Thursday, October 13, 2016

Obeying With Doubt.

I cry in every Disney animated movie. Literally, every single one I've watched. Often, I even sit there for the saddest five minutes while my kids watch because I am so intrigued by whatever sad event is happening. I got excited one day saying "Oh! I don't cry during Kung Fu Panda! Shoot, never mind, that's Dreamworks." But really, I have this odd attraction to sad stuff, and the waterworks cannot be withheld.

I've learned to curb this emotional part of me when I need to. For instance, so much of the news and my Facebook feed is littered with depressing stories with no redeeming value in sight. Children kidnapped, infants neglected, moms dying of cancer, and the list goes on. I cannot look at too much of this before I find myself in a full-blown funk, unable to think about the practical duties of my day.

My most recent encounter with sad movies (not even Disney this time) happened when my kids were watching Prince of Egypt, the inspired story of Moses. Right at the beginning, the movie shows slavery, abuse, and then Moses' mother leaving him in a basket in the river. I cannot fathom a world where you have to choose between known slaughter and unknown drowning for your tiny baby boy. This was it for her. She'd exhausted the option of hiding him and now she had to make her choice.

I've seen this part of the movie quite a few times, and still the tears arrive. This time however, while my eyes still welled up a little bit, I saw something different. I saw a woman who decided to trust God by doing something crazy. I don't know what the likelihood of survival for a baby in a woven, tar-coated basket was on the Nile in 3000 B.C. or what possessed her to take action initially, but the only way a woman could do something that sensational was if she had no better options. Instead of succumbing to fear, abusive authority, or despair, she turned to a sliver of hope.

She must have had a substantial amount of bravery. She chose to put her child in a river and probably feared the worst. Exodus 2 doesn't say anything about Moses' mother except what she noted about her baby and what she did for him. But really, can you imagine doing such a thing? I can't stop thinking about this story and wondering what Moses' mother was really like. Stay with me, because here's where my mind really gets going.

Maybe she was brave, confident, even demanding about what God would do, should do for her baby. But perhaps she was actually fearful, upset, or despairing. In either scenario, God came through. God saved Moses, gave him a place of privilege, saved his life, brought Moses close to Himself, and used him as a preview for what Jesus would do for us. Moses' mother was a part of God's great plan, regardless of how she handled her situation, regardless of how much faith she had in the outcome of her choice.

This gives me peace and courage. Peace because I can trust that even when I am despairing, freaking out, and totally unsure about how God will come through, it doesn't affect God's faithfulness. I also gain courage from this example. I see how worry does not ensure any particular outcome, and that God fulfills promises to all people, not just the spiritually mature. I might as well be brave, confident, and toss my worries into the wind if the outcome does not rely on my emotional stability.

In the movie, Moses' mother asks for deliverance, for Moses to find a life of freedom somewhere else. She seems sad, but poised, perhaps trusting God to do something better for her baby. But even if she went home completely losing her mind and shocked at her own actions, she still followed through. She still took action, hoping in God's ability, not her own.

Our pastor pointed out a similar example from a sermon by D. A. Carson. In his sermon, Carson gives the example of two different men waiting for God's spirit to pass over the Hebrews who obeyed Moses in Egypt. One man prepared the lamb and spread the blood over the doorway exactly as told, but he was scared, sleepless, and hoping beyond all hope that what Moses promised would come true. The other man did all he was told with unshakeable peace, fully confident in God's willingness and faithfulness to save his family. Which one saw God's promise fulfilled? Both.

Amazing, right? Whether you follow through with God's commands scared stiff or full of peace, He fulfills His promise. Don't fret over whether you are trusting God as fully as you should, or as filled with peace as the next person. I do think God often rewards our trust in Him, but we cannot take credit for His promises based on our actions or our faith. As Jesus tells Peter in Matthew, the Spirit reveals God to us, and our faith is a gift from Him.

If there's one thing I've learned this summer that has really stuck with me, it's that obedience is important. God wants you to obey in faith, but mostly, He wants you to obey. Obeying scared or doubtful is better than not obeying! Your fear is never going to be a good enough reason to not obey the voice of God, no matter how big or small your decision is. He is a fortress, a place you can run to for protection, and wandering out in disobedience is asking for an ambush.

I cannot count the times God has spared me from my own destruction simply because I chose to do the right thing. It's not always easy, and I often do it begrudgingly, but I have never regretted it. I've regretted my own poor choices 1000 times over, but never following God's commands over my own desires. So whether you are debating following His instruction, or just dealing with fear from following with very little faith, simply take action. Scared or confident, God desires your obedience, and your faith will grow from either timid or bold steps. Both are forward motion, both are covered by His loving kindness toward you, and both still count as trust.

Ultimately, obeying God is trusting God, and there's no reward or punishment given for obeying scared versus obeying in boldness. My hope is to obey with complete confidence and tons of courage, but if all I can muster is timid obedience, I will still take it. I truly believe the more I obey when I am still unsure of the outcome, the less unsure I will be the next time I am called to obey. It's a growing process, and we might as well start now instead of waiting on our feelings to cooperate. We can't possibly know what role our obedience in little things plays in the larger events happening in the world, and I would always rather have said yes to obeying, whether I was doubtful or confident, than waiting for the right amount of courage to participate in God's plans.

1 comment: