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How To Obey God When It’s Costly

Moving from Microsoft Publisher ClipartCostly Obedience

Imagine Abraham, living a life of security in Ur of the Chaldeans, but knowing that God had called him to leave it all for a land he did not know.  That would have been costly.

And Abraham is not alone.  God calls all of us to obedience that’s costly, like loving our enemies, sharing the Gospel, forgiving those who hurt us, and battling sin.

So how did Abraham obey, when it was so costly?

Two Simple Words

God tells us in Hebrews 11:8 —

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.”

There’s the secret.  Abraham obeyed by faith.  So what does that mean?

If you were going to travel by bike, that means the bike is how you would travel.  The bike is what you would use in order to travel.

In the same way, if you were going to obey by faith, that means faith is how you would obey.  Faith is what you would do in order to obey.

But how does that work?

Trusting God’s Promises

Faith means trusting God’s promises — trusting all that God promises to be to us in Christ Jesus.

So if faith means trusting God’s promises, and Abraham obeyed by faith, that means Abraham obeyed by trusting God’s promises.

We can see that this is how God wanted Abraham to obey, by noticing what God says to him.  God starts with a command —

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (Gen 12:1)

But God follows this command with astonishing promises —

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:2-3)

So how did God want Abraham to obey?  Not just by focusing on the command.  Not just by saying — I’m supposed to do this.  God commands me to do this.  This is the right thing to do.

No.  God wanted Abraham to obey by faith — by trusting God’s promises.  God wanted the worth of His promises to so capture Abraham’s heart that he would want to obey.

Not Easy

But that would not have been easy.  One reason is because Abraham’s indwelling sin would urge him not to trust God.  The other is because God’s promises were future and thus unseen to Abraham.

So, like all of us, Abraham would have needed to pray and ask God to strengthen his faith (Mark 9:24). He would have known that faith comes by prayerfully hearing God’s Word (Rom 10:17).

So he would have prayed and set his heart on trusting God’s promises until the Holy Spirit strengthened his faith so he knew and felt — if I obey, God will —

  • make of me a great nation
  • bless me so I will be a blessing
  • bless those who bless me and curse those who dishonor me
  • bless all the peoples of the earth through me (my descendant — the Messiah)

Then, when Abraham trusted all that God would do for him, he would obey —

Sarah, God has told me something wonderful.

He promises that if we will go to a land He will show us, He will make of us a great nation.  He will bless us and make us blessings.  And He will bless the whole earth through us.

Let’s start packing!

Obeying By Faith

Abraham obeyed by faith — by trusting God’s promises.  But what’s shocking is that many of us try to obey without trusting God’s promises.

Here’s an example.  Most of us are familiar with the command of Col 3:23 — whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

We know that command.  We’ve tried to obey that command.

But have we obeyed that command by faith?  Do we know the promise God attaches to that command to help us obey?  If we don’t — then how can we have been obeying by faith?

So what’s the promise?  Look at the whole passage —

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  (Col 3:23-24)

Did you notice HOW we are to obey?  It’s by knowing — by trusting — that from the Lord we will receive the inheritance as our reward.

But don’t misunderstand this reward.  It’s not health or wealth.  Paul calls it “the inheritance,” which means it’s more joy in God’s presence forever.

And it’s not earned or deserved.  The only reason God can reward sinful people like us is because Jesus paid for our sins.  So because of Jesus’ death on the Cross, God mercifully promises to reward our undeserving work with more of His presence forever.

So God does not just want us to work heartily.  God wants us to work heartily, because we know and trust His promise that he will mercifully reward our undeserving work with the inheritance of more joy in him forever.

Lifting A Rocket Ship

Imagine a huge rocket ship called Obedience.

It’s made to be powered by a fuel called Promises, which is ignited by Faith.

So don’t ignore the fuel of the Promises.  Don’t try to lift the rocket ship of Obedience by your own power.

Instead, ignite the fuel of the Promises by Faith.

And watch your Obedience blast off.

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(Picture is from Microsoft Publisher Clipart.)

Category: Motivation for Obedience


15 Responses

  1. Ash says:

    Yes! The practicality of this gets me so hyped!

    The promises of God, taken hold of by faith, empower obedience.

    Thank you for this post, Steve!

  2. Caz says:

    Thanks for this, Steve. I am learning to trust God’s promises but there is one issue that I am still a little confused with and I was wondering if you could help clear this up for me. Since we, who are in Christ, are heirs to the promise made to Abraham (Galatians 3:29), I would like to know what exactly that promise means to us.? Is it the promise of the Holy Spirit or a promise to be blessed? I have read so much about us claiming the promise made to Abraham but I’m a little unsure what exactly that promise translates to us as Christians.
    Also, Would the fact that we are not depending on the law to save us make us exempt to the curses outlined in Deuteronomy for those who disobey? Any guidance here would be greatly appreciated.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Caz,

      You raise two really important questions.

      According to Gal 3:14 the blessing of Abraham is the gift of the Holy Spirit, which I understand as the Spirit’s work of giving us a taste of the glory and love of God in Christ (Rom 5:4; 2 Cor 3:18; 2 Cor 4:6).

      And regarding our exemption from the curse of the Law as described in Deuteronomy — the way I understand it is that those curses are still in effect. But if we are trusting Jesus Christ, then He has been cursed in our place, so we will never experience those curses. Does that get at the question you are asking?

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  3. Dennis says:

    I have discovered that our God is all about addressing what’s relevant in our lives today. He has never demanded obedience because He’s God. Instead, over and over again He demonstrates He loves us by ACTING and gaining our confidence.

    Exodus 13:8 says, “On that day you are to tell your son, “This is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.” You must have a record of it as a sign upon your hand, as a reminder on your forehead to make sure that the law of the Lord is always on your lips, because with a strong hand brought you out of Egypt.”

    God wants us to know by experience that He does what He says. He is faithful. There are soooo many overlooked promises for us to discover, claim and experience the joy of His faithfulness.

    In short, the great controversy between God and Satan and our Christian walk can be boiled down to two questions.

    1. Does God know what He’s talking about?
    2. Does He do what He says?

    Our decisions are based on whether we believe. We act based on what we believe.

    • Paul Walton says:

      I would say God does command (demand) obedience, because our obedience equals faith.

      But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: Romans 16:26

      Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. John 15:13-14

      God commands obedience because He loves us, just like a loving parent would tell a child not to touch a hot stove, our command is based on love, and wanting to protect our child from harm.

      Perhaps it is semantics, but commands equals demands at a basic level, a police officer could say ” I demand (command) you to drop your knees and put your hands up.

      God’s commands (demands) from a heart of love, it is for our welfare. We can trust His commands because we know He is good, and we should “fear” Him because He is powerful.

      • Steve Fuller says:

        Good thoughts, Paul.

        I think you and Dennis are saying much the same thing.

        God clearly does demand obedience, as you say. But He does not demand that we obey just because He says so, which is what I think Dennis is saying.

        Like you said so well, God commands us out of love for us. He commands us because every command will bring us more of God Himself who is our all-satisfying Treasure.

        He commands us — demands us — to have the greatest joy possible, which is in Him alone.

        Love you, brother, and am praying for you.


    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Dennis,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      I agree that God demonstrates that He loves us by acting in such a way that we see His love, and as a result trust Him.

      And while it’s true that God does demand our obedience, you are right that He does not demand that we obey JUST because He says so. (At least that’s how I would put what you said in your comment.)

      Again and again He gives us reasons why we should obey, and the ultimate reason is because He is GOD — infinitely glorious, loving, wise, good, powerful, and all-satisfying.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  4. GiiGii says:

    thank you so much for this i have a hard time obeying God’s word please pray for me.

  5. Godiswithus says:

    Sometimes I do have problems obeying God with faith — I just obey because I need to and nothing else.

  6. Godiswithus says:

    Thank you Steve Fuller

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