Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Learning the ABC of Obedience

Obedience is a learned trait. For example, to train a dog the proper way of learning things and in the right way, an owner might choose to bring the dog to an obedience school. Children in their young age are trained to obey as part of their development and preparation. All our life, we have been trained just to become obedient in the right way, of course! Interestingly, Jesus learned obedience as well as the book of Hebrews declared in Hebrews 5:8, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” (NIV) God himself testified about King David of Israel’s obedience this way as Stephen shared in Acts 13:22, “After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.' (NIV)

Let me share how obedience is best illustrated: Stonewall Jackson received a note from his commanding officer, General Robert E. Lee. The note read, "Please see me at your earliest convenience." Jackson immediately began the 5 mile hike across treacherous and dangerous countryside. Shortly after he started it began to rain. It rained for the rest of his journey. By the time he reached his commanding officer's tent, he was exhausted and soaked. Almost too tired to walk, he stumbled inside and blurted out "I made it" to those inside. The General snapped back, "What are you doing? I said, See me at your earliest convenience." Stonewall Jackson stood somewhat confused and exclaimed, "Sir, your slightest wish is my supreme command."

If there is an institution that best teach the principle of obedience, it will be the military. I know because when I was in Manila during my high school years, I was enrolled in Cadet Military Training. For four years, it provided me principles that I still have even up to this day. The most common expression was, “Obey first before you complain!” and “What you see, what you hear, when you leave, leave it here!” I do not know how some of you will react, but it gave me additional foundation in my character development and personal principles in life. Though the training was harsh but it was part of what it was made of. There are no regrets for me being part of that program and I was glad I chose it then.

There are two kinds of obedience that Jesus shared in Matt 21:28-32, "There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' "'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went."Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. "Which of the two did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered. Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” (NIV)

What a clear distinction Jesus made between two groups of people when it comes to obeying God’s will. It is it not about who you are but your response to His will. Clearly, it is the state of the heart that matters the most not just what comes out of the mouth. The judgment is not on what was said but the action done after the instruction was given. Though the words spoken are sincere, the response should always be from an obedient and willing heart. Or else, it will be just plain flattery and hypocrisy. Obedience is a choice and a decision on an individual basis. No one can make you obey unless you are willing to. Therefore, obedience is total submission to God’s will even if you do not fully understand its cause and effect in your life. God never forgets those who obey Him with all their heart, strength and mind.

Let’s talk again!