“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (I Samuel 15:22)
All men want to be free, but true freedom comes with a price; the price of obedience! Desiring freedom from bondage is universal; even the gentiles (unbelievers) want to be out of debt, have their bills paid, and have a good marriage, successful children, a healthy body, and even eternal life! (Matthew 6:32)
For many years I wanted to be free from alcohol and drugs, a spirit of anger and rage, and a corrupt and deceitful mind. I tried many of man’s “fixes” and programs, but none of them worked. Sure, I stayed “dry” for periods of time, but I was not free. Listen, brothers and sisters; if you have to go to AA meetings in order to stay free from alcohol, then your life still revolves around alcohol! Can you see that? God wants His people to be free!
Freedom came for me in 1991, when I said, “Not my will but thine!” I replaced my old passions with a new passion; seeking God and winning souls! If we are born again, we will have a passion for souls, for that is the very heartbeat of God! (John 3:16)
When it comes to obeying God, many times we confuse our intentions with obedience. “Well, I want to do that, or I will someday!” But Jesus said that we would be rewarded according to our works, not our intentions (Revelation 2:23). In speaking to the Church of Sardis, Jesus rebuked them because they thought that they were alive, but they were in fact, dead. Jesus warned them and gave them space to repent; He told them, “I have not found thy works perfect before God.” (Revelation 3:2) To the church of Ephesus, he declared to them that they had left their first love.
Did He say to the Ephesians, “Love me again in your hearts?” No! He commanded them to repent and do the first works, or He would remove them (Revelation 2:4-5). What does this mean? It means that He would remove his presence and his blessing, and they would become a dead religious icon that would no longer contain the light of the gospel, but rather would be turned unto Satan and the works of darkness.
Many have once walked powerfully with God, but over the years have fallen into a “routine,” and stopped seeking Him diligently. But God is not into routines; He calls routines, and those that are involved in them, dead and backslidden. You say, “Well, Brother Tom, God looks on the heart!” My friend, faith without works is dead! (James 2:20)
In the book of Revelation, Jesus declares that those who will inherit the Kingdom of God are those that overcome, and keep the first works unto the end (Revelation 2:26). What are your first works? What did Jesus put in your heart?
Jesus said, “Go ye…” (Mark 16:15) Is this command on the forefront of our thinking, or have we backslidden to the mindset of the gentiles, having our own problems and issues on our minds all the time? (Matthew 6:32, Colossians 3:2)
God has imparted into us gifts and talents; what is your gift? What is your talent? Are you using it to further the Kingdom, or have you buried it in the “busyness” of life? (Matthew 25:18) Have you been afraid of man? Have you allowed the opinions of others to cause you to become unfruitful? Are you struggling? Do you desire to be free? Freedom comes when we obey; it comes from obeying God possibly in an area that seems completely unrelated to the problem.
In running from God’s call, Jonah jumped on a ship and brought God’s judgment in the form of a storm (Jonah 1:4). This storm did not affect only Jonah, but everyone on the ship! The men of the ship rowed hard; they labored and toiled and did everything they knew as professional sailors in order to save the ship, but to no avail (Jonah 1:13). The storm did not cease until Jonah, the man of God, called upon the Lord, and the men (and Jonah) obeyed what God said to do! (Jonah 1:15)
Men always look to natural solutions, but in the case of God’s servants, the solution is not always what it may seem. How are we to know? We know because we spend time with God! We talk to Him, and He talks to us! And when He talks to us, we must remember what He said, and do it!
That’s why we get into trouble when we judge other believers! Jonah’s sailors were not bad sailors, they were good sailors; they couldn’t save the ship because there was another issue. If we have gotten into a routine, we will continue to serve God the way that we are used to. However, what once worked for us may not work any longer, because God has moved on!
Has God said “Go to Nineveh, but yet we want to go to Tarsus?” What once was a good thing may now have become a dead, religious work because God is finished with it! When God finishes with something, we had better be finished with it too.
When the children of Israel sojourned in the wilderness, God led them with fire by night and a cloud by day (Exodus 40:36-37). When the cloud stayed, they stayed, and when it moved, they would close up camp and move with God. But can you picture them saying (I can), “We like it here!” “We’re not moving!” Well, God would have moved on without them, and they would have been destroyed by the enemy (I Peter 5:8). Disobedience always causes defeat, pain and destruction, but obedience brings freedom and deliverance, joy, and pleasures forevermore! (Psalm 16:11)