Monday, May 11, 2015

ISI 14: Radical Obedience

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
If they made a movie of your life, who should play you (and your spouse, if you are married)?  What kind of movie would it be, what should it be called, and what would be the main themes? 

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            I would have to say that of all the things a Christian is called to do, this has got to be one of the most important.  (If any one of them can be considered more important than the others.)  And I’m not saying this like God necessarily needs our obedience or else He’ll be at a helpless loss.  But because obedience says the most about our relationship with God.  Obedience tells us if we are able to hear Him, if we trust Him enough and are willing enough to do what He says, if we have humbled ourselves before Him, and if we love Him and have really made Him God of our lives. 
            Let’s take a moment to explore some of what the Bible says about obedience:

 
            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 all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.”
            Luke 11:28:  “[Jesus] replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”
            John 15:10:  “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”
            Acts 5:32:  “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
            1 John 5:3:  “This is love for God: to obey his commands. . . .” 

 
            Okay, wait!  I want to look at something here.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  I think that we have a tendency to want to believe that no matter what we do, God will work it out for good.  We can make our own choices, live our own lives, and go our own way; and somehow He will work it out for good.  Because it is written that God works everything out for good . . . as long as we have warm, positive thoughts about Him, right? 
            Not exactly.  Let’s take a slightly closer look.  It is written that in all things God works for the good of “those who love him.”  Those who love Him! 
            And what does it mean to love Him?  Does it mean warm, fuzzy feelings?  Gratitude?  Serving in church?  No!  According to 1 John 5:3, to love Him is to obey Him.  They are inseparable.  Love and obedience. 
            So meshing these two verses together:  In all things God works for the good of those who obey Him out of love.  We have a responsibility to obey, if we want all things to work together for good.  We cannot ignore our responsibility, doing whatever we want, and think that God will bless us.  That’s a sobering thought!  And I think it challenges the way many of us live our lives.
            [And yet, in the end, I do think God can and does make good things out of any and every mistake, even in our disobedient times.  But there will be a lot more good if we live a life of obedience.  And this doesn’t necessarily mean “good” as we define it, such as getting what we want, having an easy life, or being pain-free.  Obedience can be very difficult, painful, and costly.  Just look at what obedience cost Jesus!] 
            Let’s also look at John 14:23:  “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.’“  Now, before we misinterpret Jesus’ view of obedience, let me point out that He is not saying that He will love you only if you obey or that all He wants out of you is your obedience.  God did not make man because He needed servants to do a job that He couldn’t do for Himself.  He made man because He wanted a family - an eternal family of those who want to be with Him.
            Ephesians 1:5:  “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will . . .” 
            As seen in this verse, as well as many others, God created us because He wants mankind’s friendship for all of eternity.  It was His pleasure and Will to do this.  He wants a family of people who want to be with Him, who choose Him.  He did not create us simply to do His bidding. 
            And yet, being obedient is THE indicator of the quality of our relationship with Him, if we really love Him or not.  To love Him is to obey Him.  To obey Him means that we put His desires and instructions over our own desires and our own ideas of what we think His instructions should have been.  It means that we trust Him enough to do what He asks.  And to trust Him means to know Him enough to believe in His goodness and wisdom.  And to know Him well – to know Him as He really is - involves spending enough quality time with Him, in His Word and in prayer.  It’s all connected. 
            The more time we spend getting to know Him and drawing nearer, the more we trust Him, the more we love Him, and then the more we want to obey Him.  And the more we obey Him, the more His Will gets done and the more people we reach for His eternal family.
            Obedience says the most about the quality of our relationship with Him - how much we know Him, how much we listen to Him, how much we trust Him, and how much we love Him.            
            And here’s a huge secret:  We can obey without “feeling like it.”  Obedience is an action of the will.  And I do not think that God will accept our excuse of “I didn’t feel like it” for our disobedience.  Many times in the Word, God talks about the blessings that come with “if you obey.” 
            It’s not “If you feel like . . .” or “If you want to . . .” 
            It’s “If you obey . . .” 
            And what we don’t really seem to understand is that we can obey without feeling like it.  Whether or not we obey is not dependent on our feelings; it is dependent on our wills.  We choose to obey or disobey out of our wills.  And whether or not we felt like doing it, God will bless our obedience.  And as we obey, our feelings will eventually get in line.   
            I think more of us would experience the vibrant, fulfilling life in Him if we were more diligent about listening to Him (through His Word, through prayer, and through the Holy Spirit) and obeying Him.  And if we were willing, I think that a lot of us would be asked by God to do big things, brave things, and great things for His glory.  But I know that all of us would be asked to do the best we can in the daily “smaller” things for His glory! 
            I think the world judges Christianity most by how the majority of us do the “smaller” things (raising our families, treating our spouses and others, living by our convictions, how we speak, etc.) than by how those few influential Christians in the public-eye preach and behave.  And when the majority of us don’t look any different than the world, they have no reason to desire what we have to offer. 
            Our God searches for people who are fully committed to Him, to doing His Will and to following Him wholeheartedly.   
            2 Chronicles 16:9:  “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
            But how many people will He find? 
            It is just as important to faithfully obey in the “small things” as it is in the big ones.  It is crucial to the health of our lives, our relationship with God, our marriages, our families, etc., to be faithful and God-glorifying in the everyday, unglamorous tasks.  Honoring your marriage vows, cooking, cleaning, raising children, reaching out to the “lowest of the low,” being a person of your word, watching your tongue, doing your job to the best of your ability, respecting your spouse, honoring your parents, etc.  All of these things are to be faithfully done to the best of our ability and for God’s glory.  
            1 Corinthians 10:31:  “. . . whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 
            Remember, whatever He calls you to do - the big things or the “small” things - you are working for Him.  Not for your boss or your spouse or your kids or satisfaction or self-fulfillment or happiness.  You are working for Him and His glory and His kingdom.  And that is why there are no “small” tasks and no instructions from God that are too insignificant to obey.
            We want to do big things for Him, but sometimes I wonder if He’s asking, “How are you doing with the jobs I have already given you?” 
            We need to place a premium on obedience, whether or not we “feel like it.”  Whether or not it “fulfills” us or makes us happy.  Whether or not it works for us or makes sense.  It’s not about us.  It’s about His plans and His Will and His glory.  And it’s about His love.  The desire to obey is the natural response of a heart that properly fears God and that is so full of His love and of love for Him that you can’t help but want to do His Will and bring Him glory. 

 

Noah  
            To me, the story of Noah and the ark is a story of obedience.  In Genesis 6, we read about God telling Noah of His plans to wipe out life on earth and how Noah is to build an ark to save the animals and mankind. 
            To me, this shows just how much God works with and through man and his obedience. 
            I think we are greatly confused nowadays about how God works.  We think that if God wants to do it, He’ll always do it.  Regardless of what we do. 
            I mean, think about it.  God could have made the ark Himself and saved a lot of time.  Or He could have lifted Noah and his family up into a cloud while the earth was being flooded. 
            But He didn’t do those things.  He told Noah to do it.  And Noah obeyed. 
            I believe that much of the time, God accomplishes His plans through people.  He looks for those with willing, obedient hearts, and He says, “I have a job for you.”  And Noah’s job was to accomplish God’s Will by obediently building the ark.  God’s plans hinged on Noah’s obedience. 
            But how often do we let the idea that “God always does whatever He wants, with or without us” make us lazy in our responsibility to listen, respond, and obey? 
            Notice that Noah did everything that God commanded him (verse 22).  He followed God’s instructions to the letter.  Even though I’m sure it took a long time.  And even though Noah probably had to listen to the taunts and mocking of the ungodly people around him.  And even though his obedience was going to lead to the destruction of everyone around him. 
            Yet, Noah was obedient!  And this is what made it possible for the animals and mankind to survive the flood.  Carefully adhering to God’s instructions.  The rest of humanity and history depended on Noah’s careful obedience.   

            I have to ask myself . . . Am I so careful to listen for and follow all of God’s instructions to me?  What I find in His Word and hear in prayer and know in my heart? 
            Honestly, the answer is no.  I do try a lot.  But I do not always do everything that the Lord commands me, to the letter.  I find ways to cut corners.  Or I get a piece of the message and start running without getting the whole message.  Or I don’t bother to “inquire of the Lord” about something.  At times, I’m lazy, self-indulgent, too busy, overly excited, not listening, or just plain tired. 
            But God wants people who will be totally obedient, and He has reasons for asking what He does.  God’s plans for humanity rested on Noah.  But maybe for us, it’s just that our obedience will affect those immediately around us or the legacy we pass on.  My influence will be a lot smaller than Noah’s was, but no less important to God and His plans for my tiny world and those whose lives I touch.
            And for eternity. 
            What we do here matters and affects eternity.  For us and for others.  We might not be able to see and know the results of our obedience, but our responsibility is to be obedient, even in the small things and even when we don’t know God’s reasons for asking certain things of us.
            Noah had to listen to all the ridicule from people as he built the ark.  Year after long year.  And I’m sure it would have been easy to get discouraged or to doubt the assignment that God gave him.  But his heart was set on being obedient to God, no matter the cost. 

            Which leads us to the next lesson of this Bible story:  The closer you walk with God and the fiercer you cling only to Him and the more you try to look like Him, the more different you’ll look from the rest of the world. 
            I’m sure Noah stood out like a sore thumb.  I mean, it’s not like he was building a tiny bird-house that he could hide in his garage.  And I can only imagine the intense teasing and persecution he got for listening to a God that no one else cared about and for being obedient enough to build an ark in a world that never saw rain yet.  (From what I understand, the ground was watered by dew and not rain until the depths of the earth broke open in the flood.)
            And could you imagine the persecution he would get if he was wrong?  If - after years of building an ark - nothing happened?  I wonder if Noah ever had doubts running through his mind as he hammered in each nail, day after day, year after year.  Thoughts like, Dear God, I really hope I’m not wrong in what I heard You say.  I would be the laughingstock of the town.  I would totally embarrass You.  Wait a minute, I am already the laughingstock.  I don’t know, maybe I do hope I’m wrong because I don’t want to watch everyone around me die?  Or maybe I do?  They are all so evil.  I don’t know.  I don’t even know what to think anymore.  All I know is that this is what You told me to do, and I am responsible to obey as best I can.   
            I am sure that it took a lot of faith to cling to God and trust Him enough to obey when everyone else was trying to pull him down and when he looked so ridiculous to others. 
            And this must have made him a really lonely man.  He was the most righteous man on earth at the time.  So who else was there for him to lean on (besides his family), to seek support or encouragement or advice from, to pat his back and say “Good job, keep it up”?
            No one.  No one . . . but God.  Noah could look nowhere else for real support but to God alone.  Noah could get no spiritual leadership from anyone else.  He had to cling to God alone.  He had to come to the realization that God is enough.  And that God is good, despite the fact that the He was going to destroy everyone else.  This must have taken constant, daily walking with God to remain faithful and encouraged.  Encouraged by the only One that really mattered.  Our good, heavenly Father.
            What an amazing lesson we learn in Noah about faith and trust, about being radically obedient, and about walking with God!  These things greatly affect the legacy we pass on and the eternity that we are building.  Thank God, for our sake, that Noah “found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”  
            Do I?  Do you? 

 
Letting God Interrupt
            Let’s change gears here.  What about when God interrupts our plans?  What about when He changes the direction our lives are taking?  I mean, we all have plans for our lives, don’t we?  We have dreams and wishes that we want to see fulfilled.  We have gone to school so that we can get a job in a certain field.  And we have plans for where we will be next month, next year, and five years from now. 
            But do we factor in the fact that God may introduce different plans for us?  That He may interrupt our plans, even our good and godly plans, and change our priorities and the direction of our lives?  How do we handle this when it happens?  Does it feel like a punch in the gut, or do we have enough faith and trust to let God open the doors that He wants to and to obediently follow when He changes our directions? 
             I wish that the message of “letting God interrupt our plans” was given during more graduation speeches.  I think it’s so important for people to hear, especially as they set out into the great wide open, with all their grand plans about how they are going to use their education.  And since I will probably never be asked to give a graduation speech, I’m going to share the message that I wish I had heard at my graduation. 
            Pretend right now that we are graduating from the School of Life, where we have been trained to go out into “the real world” and do great things for God.  You are in the audience in your cap and gown.  And since I have been asked to deliver a speech, I am stepping up to the microphone (recovering well after tripping on my gown), taking a deep breath, and getting ready to share with you my inspirational words:

            “My Dear Fellow Graduates,
            First, let me thank you for voting me valedictorian, ‘best looking,’ and ‘most likely to succeed.’  You’re too kind.  Really. 
            Now, like me, I know that many of you have great plans about how you are going to serve God and use your degrees.  You’ve gotten a great education, and you’re ready to go out and conquer the world for Christ. 
            But as you go about your plans, store this message in your heart:  Be willing to let God interrupt your great plans of what you’re going to do for Him with what He wants you to do. 
            You plan on getting a job in a certain line of work, but maybe God will call you to a different position.  Will you follow?  Maybe you find yourself working with people you don’t care for, but God says, “I put you here.  Glorify Me!”  Maybe you will be called to care for an aging parent or a child with special needs.  Maybe your life will detour greatly because of a chronic illness or accident.  Maybe you’ve planned on marriage and children, but God will call you to be single or childless.  Or maybe you’ll find your great plans for your career and life interrupted simply by having children.  
            Maybe you’ll be going about business as usual.  And one day, you’ll find “favor in the eyes of the Lord.”  And God will tap you on the shoulder and say, “I have a job for you.  It won’t be fun.  It won’t be easy.  It won’t make sense to you.  In fact, it will be long and tedious and cause pain and you’ll be mocked for it.  But I have a job for you.  Will you do it?”
            Let God interrupt!  Let God interrupt your plans with what He wants you to do.  And for many of you, that will be nothing more glorious than just raising children or going to the same unglamorous job every day. 
            Where you end up may not be what you planned on.  Your life may take great detours.  Those great things you wanted to do may be replaced by small, tedious, daily tasks.  And the world may mock you for it.  But be willing to follow God in obedience, doing your best wherever He plants you . . . working for Him and for His glory! 
            Your job is just to be obedient.  His job is to use your obedience to accomplish His purposes.  And even if you see no visible rewards for or results of your obedience on earth, you will see them in heaven.  And you will know that it was all worth when you hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’
            You may feel like you’re wasting your education or your time, but remember that God doesn’t waste anything.  If you will present all that you have to Him and if your main goal is to glorify Him, He will use you for His great purposes.  Through your faithfulness and obedience in the small things and in the big things.  Wherever He plants you.  Let God interrupt!  Follow where He leads in obedience.”

            I wish that I had heard this message when I was graduating with my master’s degree.  I had planned on working and using my degree and paying down loans.  And then, I got pregnant four months after getting married.  I remember half-joking with my husband that he could stay home and raise the children while I went to work.  Because, after all, I had worked so long to get my degree.  Not to stay home and change diapers.  But I had to learn to follow where God leads.  To grow where I was planted.  To be faithfully obedient in whatever job God gave me. 
            Now, to be honest, this doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with negative feelings from time to time, with the dissatisfaction that comes with life’s detours.  In fact, not too long ago, I realized that I was becoming very bitter because I was feeling unappreciated at home.  I felt like I was working my hardest, but it was not getting acknowledged.  There was no ‘Thanks’ and no sense of getting anything accomplished.  No vacation!  Only a whole bunch of things that I couldn’t get done while I was doing the things that I could do.  And then, I would get to wake up the next day and do it again.  Is this all there is to life?  Am I going to slave away in my little kitchen until I dry up into a lifeless heap, breaking my arms to pat my own back?  Because no one else will?
            Boy, I was ruminating on these thoughts one day as I did the dishes.  I was going over them again and again, getting more and more angry at the unfairness of life, at the lowly role that I had to live with.  I just wanted a “thank you”!  And I wanted to be cut a little slack for the things I couldn’t get around to doing.  Was that too much to ask for?  With all that I do around here? 
            (Now to be fair, I’m sure that my husband has his own way of showing appreciation and love.  And I do know that there is a lot about me that he does overlook and put up with.  But as is typical among two different people, we don’t always “hear” the way that someone else “tells” us that they love and appreciate us.  Oh, if only we all spoke the same “love language.”)
            Well, as I angrily scrubbed dirty plates, I began to work my way through these thoughts and feelings.  I realized that I couldn’t keep feeling the way that I was and still enjoy my life or marriage.  And I knew that I couldn’t change my husband or demand to be appreciated more.  How satisfying would “forced appreciation” be? 
            Now, at this point, I believe a lot of people go wrong by thinking something like this (or by being advised this by others):  “Well, I can’t change them and I can’t keep living like this.  So maybe divorce is the only option?” 
            Well, for me, divorce was not an option.  It never was!  But neither was feeling that way for the rest of my life.  But I knew that if something didn’t change, somewhere down the line I might be tempted to think that divorce sounded pretty good.   
            So I had a choice to make.  To keep feeling bitter and angry would be choosing to walk down that path to potential divorce.  And I didn’t want that.  So I had to get off that path now.  But how? 
            And so I asked God this.  “How, Lord?  How can I stay in this and yet enjoy my life and my marriage?  And if things never change, could I be okay with that?”
            I think all of us who yearn for more or better in our lives or marriages feel like it will all be okay “if only . . . !”  But I knew that I couldn’t let my feelings and the success of my marriage depend on “if only . . .”  Because what if “if only” never happened?  What if things never changed?  I had to learn to accept that possibility and to be okay with the way things were (and to flourish with it), if I was going to avoid that bitter path that couldn’t end with anything good. 
            But how could I do that?  How could I be okay with it?  How could I love my home life – the life and the role that I poured every bit of myself into - when I was feeling so taken for granted and unappreciated?  And as I prayed about it and let God speak to my heart, He revealed the key to a proper perspective.  And this is it:
            “Change your employer!  You should not be working for your husband or for your own satisfaction.  You should be working for Me.  But as long as you continue to work for approval and appreciation from him, you will be unsatisfied.  Because you are letting your sense of worth and fulfillment rest on someone else - on another imperfect human being - when it should be resting on Me.  Another human being will always let you down at some time, so you are setting yourself up for disappointment if you let your feelings rest on what they do or don’t do.  Do your best to be faithful in the role I gave you . . . because I am watching.  Work for Me.  I see all that you are doing, and it matters to Me.  And your rewards will be in heaven, as long as you do your best for My glory on earth.”

            I tell ya, that message got to me.  And once I switched employers - once I realized Who I should be working for and where my rewards should be - I was able to relax.  I was able to work harder at those daily tasks because Someone was watching and appreciated it.  I was able to see the importance of being faithful and obedient to God, even in the little things.  Because it matters to Him.  And I was able to love my husband in a way that I couldn’t when I was letting my sense of satisfaction rest on what he did or didn’t do for me. 
            It wasn’t about working my hardest and doing my best because I wanted to hear “thank you” or because I needed to be appreciated or because I needed anything from anybody else.  It was about working my hardest and doing my best and being obedient because God was watching, and because what I did and how I did it mattered to Him. 
            And interestingly enough, this knowledge freed me up to love my husband in a way that didn’t hinge on whether or not I felt appreciated.  I was free to love him for who he is, and not for what he did for me or my idea of who he should be.  (And I was free to see the ways that he did show his appreciation, instead of only noticing how he wasn’t meeting my definition of “showing appreciation.”)
            Now, I wondered if I should share such a personal story as this.  After all, I don’t like sharing such personal things about my marriage.  (“Honey, you know I love you!  We’re in this thing called ‘life’ together.”)  But I also don’t want to present some false, polished front.  And I really believe that the message that I got from God is not meant just for me. 
            So many people out there need to hear that same message.  People who struggle with their marriages, with their self-esteem, with their role in life, with their parents, or with jobs and bosses they don’t like.  Marriages are falling apart left and right.  And they don’t need to be.  We need to learn ways to cope with the way things are - in our homes, in our jobs, in our lives.  We need to learn to be faithful and obedient, to remember that we work for God.  (I am not saying this to people who are being abused, though.  If you are in that kind of marriage, you need to get help.  It needs to change.)   
            And so this is what I want to share with you:  If you feel like you can’t go on with the way things are, try switching your employer and where you store your rewards.  (Which is really what we should all be doing anyway.  It’s just that sometimes it takes a trial to figure that out.)  You are not just serving your family; you are serving God by caring for your family.  You are not just working for your boss; you are doing the job that God gave you, for His glory.  You are not just a family member or friend or employee; you are a representative to others of God’s love and grace and mercy. 
            You have a mission field, wherever God plants you.  You are a missionary!  Are you living like one?  You are here to work for Him, to glorify Him, to be obedient to Him, and to spread His message.  And the only rewards that matter are the ones that will be waiting for you in heaven.    
            Now, I do have to point out something.  I believe that the sense of peace and contentment that I felt and the love that I felt for my husband and my place in life was released in me by the Holy Spirit because I set my heart on doing the right thing.  I knew that if I continued on the path of negative thinking that I was on, I might encounter the dim possibility of a divorce somewhere off in the distant future.  And so I firmly decided in my heart that “Divorce is NOT an option.”  And this was a crucial turning point. 
            I believe that at some point in all of our decisions and struggles, we have the choice to flirt with the possibility of sin or a less-than-godly choice or to get bitter.  And if we allow ourselves to flirt with that or to tinker with it or to covet it in our hearts and minds, the Holy Spirit is blocked from fully working in and through us.  And we will not feel the complete joy, peace, freedom, and love that come from Him . . . because we have allowed a sin or an ungodly idea or fantasy to take root in our hearts and minds.  And this shuts the door to Him. 
            But if we will set our hearts and minds on doing the right thing and on following where God leads - even if our feelings are not there yet - our hearts are more fully open to the Holy Spirit and His work. 
            I may not be serving God as the counselor I had planned to be, but I can choose to work hard at being the best mother and wife and friend that I can be.  Because it brings Him glory when I do!  And I think that He is just as proud! 
            When I let God choose my mission field (which in this case is just my home) and when I made Him my Employer, I found an incredible peace and joy and satisfaction, knowing that I was right where God wanted me and that He noticed all I was doing!  And that’s what really matters.

 
Jeremiah 29:11:  “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Proverbs 16:9:  “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

James 4:13-15:  “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”  

 

Questions:
1.  Did this topic bring up any thoughts or questions?  Any other Bible verses?

2.  Do you want to discuss any of the Bible verses looked at in this lesson?  What do they teach you?

3.  Do you agree with my idea about the relationship between love and obedience?  If not, why?  And if so, what does it mean for our lives and our walk with God?

4.  Do you think Christians in general are leading obedient lives or do we need to do a better job of obeying?  What makes you say this?  In what areas and what ways could we be more obedient?

5.  When it is hard to obey?  What keeps us from obeying (things like pride and our need to be “in control”)?  How do they get in the way?

6.  What are some of the excuses that we use to rationalize our disobedience?   

7.  What might happen as a result of continual disobedience or ignoring the nudges of the Holy Spirit?

8.  Are there ever times we convince ourselves that we are “following God and being obedient to Him,” yet we are really just doing what we want to do?  Examples?  Why might we do this?  And what precautions can we take to make sure we don’t do this? 

9.  What are some big plans and dreams that most people have for themselves?  Examples from your own life? 

10.  What big changes might we encounter when it comes to our plans and dreams?  How does this affect us, our faith, and our lives?  Do you know of any examples or have you had to face any life changes?  How did it affect you? 

11.  Is it harder to glorify God in the smaller, everyday jobs than it is in the big, glamorous jobs?  If so, why?  Would we rather have the bigger, more exciting, more glamorous jobs, and why?  What are some of the “pitfalls” of having the small, unnoticed jobs?  How about the pitfalls of having the big, glamorous jobs?
            [My answer: I think the small, unnoticed jobs can be harder because we feel overlooked and wonder if we are contributing anything at all or making a difference that matters.  It’s hard to go unnoticed.  It’s hard to feel benched by God, to feel like you have to sit on the sidelines scrubbing helmets while others go out there and make some great plays for Him.  It’s hard to feel like you are wandering in a desert for years while others get to live on a tropical island.  Trust me, I know how it feels. 
            But there is so much deep, spiritual growth that happens there, when you learn to be content with little roles and with doing your best for Him because He is watching, even if no one else is.  But it does take a lot of spiritual work and “dying to self” to get to the point where you can say, “Lord, if this little role is the role You want me to have, I will be okay with it and do my best for You.”
            I think one of the pitfalls in having a “little” role is that we don’t value our contribution as much, so we don’t bother to put as much effort and heart into it as we would with the big jobs.  And we fail to see those jobs in light of eternity.  We fail to realize the eternal difference they make when we do them well.  We fail to remember that God is watching how we do them.
            But I think how we do the little jobs tells a lot about how we would do the big jobs.  If we are faithfully obedient in the little ones, we will be faithfully obedient in the big.  If we seek to glorify Him well in the little ones (instead of just becoming bitter and feeling like our pride was hurt at being given such a small job) then we will glorify Him with the big jobs.
            And a pitfall of having the big, glamorous jobs is that we might become enamored with the attention it brings and the perks it carries.  The power might go to our heads and we would forget Who we are working for and Who should get the glory.  Another pitfall may be that we would crack under the pressure of a bigger job.  (And this is all the more reason to abide in God and let Him guide you and carry you through it.)  Big or little, it’s all about bringing Him glory, doing His work, and being His missionary, wherever He plants you!]  

12.  Are we more concerned about and aware of our obedience in the big things, while overlooking our obedience in the little things?  What are some kinds of “little things” that we need to be faithfully obedient in and do for God’s glory?  Big things?  For you personally?

13.  What does “switch your employer” mean to you?  What are some ways you can apply this to your life?  If we all started to do this, how might it change our lives and country?

14.  As I said, we work for God, so we should be doing our job as best we can.  But when we forget that we work for God, what are some other things that we end up working for instead?  How can it affect us when we forget Who we are working for?
            [We can end up working for our own glory or our status in society.  We might work for other people’s attention or for our own satisfaction or for the church instead of for God.  And if we forget that we work for God, we might not do our best.  Or we might get discouraged easily, feeling like what we do doesn’t matter.  We might judge ourselves based on the reactions of other people instead of taking comfort in the fact that God sees our faithful obedience, even if other people don’t notice or care.  Or we might judge ourselves based on the treasures we have accumulated on earth (possessions or status or attention or whatever) while forgetting that the treasures that really matter will be waiting for us in heaven.  We won’t be content with our role in life, and we won’t be able to accept the times that God says “No” or “Wait.”  These are just some of the consequences of forgetting that we work for God and that He sees all we do and that it matters to Him.]

15.  What is your record like when it comes to obeying authority figures?  Do you try to cut corners and get away with things?  How might this relate to your spiritual life?  Does how we relate to authority figures reflect how we might relate to God?  

16.  Do you try to listen to what God wants to tell you through the Bible and through prayer?  Do you take His rules, guidelines, and commandments seriously?  Do you think most people do, or do they see them more as suggestions?  How is this evident in the world nowadays? 

17.  Let’s look a minute at the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).  How can we honor them, and in what ways – obvious and not obvious - do we break them? 
            1.  You shall have no other gods before Me.
            2.  Do not make or worship any idols.
            3.  Do not misuse the name of the Lord, for “the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”  (Are we generally more cautious about not using four-letter words than we are about not using the Lord’s name improperly?)
            4.  Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.  (How can we do this?  How do we fail to do this?)
            5.  Honor your father and mother.  (What does it mean to “honor them”?  How can we do this practically?  What about if they were terrible parents?)
            6.  Do not murder.
            7.  Do not commit adultery.  [What about “anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery” and “if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” and “the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9, Mark 10:12, Luke 16:18)?  What does this mean for us or for a couple who is in such an unhappy marriage that they “cannot” stay together?  What about cases of domestic abuse?  I’m not saying these have easy answers.] 
            8.  Do not steal.
            9.  Do not give false testimony against your neighbor.
            10.  Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, house, or belongings.

18.  What are some times that you believe God told you to do something, either through the Bible or hearing His whisper?  How did you know it was Him?  Did you obey or not?  And what happened as a result?

19.  Is there anything right now that you are failing to be obedient in, big or small?  (You do not have to share this out loud.)

20.  What does “radical obedience” mean to you and for your life? 

21.  Consider these verses a moment: 
            “. . . the just shall live by faith.”  (Habakkuk 2:4)
            “We live by faith, not by sight.”  (2 Cor. 5:7)
            So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. . . . Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  (Gal 5:16, 25)
            What does “living by faith” and “living by the Spirit” mean?  What does it not mean?  How should this affect our lives?

22.  Looking at James 4:13-15, what is the difference between saying “we will do something” and saying “we will do something, if God wills it”? 
            [One is about following our own desires and plans and wisdom, and the other shows a heart that is always sensitive to God’s leading.  One is about plowing through and making it happen, and the other is always ready for God to interrupt.  One is about “me” and the other is about “Him.”]

23.  What does insisting that “we will do something” say about our relationship with God and how we live our lives?  And in order to truly know “if God wills it,” how do we need to be living our lives?
            [Saying “We will do it” shows that we are not living life with God.  We are doing our own thing and hoping that He blesses it.  But we need to be abiding in Him daily and drawing ever closer to Him, in His Word and in prayer, etc., if we want to really know Him as much as we can and be on the path that He wants us to be on.  He doesn’t force us down the right path.  He guides us as we go, if we are sensitive to His leading and are obedient.  It’s a journey that takes our whole lives, and it takes daily abiding in Him to do it right.]

24.  What are some of your future plans and dreams?  How do you feel about the possibility that God might interrupt your future with a plan of His own?  What makes it easier to accept the changes He might bring? 

25.  How can we be missionaries wherever we are?  How can you personally?  In your family, job, neighborhood, church, etc.?  (Think of some specific examples.)


26.  Is God challenging you about anything in this area?

27.  Are there any other thoughts or questions that you want to add? 
 

 
 

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A place for you to share your thoughts and to encourage each other. But please understand that as a busy homeschooling mom who is seldomly on-line, I may not be able to reply to most comments. But I will be reading them as I can and praying for you. Thank you for your comments! Please keep them godly and uplifting, as I will delete any that are mean or ungodly. I intend for this to be a safe place where people feel encouraged and respected.