A 4-year old girl went to the mother one day with tears in her eyes saying, “Mommy, Dad spoke a bad word to me today.” The mother knowing it was unlike of her husband to do so probed further and asked, “What was the word?” She said, “Dad used the word ‘Obey.'”
If we are honest with ourselves, isn’t that the same reaction we have when our heavenly Father tells us to obey his commands—especially the ones we don’t feel like obeying? Even though Jesus clearly said, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” [Matt 11:30], we often feel the yoke Jesus places on us is heavy. However, the psalmist in Psalm 119:60 had a different view, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.” That should be our goal.
In this post, we will see the reasons for and dangers of delayed obedience. In the follow-up post, we will see 6 blessings that we can experience as a result of prompt obedience.
Here are 3 possible reasons as to why we fail to obey God promptly.
1. Fear. Fear of how much it will cost us either regarding our physical well-being or financially. In most cases, however, it is fear of losing relationships because we are very focused on what people might think of us if we obey. By nature, we are very people conscious. We forget the warning of Proverbs 29:25, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:28 should echo in our hearts when fear prevents us from obedience, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
2. Love of Sin. Love of sin prevents us from immediate obedience. We just don’t want to give up our pleasures. So, we tend to delay obeying hoping that the command will just go away or our love for sin will fade away on its own. We’d rather suffer the consequences of giving into sin than pass up on the pleasures of sin. That’s why Jesus warns us in Luke 9:25, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”
3. Waiting for the Right Feeling. We wait for the right feeling to come along that will prompt us to obedience. We forget that as Christians we don’t live by our emotions, but by the truth of God’s word. So, we tend to justify our delay in obeying by waiting for the right feeling to come along. Often, the secret hope is that the feeling may never come and thus we can feel right about not obeying.
Sometimes this waiting for the right feeling to come along is even covered up under the statement, “I am praying about it for God to answer.” Now, in some cases, prayer is essential when we don’t know what God wants us to do. However, when we do know what God wants us to do, rather than praying for strength to obey, if we keep on praying to know God’s will, that’s just a cover-up to justify the delay in obedience. Majority of our decisions are not that complicated in life. Prayer at times is misused for covering up a heart that is not sincerely seeking to obey.
Whatever the reasons, the real issue is that we often delay from immediate obedience. Perhaps even secretly hoping that God would change his mind or over time the conviction would pass away, and we can continue living without giving up anything. However, the problem is this: As long as we delay in obeying God’s commands, we place ourselves in great danger.
I can think of at least 3 dangers that result from delayed obedience.
1. Hardening of the Heart. Hebrews 3:7-8 says, “7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness.” The stress is on immediate obedience—Today! It’s repeated in Hebrews 3:15 as well. That is why the writer warns us of how sin deceives us from immediate obedience in Hebrews 3:13, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
How does sin deceive us from immediate obedience? By convincing us that as long as our motives for obedience are present and we are even praying about it, we don’t need to hurry. After all, God knows our heart and as long as we have good desires, we don’t need to act right away!
However, the text is clear: Today is the day of obedience. If we delay, our heart will only harden even more tomorrow. If we are having difficulty in obeying today, what makes us think it will be easier to obey as time passes? Heart hardens over time.
2. Silencing of the Conscience. Another potential danger of delayed obedience is the silencing of the conscience. As the Holy Spirit uses our conscience to convict us of what we need to do or stop doing and the more we delay in our obedience, the more we silence the conscience from speaking to us. The conscience, when well-informed with bible truths is a God-given gift to help us in obedience to God’s word.
Paul took great care in guarding his conscience, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” Acts 24:16 “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” [Acts 23:1]. The longer we delay obedience by silencing the conscience, the more damage we are doing to ourselves in the long run.
3. Severe Disciplining from the Lord’s hand. Sin always brings disciplining. God is very particular about our obedience, and he will do what it takes to get our attention. Often, it is through a painful process. When we read the book of Jonah, we get a clear picture of how God deals with his children when they disobey.
Hebrews 12:10 says, “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.” While the word discipline does have the idea of training even when sin is not involved, it also has the notion of chastening when sin is present.
Additional dangers of delayed obedience could be listed. However, the ones listed above should cause us to pursue prompt obedience. The key thing to remember is that delayed or even partial obedience is disobedience. There is no getting around this fact.
We deceive ourselves by thinking we are doing a good thing by merely reading the Word without any conscious effort to obey it promptly. May the Lord keep us from this subtle sin. Let’s resolve to never read God’s Word without honestly yielding ourselves to wholehearted surrender to obey promptly. That’s why we need to make it a habit to pray as we read the Scriptures, “Lord Jesus, show me your will. And once you have shown it to me, please give me the grace to obey it at once.” We must always read the Bible with a heart yielded in willing and prompt obedience. On the contrary, if we cultivate a habit of reading the Bible without a sincere desire to obey promptly, we will only become more hardened in disobedience. That’s a very dangerous path to tread.
In the next post, we will see 6 blessings associated with prompt obedience. Meanwhile, let’s ask the Lord to produce a desire in our hearts to put Psalm 119:60 into practice, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.”