Obedience That Reveals God’s Will

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How often do we pray and ask God specific questions about our lives? Questions like, where should I live? What degree do I pursue? Is now the best time for me to move? Should I take this job offer? Who should I date? The answers to these questions are the ins and outs of our daily lives. They dictate how we will spend much of our time and days. It would make sense then, that we ask God to direct and guide us, waiting for a nudge one way or the other.

However, as I was reminded by a sermon at my church a few weeks ago, before we can discern God’s will for our personal lives (and the answers to questions like these), two other things must be going on. One, we must have a relationship with God through Jesus, and two, we must be actively maturing in our faith. Philippians chapter 3, verse 16 says, “Let us live up to what we have already attained.” As Christians, our role doesn’t stop after asking Jesus to be our Savior. We are to then grow spiritually, but we can’t do that if we aren’t being obedient. 

I know, I know. No one likes this word. Obedient. We associate it with other words like dependence, restraint or constraint. Yet Scripture tells us that obedience is what we are called to (Romans 1:5), that it’s beautifully liberating (2 Corinthians 3:17), and that it’s the path to our reward (Philippians 3:20). Being obedient to God’s commands goes against practically everything our culture tells us, but it’s what we are called to do – always (Deuteronomy 11:1). Jesus tells us in John chapter 14, verse 15 that if we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments, and James chapter 2, verses 14-26 elaborates on the importance of growing spiritually.

Our ability to discern God’s will for our personal lives will be hindered, however, if we aren’t being obedient. Romans chapter 12, verse 2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The truth is, whether we like it or not, this verse doesn’t say that even if we’re living in the ways of the world, we’ll still be able to tell God’s will for our lives. If we choose to be more like the world than like Christ, then we, in turn, wander from Christ. This is an implicative conditional sentence, meaning, if one thing happens, then so does another. When this wandering happens, it gets hard to tell which way God wants us to go. Are we doing what He wants or just following our own desires?

But the good news is that the same is true of the opposite. If we choose to be more like Christ, then we are able to know His good, pleasing and perfect will.

This is why it’s so important to not only ask Jesus to be our Savior but to continue to grow in faith, to mature spiritually. The beautiful thing is that when we make the decision to press in wholeheartedly, God will speak to us – and we can trust this truth! Isaiah chapter 30, verse 21 says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Then in the book of John, Jesus tells us, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me […] My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (10: 14, 27). Sometimes God speaks through the urging of the Holy Spirit and other times in the wise counsel of those we trust. Regardless of how He’ll go about doing it, the point is, He will.

When we grow, ask, and listen, we must be prepared to hear from God. And one more decision awaits: will we obey His answer to us?

If you know you haven’t been obedient, you can ask God to redeem you and then walk in obedience. If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to be obedient to God’s commands when doing so is hard, be encouraged. Not only are you living how God called you to live, you’re being a light to others when you may not even know it.

Let us live up to (Philippians 3:10) the grace by which we are saved (Ephesians 8:9).

 

 

Why We Should Pay More Attention to Quiet Leaders

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Photo by Alyssa Joy Photography | website | Instagram 

This post first appeared in Grit and Virtue.

Humility is rare. Much of the reason humility is quite so sparse is because it has never really been a value that has been popularized – ever. Today’s society values individualism, materialism, wealth, celebrity, and competition, just to name a few. The idea of being humble flies in the face of most of what our culture tells us to pursue. But God instructs us over and over to be humble.

Interestingly enough, meshing humbleness and leadership together can get pretty tricky. We often look to those in prominent leadership positions to use as guides by which to model ourselves. This is natural because these are the people easiest to see. Take for instance, pacers. In half and full marathons, pacers are the runners carrying long, pencil-thin sticks with a sign attached at the top which reads a particular time, such as 2:30 or 1:45. If you stay with the pacer of the time indicated on his/her sign, you too will arrive at the finish line in that amount of time. Similarly, in life, we expect the same result. This is why choosing our role models is so very important.

The Bible lays out some pretty specific guidelines for leaders, and these guidelines, in turn, provide a clear picture of the person we should choose as our real-life role models. In 1 Peter chapter 5, verse 2, Peter says to “watch over [your flock] not because you have to but because you want to. For this is how God would want it not because you’re being compensated somehow but because you are eager to watch over them.” Peter likely knew that compensation is often fuel for pride, humility’s foil. Compensation can take many forms. Payment may come in the form of money, but it may also come in the form of praise. This is where we must be careful in choosing who we look to as a leader. Is this person seeking praise and adoration? Or is this person leading because their heart is in the right place?

Sometimes the people we can learn from best are not those that are in the most obvious of leadership positions. If you look hard enough, you can find people who lead in silence. You have to intentionally keep an eye out for these folks because they don’t demand attention. These people are quiet, but they are doing a knockout job. Most of the time, these silent leaders go unnoticed, but they should be the ones that we pay most attention to. They’re often just doing their own thing, minding their own business, and focusing on their job. These silent leaders are not interested in compensation, praise, or adoration. Their intentions are true and virtuous.

Remember our pacer? Pacers are marked because of the sticks/signs they carry, but the runner next to them might maintain the pace the entire race just as well. This runner is not as easy to pick out because he/she has no pacing sign, but he/she is just as talented – if not more so – than the pacer.

 Often, silent leaders are humble but have great talent. This humility is a value that God calls us to pursue. These silent leaders have embraced a very difficult command, one that goes very much against how our culture tells us to act. Paul tells the Philippians that if they have any tenderness and compassion (or as the Message translation says, “if you have a heart, if you care”), give him joy by having the same love and being of one mind. Then he says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Not only are we to not be selfish or vain, we are also called to value others about ourselves. It’s easier to strive to humble if you choose a role model that is also.

We must intentionally choose humility to be one of our core values, and we should choose models that practice this value so that we too might do so. The Bible tells us in multiple places that “God opposes the proud but offers grace to the humble.” (See 1 Peter 5:5, James 4:6, or Proverbs 3:34.) Jesus – our most important role model – came as a carpenter, not as a king on a throne. Jesus was the most humble of leaders, and we should always follow His model.

 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Philippians 2:5-7

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Practical Lessons from Romeo and Juliet: Part II

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Hand-lettering // Hope Hickman @sincerelyhope.designs

I realized after writing this piece that it was quite long, so I decided to break it into two parts. In Part I, I talked about four lessons we can still learn from Romeo and Juliet. I also did a bit of a refresher on the play. 😉 If you missed Part I and would also like a recap of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, you can find it here.

I love when literature becomes practical, when academia meets real life. William Shakespeare might have lived in the 16th century, but we’re still seeing these issues today. Learning from the past sure does help better our future. Here are four more lessons for us to keep in mind in the 21st century.

Listen to the people who care about you.

The Nurse helped raise Juliet, and Friar Laurence is a dear friend and advisor to Romeo. Initially, the Nurse and the Friar provide some solid advice to Romeo and Juliet. The Nurse wants to make sure Juliet is truly in love (and that Romeo does indeed return her love). Similarly, Friar Laurence is Romeo’s confidant, and he wants the best for him. The Friar cautions Romeo several times. Yet Romeo and Juliet disregard their advice and press forward with their desires. Yes, Romeo and Juliet are grown-ish (for their time period), but true maturity comes when you seek trusted council for your future. If Romeo and Juliet had taken Friar Laurence’s advice to slow down, would they have had to split up? No way. In fact, things probably would have turned out better for them. Granted, anything would have been better than the end they came to.

Talk about your feelings.

Romeo and Juliet talk about their feelings with each other, but they never express them to their families. They should have! Imagine how different things would have been. Rather than flipping out, Romeo and Juliet could have had a sit down conversation with their parents. I’m sure their parents would have been angry initially, but they would have likely come to understand. While you should be both tactful and mindful not to hurt others’ feelings, you should be able to express how you feel. If something is bothering you, gently express that to the person you love, whether that’s a significant other, family member, or friend. If they truly love you, they’ll be willing to hear you out and, most importantly, work something out.

Communicate your plans.

This one isn’t technically Romeo and Juliet’s fault. They had some communication problems because they were towns away and didn’t have iPhones, not because they were unwilling to work with each other because they disagreed on a plan. But regardless, Romeo didn’t get the message that Juliet was faking her own death, and, well, you know the rest. Communication is key to any good relationship. The way that communication is expressed is also very important. Be careful to be patient and gentle – and also expect that in return. Everyone deserves such.

Realize your choices affect everyone else’s lives.

Romeo and Juliet are quite selfish in their love. They don’t take their families or friends into consideration at all. We live by the choices we make – or, in Romeo and Juliet’s case, die by them. But it’s important to remember that everyone else lives with them as well. We should always be mindful of caring for those around us in our decision making. And most importantly, if you find yourself not having cared how your choices affect others around you, it’s never too late to start.

 

Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.
Friar Laurence, Romeo and Juliet Act II, scene iii

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