Messy Obedience

to our seafarers,

Often when we think of heartache, we associate it with disobedience. You do something wrong or off course, and you could end up with some not so pretty results and consequences. While this is true, what I am talking about today is the heartache associated with actually being obedient. We often think that being obedient will mean things will be easier, more put together, and result in feelings of joy and contentment as we walk in the way that we know Christ has called us. But folks, that isn’t always true. Obedience can be messy. Obedience can be frustrating. Obedience can breed deep heartache. It is always worth it, but it is not always easy. The saying is true that the rainbow is on the other side of the rain, and you have to walk through the storm to get there and breathe in its beauty and promise.

I have had my share fair of seasons of messy obedience. I kicked, fought, and grumbled my way through them. I was not happy about it, and my attitude showed it. The thing is, if God purposes something to happen, nothing we can do (or not do) will stop His plans and purposes from being fulfilled. The course may look different when we choose to make it hard for Him, but the end result WILL come to pass. Take our good friend Jonah, for example. God clearly instructed him as to what He wanted him to do and how he wanted him to do it. Jonah, however, had his own ideas of how to get to the end result—short cuts. What could go wrong, right? Days in the belly of an enormous and likely smelly fish is what happened! God spoke to Jonah telling him to go to Ninevah and preach to the people there, but Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed to Tarshish instead (likely fearing what may become of him by boldly sharing his faith in such a public manner). Jonah had to make the sacrifice of being tossed into the sea in order to save the other men aboard the ship. He ended up being swallowed by the fish and remained there for three days and three nights, until the fish vomited Jonah up on the shore (talk about messy … how would you think he looked and smelled after being in those circumstances for three days and nights?). Four chapters, 47 verses. That is the book of Jonah. The story is small, but the message is pivotal.

No matter how Jonah tried to pave his own course, the Lord lovingly brought him back around time and again as a way of protecting and refining Jonah. He showed him grace and favor and protected him in the midst of his sin and mistakes. In the end, Jonah learned and grew and God’s plan still was fulfilled. We may try to plan our own steps but that will NEVER stop God from having the final say. The thing is … God is a flawlessly faithful Father. He loves and pursues us to greater depths than we could ever dream. He longs for us to listen to Him and obey, because His course is the one of great reward and heavenly treasure. He does not call us to easy obedience, clean obedience or joyful obedience. He does call us to genuine obedience and trusting obedience though. We don’t always know how the mess will turn out when we say yes to God, especially when the outcome is unknown and scary—but we do know that we serve a God who sees the beginning, middle, AND the end of the story. In knowing this we can trust that He intends situations and circumstances for our good, and He will never ask us to do anything that He doesn’t already know has a beautiful and blessed reward waiting on the other side of it. Let life get messy by saying “YES!” to Jesus, and watch God bring glory and grace and purpose out of that mess. As only He can.

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