perfect obedience. When the trainer is sure that he has their obedience, he gives them a signal to go back to drink. We must consent to God’s training and obey Him.