You Must Obey What You Hear
“Sometimes you're listening for next but you haven't done the last thing he told you to do. He's not going to tell you anything more until you do.” (Meyer, Trust God and Do Good, 2016)
“To be comfortable with God requires walking in step with Him, not pushing against Him. It requires surrender, not resistance.” (Meyer, God Is Not Mad At You, 2013)
“The more serious we are to obey Him, the more He will speak to us; we should not expect God to tell us things if we have no intention of taking what He says seriously.” (Lockwood, 2000)
Craig Lockwood “The Pursuit of Sexual Purity”
One of the fundamental tenets of “Finding Your Next” is that you listen for God’s instruction. However, it is not enough to listen for God’s instructions, through the voice of the Holy Spirit, or the prophetic, or the gifts of the Spirit (word of knowledge, word of wisdom). Once you have heard God’s instructions, you must obey them. Adam heard God’s instruction about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but he ate the fruit anyway and suffered the consequences.
If we, as Christians, truly believe that God is sovereign, omnipotent, and that He loves us, then we must also believe that He will not let us disobey Him without consequence. As a father of five, there have been times that my love for my children forced me to take action to prevent them from doing things that would hurt themselves or others.
Because of God’s love for us, He will not easily allow us to wander off from the path of His perfect will. He will prick our hearts through the Holy Spirit. He will send warnings. He will set up detours. He will send advice through people.
If we persist in disobedience, Proverbs 1:31 (KJV) says that God will allow us to “eat the fruit” of our “own way” and “be filled with our own devices.” Three times in Romans Chapter 1 the Bible says that “God gave them over,” referring to people who chose something or some other path over God. We see same the principle in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 (KJV), who was allowed to chose his own life over life with his father, until he “came to himself” because of the consequences he experienced.
A crucial clarification on the definition of the word “disobedience” must be inserted here. Often, we limit disobedience to acts of rebellion. We may think of Adam and Eve and the fruit they ate in the garden. God’s definition of disobedience, however, is more comprehensive. It also includes those times when He tells us to go, and we don’t because of fear, lack of trust, lack of faith, etc. The end result is that we don’t obey. We may see rebellion and fear/lack of faith as opposites, but what God sees is that we did not move in the direction that He told us to go.
From God’s vantage point we have still retained sovereignty over our lives when we make a decision not to obey, whether the motivation was outright rebellion, fear or lack of trust/faith. As a result, there are still consequences.
Hebrews 4:1-3 (NIV) Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.”
This Scriptural account of the children of Israel shows that God links faith to obedience. Further, these Scriptures show that God treated their disobedience caused by lack of faith, as if it were rebellion. God was angry with the children of Israel because their lack of faith caused them to disobey. There was a place of rest that God wanted them to enter, a place that God had prepared from the foundation of the world. God wanted them to enter this place, but they rebelled by not acting in faith and taking possession of His promise.
Sometimes we can’t get to our “Next” because we don’t have the faith or the trust to step out and follow God’s direction. Our “Next” is often waiting on us.
Unbelief and lack of faith cause us to make excuses as to why we can’t move forward—even when we know God told us to. We can stay in unbelief so long that we forget that the ball was in our court, that it was our move. In that stale, stagnant, position we ironically often turn and point our finger at God and blame Him that our lives aren’t in a better place. However, before we blame God, we must always go back and look for missed instructions, missed exits, moments of procrastination, wasted resources and flat-out refusals to obey.
Often, we can’t hear our “Next” because we haven’t done the last thing God told us to do. How many of us as parents have refused to hear a child’s request for something that they wanted because they hadn’t done something that we told them to do?
The Holy Spirit is compared to a dove, loving and gentle. In this analogy, He is easily shooed away if we don’t want Him around. The Bible even talks about “grieving the Holy Spirit” (Eph 4:30) or “quenching the Spirit.” (1 Thess 5:19) We often reject the help from the Helper. We ignore the guidance of the One who leads us into all truth. We say no to the “unctions” (1 John 2:20), the promptings that He is giving to help us to know everything that is ahead of us.
We when do these things, we grieve Him, cause Him sorrow, and force Him to depart from our presence. The Holy Spirit is the voice of the “love of God shed abroad in our hearts.” (Romans 5:5 KJV) Surrender is what is needed when we hear His voice.
When we surrender to God, we open our minds to letting Him tell us what to do next. The person who asks God to hear His voice, with the intent to obey, will grow in his ability to hear the Lord. Our goal is to gradually become more teachable, rather than always thinking we know what to do. (Lockwood, 2000)
The quote from Craig Lockwood above further illustrates the point that we sometimes can’t hear our “Next” because we aren’t listening “with the intent to obey.” Somehow, we think that the God who knows our thoughts doesn’t know that we don’t intend to obey. The fruit of obeying God is greater trust in God. When we listen for our “Next” from God, and we obey, we find that the result is success and blessings.
The more we listen and obey, the more we experience blessings and grow in our trust of God versus ourselves. Craig Lockwood says it like this, “By learning to trust for short spans of time, trust grows.”
Think of it like this: why ask for God’s direction and then ignore it? Why ask for His wisdom and then disregard it? Think of the “rich young ruler” in Matthew 19:16. He came to Jesus and asked, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
We know that Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and follow Him. It was very similar to what Jesus told Peter, “leave what you have and come follow me.” However, the rich young ruler didn’t obey. We know that he wasn’t the rebellious type, the Bible shows us that he had followed the law diligently all the days of his life, yet he didn’t obey and follow because his trust was in his wealth. His decision not to follow was still disobedience from God’s perspective. Who knows what he would have gained.
I have heard theologians postulate that instead of being called the rich young ruler his name could have been listed among the twelve apostles who did respond in obedience to God and left what they had to follow Jesus.
I heard a story about how people catch monkeys. They put food in a jar with a small opening. The opening is big enough for the monkey to get its hand in but too small for it to get its hand out while holding the object. The reason this trap is so effective is that, even as the captors approach to grab the monkey, it won’t let go of the object in order to escape to safety.
In the same way, we often become enamored with our “objects,” or our way of doing something, or our plan for the “Next” step. The result is that we get caught in a counterfeit plan, or in a trap of the devil, detoured and distracted into doing something else. Make no mistake, when we don’t obey God we open ourselves up to consequences, including the traps of the devil.
I am thinking of a decision I made to relocate back to Maryland in 2010. I had been asking God since 2008 if I could go back. Every time the answer came back “no.” When I decided to move back, despite God’s “no,” my therapist said, “didn’t you say God told you not to go back to Maryland?” I had a friend later that asked me the same thing. But I blotted it all out and made up justifications for going back.
My justifications weren’t bad. In fact, they even seemed spiritual. I wanted to go back to my old church. I wanted to complete the last year of Bible college there. I had to leave because the military had reassigned me. There was a woman there that I really cared about and she was a strong Christian and possibly wife potential. A lot of my Christian friends were there. My earning potential was going to be greater there. I loved the scenery in Maryland. Sounds convincing, doesn’t it?
The problem was God had said no not once but multiple times. Eventually he “gave me over” to my intense desire to go back. When I moved back to DC, I could not find a job. I was unemployed for ten months. I quit a job making 133K when I left. I exhausted the 17K in savings that I had. I lost my condo in LA to foreclosure. The woman I came back to see announced her engagement on my first Sunday back at my old church. My kids weren’t allowed to visit me while I was on the East Coast. It was a total disaster that took years to recover from.
My rebellion was like Jonah’s. He was given specific direction from God to go to a certain place. I have heard theologians say that he set out in the exact opposite direction. God’s response to his disobedience? He allowed Jonah to be swallowed up until his heart softened and he was willing to obey. In my case, God swallowed up my finances, my hopes for a relationship, my career—everything, until I was willing to return to the West Coast.
Why did God allow Jonah to be swallowed up? You might think it was for Jonah’s good, and it may have been in part. But God allowed Jonah to be swallowed up for the good of the people of Nineveh. God loved the people of Nineveh so much that He told Jonah to go to them, and then allowed him to be swallowed up until he went.
God’s directions for you, your “Next” isn’t always about you. Your life, your plans are a piece of God’s intricate system of plans for the Earth. You have no idea how your disobedience may hinder the plans of God on Earth. While it is true that God can raise up another person to do what we will not do, we see in the case of Jonah that He didn’t. Jonah’s story is more proof that God has an interest in where we are at any particular point in time. We have distinct seasons on God’s divine calendar in which we are supposed to operate and move according to His divine will.
Several Scriptures point out that our God, our Heavenly Father, is not like other gods made of wood or stone, created by human hands. He is alive, and He speaks. He speaks from a place of love and a place of sovereignty. His direction is motivated by both. He loves us and wants the best for us, but He is also God and has a right to direct us as He chooses.
Luke 6:46 (KJV) “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”
Matthew 6:33 (KJV) “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Isa 43:19 (ESV) “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish