Follow directions the first time given.
That was one of my “Classroom Rules” when I was a teacher. And I find myself saying it A LOT as a parent, too. I always emphasize the last part when I say it. Don’t just do what I say eventually. Do it “THE FIRST TIME YOU’RE TOLD!”
Well, I was recently convicted just as soon as the words came out of my mouth. I know how frustrating it is as a parent to give directions to a child and then watch them ignore me. And ignore me. And ignore me again. It dawned on me that God gives us directions all the time through His Holy Spirit. How often do I do it right away? How often do I ignore it? How frustrating it must be for Him.
Obedience is something that I’ve struggled with quite a bit in my spiritual journey. I learned as a young child that life was easier if I did what my parents told me to do right away. So why, then, do I feel God telling me to send a gift card to someone or deliver a gift to a neighbor who just lost a loved one, but delay and eventually talk myself out of it? Why is it so hard for me to let go of control when I know that God is asking me to trust Him and surrender?
Do you think of the word, “obey,” in a negative connotation? If you grew up in a really strict home or even a strict/religious church, that word may make you shudder. For me, with all of my pride issues, I think I felt threatened by it for a lot of years. Our culture really pressures us to “take control of your life,” and “listen to your heart.” Obey yourself? Obey your feelings? Hmm… I tried that for a long, long time. And guess what friends, it got me absolutely nowhere. I was constantly struggling to regain control and determine what was best for my life on my own power.
What does that look like for you? For some of us, it can be when we are sad/discouraged/hurt, etc. and we hear “that voice” telling us to ____ and we’ll feel better. It’s ok to ____ because we deserve it. I’ll start my diet/workout/Bible reading/devotional time/tithing, etc. on Monday/next year/when I get ____.
And let me throw this out there too: Obedience isn’t always doing something that God is nudging you to do. It can also be to stop doing something that does not glorify Him. Is there something you’re doing/reading/watching/saying/listening to that you’ve had a second thought about? Did you ignore that thought or excuse it away? God won’t shame us—that’s from Satan. But God will use His Holy Spirit to convict us. And if our viewpoint of God is messed up, we’ll confuse that convicted feeling with shame. We’ll assume God just doesn’t want us to be happy. But God wants us to obey because He’s our Father and ultimately knows what’s best for us and those around us.
Please, if you feel that way, let me share what I’ve learned! Check this out:
Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” John 14:23
I’m thankful for a message I heard from my pastor about this verse in my first Freedom group. It changed everything for me! Let me see if I can reiterate it for you.
It’s easy to misconstrue that message to think that you have to be perfect in order for God to love us. (If you love me, then you better prove it by doing what I say!) But! That is SO wrong! Look at it from a different angle: Think about someone that you love more than anyone or anything. How much do you love that person? If that person asked you for help, would you not go out of your way to help him or her? Would you desire deep down in your heart to please that person and make him or her happy? THAT is what Jesus is saying here. If you love me, then it’s so easy to obey and you long to do what I say. If you love me, then my Father will love you too. We will always be with you.
So, as I try to get better at discerning the voice of God and weeding out the shouting of the world, I pray that God will give me wisdom to know when he’s giving me directions, and faith to act in complete obedience to Him. It’s still a struggle, but, recently I learned that confessing these things with friends who also love the Lord will help!
I shared with my small group ladies that I felt God telling me to take something to a neighbor who lost her mother. But then I listened to “that other voice” and talked myself out of it. I was frustrated with myself, especially after telling my daughter to follow directions the first time given! So that night at group, one of the ladies brought homemade cookies and was wrapping up the leftovers to take back home. And then Olivia (one of our Truth and Transformation writers) felt compelled to say, “You should take those to your neighbor!” So I did! And how delightful it was to finally obey, even if I did need some help from friends to figure out how to do it. I’m so grateful that Olivia followed directions the first time given—to recommend the cookies as a gift to my neighbor.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16
Loving Father, thank you for not reprimanding me for not following directions the first time given. Thank you so much for your mercy and grace and forgiveness. And thank you for sweet friends who heed your directions and help me to get back on track. I love you, Lord, and it is my deepest desire to obey you. I trust that your directions and guidance are best and that your plans for me are great. I trust that your directions meant to keep me in alignment with my assignment and guide my ways. Thank you for your Holy Spirit inside of me. Please help me to follow directions the first time given. In Jesus’ mighty name, AMEN!
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