Monday, January 11, 2016

Pond Water

     So, I have started out this year reading the devotional "My Utmost for His Highest".  This is a fairly famous series of daily devotions written by Oswald Chambers.  While familiar with the book, I hadn't really taken time to use it as a devotional on a personal basis.  

     It has been very good so far.  What struck me the most is that although the devotionals themselves are not long in content, they have so much in them to think about.  

     *Literary side note: It seems that writings from years ago have so much more rich vocabulary than most of the writings of today!  Authors seem to be able to write with more depth in less space.  This seems to carry through not only in the Christian realm, but also the secular authors.  Compare Sherlock Holmes with a current mystery story.  Or Jane Austen with a current romance novelist.  The story just seems  to have more depth; not only is the vocabulary richer, but the characters seem to have more depth. *end literary side note*

     The devotional today was titled "What My Obedience to God Costs Other People".  I have never really thought about how my personal obedience to God has the possibility to cost other people.  Obviously, the converse is true -- my disobedience can cost other people.  This is the aspect that most of us understand.  Our disobedience can cause others to stumble in their walk with Christ.  This is a simple concept.  

    How does our obedience to Christ cost other people?  Mr. Chambers brings out the fact that others will be affected.  "If we obey God it will mean that other people's plans are upset, and they will gibe us with it --'You call this Christianity?' We can prevent the suffering; but if we are going to obey God, we must not prevent it, we must let the cost be paid."  In other words, our obedience to Christ will be inconvenient for others.  And we must not let our desire to not be an inconvenience stand in the way of our obedience.

    This essay also contains this quote, which I found very powerful: "Stagnation in spiritual life comes when we say we will bear the whole thing ourselves."  To me, in the context of this essay, what this is saying is that we will become stagnant in our walk of faith if we try prevent our spirituality and obedience from affecting others.  By trying not to be an "offense" to others, we will actually become flat, lifeless Christians ourselves.  In the same way pond water becomes stagnant if it does not have some amount of outflow, we as Christians will become less if our obedience does not have an affect on others.  If we only focus on our walk as it affects us, we will be less powerful for the kingdom of Christ.  

     He ends the devotional by saying "We have simply to obey and to leave all consequences with HIm."  Is this what I do?  Do I first think of obedience and what it means to God?  Or do I spend time thinking "Well, if I obey God in this area, this person will be will be affected this way, and I don't want them to be offended at me?"  If God is calling me to a higher standard in my life, should I really hesitate in my obedience just because I don't want my relationship with someone to change?  

     The last sentence of the devotional states, "Beware of the inclination to dictate to God as to what you will allow to happen if you obey Him." This is so true!  How often do I allow my obedience to God to be contingent on some preconceived plan of my own?  "I will obey if..."  This is pride in our own independence, thinking we can choose the terms of our obedience to God.  Think how you would feel as a parent if your child said, "Well, Mom, I will obey you in this, but I expect to you to do this in return."  Umm, no!  Then why do we think we can dictate to God the terms of our own obedience?

     We spend a good portion of our children's early developmental stages teaching the concept of obedience.  This can take many forms, from "Don't touch the stove" to "Pick up your toys," but it all boils down to a very simple concept -- Do what you are told.  Why do we spend all those minutes instructing in this area?  Yes, to keep them safe and help them become someone the rest of the world can stand to be around, but those are only the surface reasons.  The most important reason is because we want them to have a lifetime habit of obeying their authority.  If they can learn to obey mom and dad, then obeying God is the next natural step.  This is the end result of what we are trying to accomplish.  

     But we can't just teach this; we have to live it.  And we have to live it in such a way that we are not concerned about how our obedience may affect another.  We would find it a little strange if our child offered the fact that they were afraid of offending their sibling as a reason for their disobedience!  So let's not let our lives become pond water.  Don't stagnate in your spiritual walk.  Let the blessing of being obedient to God flow through you and make a difference in the lives of those around you! 


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