Have you ever staged a picture like the one above? You have your coffee ready to go, your Bible sprawled open, the notepad ready, and then you think, "This is awesome! I have to share it." So, you take a picture, you post it to your social media account and you go about your "devotional" time for the remaining 3 minutes scanning the page for something to carry you through the day.
Maybe it isn't like that at all. Maybe, you read something awesome in the Bible so you highlight it. Then, you read the cross-references. Then, you are off on a Google search to determine if what you are reading and thinking aligns with the religious beliefs of other people you've aligned yourself with. If not, you spend some time understanding how they would re-frame your mind to understand how that particular passage fits with what you should believe, so as to not be too disturbed for your day, and then you can continue your day as normal.
With an intro like that, you would think I am going to write about how to get the most out of your devotional life. I'm not. In fact, my devotional life is probably sub-par and severely lacking compared to yours. But, what I would like to talk about is probably more important than your devotional life.
I want to talk about obedience. I came across something written by Paul today that echoed so strongly with a frustration I have been finding in life that I thought I would break it down, process it a little and share it with you.
In Acts 20:17-24 Luke records:
17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
In this passage, Paul spells something out that I don't think many Christians have ever experienced. He is so constrained by the Holy Spirit's call on his life, that he doesn't care that he is being called to give up his life. He knows one thing: The Holy Spirit is telling him to go.
Have you ever wondered what God created you for? Have you ever wondered if you have a "calling" on your life? Have you ever wondered why some people seem so certain as to the voice of God and you aren't ever certain if you are hearing Him?
If this is you, I'm here to tell you that you aren't alone. I can tell by the timid, common-sense, "wise" approach that most Christians take in America that most Christians in America don't know the Shepherd's voice and don't know what God is trying to say to them about what they should be doing.
The answer to living an eternally minded life, a life that doesn't care about tomorrow, a life that causes demons to flee and heaven to rend open at the sound of God's heart pouring out of your lips, is not one I can give you with a cute little instructional pamphlet. You know why? It takes practice.
Now we've come full circle to my intro. Because, I'm not talking about the practice of opening the Word of God to focus on what the Apostles or Solomon were saying God was saying to them. I'm not talking about the practice of searching God's Word for a truth to make you look witty or holy for the day. I'm talking about the practice of hearing the voice of God, confirming it is in line with His character recorded in His written Word, and then acting on it.
A lot of us want to hear the voice of God. We want to see the power of God in our lives. But, we don't want to obey in the little things. Maybe you are supposed to delete your social media accounts because it has become your source of rest that Holy Spirit is supposed to be. Maybe you are supposed to stop drinking because it has become a way to drown your sorrows you are supposed to give to God. Maybe you are supposed to break your computer in half and buy a flip phone so you can stop watching porn. Maybe you are supposed to stand on a street corner and read the Word of God out loud. Maybe you are supposed to break off a friendship because you can't stop gossiping. Maybe you are supposed to roll a dice to help you make a decision. Maybe you are supposed to quit your job and go find fulfillment telling people about the gospel.
Some of those things don't sound so little, right? But, the next step in the light God is giving you is always a little step. He always leads you down a path of steps. He never pushes you into a chasm of darkness.
What you want to do is you want to be powerful, to know the voice of God, to have a calling on your life, to have a vision, but you refuse to listen to the little thing he is calling you to today. And, the reason you won't listen to the little thing?
It's not an unreasonable fear. You have fear because you've listened before.
And, you noticed that obedience led you to places you don't want to give up. So now, you just ignore that small, still voice and use common sense to make your decisions. You use the wisdom of men and women around you to help you know what God wants you to do. You go to your pastor for advice. Because those are much more likely to yield a response that buries the truth.
Like the Israelites, you want a king to shelter you from the voice of God so you have a scape goat when you stand before Him and He asks you why you didn't obey Him. The problem is, He knows your heart. He knows it is deceitful. He knows it is wicked. He knows it prefers a wordly comfort, wordly vices, and wordly pride over a selfless pursuit of Him.
Which do you think He is going to hold you accountable to? The excuse that you don't know his voice? Or the truth that He is always talking and you just refuse to listen?
The reality is that Paul is not a super-human. Paul is just like you. The difference might be that he obeyed. The difference might be that he was actually filled with the Holy Spirit and not other vices of this world. The Holy Spirit led him to humiliation, tears, scorn, and trials. He led him on a path towards a loss of his life that he could not refuse. It was a path he did not want to refuse.
This isn't a life a lot of preachers are telling you about today. Because you have itchy ears.
But, if you want to be a disciple, this is exactly what you must do, today. You must not be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand of hearing the words of God but refusing to do them. You must be like the wise man who built his house on the rock of hearing and obeying the words of God. You must deny yourself, today, and take up the cross Jesus is asking you to carry, and follow Him.
If you are tired of the fake fruit you are always pointing to, get radical. Obey radically. You will see fruit that lasts and a life that is purposeful and brings glory to God.
If you obey in the little thing, you will be rewarded. Some day you will see him and hear His voice saying:
‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:21 - ESV)