We have a three year old. This year’s lesson for our three year old is - Listen and Obey. His is brain and attention span are developing so quickly and he is learning all kinds of things so fast that actually hearing my voice and then actually obeying my instructions proves unbelievably challenging.
As I, patiently (and sometimes not so patiently), try to teach him I sometimes laugh at myself and realize that I am so much the same way with God. I feel like He has been trying to teach me this “simple” lesson for oh so painfully long. He wants me to listen and quickly obey. Not to wait and wonder if it was Him. Sometimes when I think I’ve heard Him and I wonder too long, I usually soon realize why He was speaking and that I should have obeyed Him more quickly.
I don’t usually hear super clear messages from God but I have a couple of stories from my journey of learning to listen and obey.
I used to run up and down stairs, completely unafraid of what could happen should I fall. I would even run down stairs in the dark barely able to see. A few years ago I felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me to slow down on the stairs. And although I felt deep down that it was the Holy Spirit I thought it was a little silly so maybe it wasn’t really Him. The times that He would remind me to slow down, I would. But the next time I would be running. The day soon came that I should have learned my lesson by then but I hadn’t . I was hurrying down some stairs with a laptop in hand and tripped on my own show and fell – just a couple stairs but my foot caught enough that I sprained my ankle so badly that to this day, eight years later, I cannot sit with my legs crossed without it aching. I realized at that time that the lesson wasn’t really as much about my ankle (although I would have saved my ankle) as it was just me knowing God’s voice and quickly obeying. He was teaching me His voice and the benefits and blessings of obeying. He didn’t sprain my ankle, He was trying to save my ankle.
Around the same time, one night I was awakened from sleep by a nightmare/vision of a face. It was a dramatized face distorted in anguish. I felt in my spirit that this was the face of depression. I had never dealt with depression personally up to that point so I was very alert to feeling that I had when I woke. For a few moments I could feel the feelings that were behind this oppression. I knew that I was supposed to pray immediately. For the next five minutes I prayed fervently that whoever was being tormented by this spirit of depression would be rescued and encouraged and find peace from the Holy Spirit. The next morning I was on my way to work and had on the local Christian radio station when the morning host shared a story of a caller who the night prior was overcome with depression and was planning then to commit suicide. But he was suddenly stopped and felt the Holy Spirit, encouragement and peace. I was stunned as I was listening because I realized that God had woken me up to pray for this very man. The gravity hit so hard that He would use me for such an important task. It was so important that I quickly obeyed and I did. I thanked God in that moment for using me and for helping me to listen and obey.
In the journey of learning this lesson there are challenges that was face. Challenges to both listening and obeying.
The challenges of listening are:
1. Not knowing God’s voice. This is because we don’t have relationship with Him yet. If we read His Word, we will learn His voice. If we ask to know His voice, He won’t fail to show us. We then are responsible to listen.
2. Distractions – busyness, technology, life
The challenged of obeying are:
1. Fear of the unknown. When Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water he had just asked if that was Jesus for Him to ask him to come out. Peter obeyed but became so afraid of the unknown that he stopped and began to sink in it.
2. Fear of surrender and loss of control. When we have our own dreams and plans but the voice of God is telling us to do something that seems the opposite that is so difficult. We have to let go of our dreams.
The benefits of listening are:
1. You’ll hear Him – You’ll have relationship with Him. You’ll hear Him because He’s speaking.
2. You’ll know His voice. The more you listen, the more you’ll recognize His voice.
The benefits of obeying are:
1. It will bring blessing – “obedience is better than sacrifice”. Many, many times in the Old Testament God told the Israelites that if they would obey blessing would follow.
2. His plans are better than our wildest dreams. Whatever your dreams may be, don’t be afraid to surrender because you will soon find that His plans will blow them out of the water. (the fishes and the loaves)
I will leave you with one scripture (there are many) that talks about listening and obeying. Jeremiah 7:23 “but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.”
Lord, I thank You that You will never stop teaching us to listen to and obey Your voice. Thank You for always being patient with us even when we fail to learn. Help us to remember that Your plans are for our good, that You are trustworthy, and that Your love for us is never failing. Teach us how to quiet our distractions and hear Your voice. Give us the humility and courage to obey. We seek Your blessing. Amen