Subtle Obedience

What hints help you identify someone as a fellow believer? What causes you to inquire about someone’s faith? Are you drawn more toward people who do great public things for God or to those who work quietly behind the scenes? How might others recognize YOU as a believer?

These are the questions I wrestle with; maybe on some level you do as well.  For many years, I attempted to do big things for God. I taught Bible classes, led small groups, participated in various ministries and traveled to faraway places on mission trips. I hoped all of those efforts would prove me to be a good person, someone who loved God, and a faithful church member worthy of heaven. While those are all honorable endeavors, I had one humongous problem. The motivation that propelled me was fueled by my insecurities rather than my thankfulness and devotion to God. I was more concerned with proving my worth to those who intimidated me instead of responding out of the natural flow of God’s love. Now days, I’m working on internalizing my rock solid, secure place as a daughter of the King of Heaven. I want my efforts to be motivated by friendship with the Holy Spirit, the love of God, and the sweet relationship we can all enjoy with Jesus.

Hear my heart clearly please. I am not saying that all those with huge platforms, who have their names and faces in the public eye, or are highly effective pastors, teachers, missionaries, or ministry leaders have an impure motivation. But I can’t help but think, because of my own struggles, that just maybe, quite possibly their greatest temptation might be to ignore or discount their true source of power like I did. Perhaps, the greater their accomplishments, the greater the temptation to take the credit for what God has done through them. Thank God so many of them resist this temptation!

I have many books on my shelf commending great deeds performed by both the famous and not-so-famous. These stories inspire us all to find better ways to love God and love people. After reading these remarkable stories I usually feel motivated – for a while. Yet, eventually those old haunting feelings of insecurity return. Then, right behind those feelings come the lies from Satan. Instead of me praying for better opportunities and a renewed passion, all I hear in my head is, “Who do you think you are? What makes you think you could ever make a difference? You’re still not good enough to try that again!” All of those doubts, if I’m not careful, can push me right back into trying to prove myself again.

If you also hear those thoughts in your head, take heart. You are most likely doing more for the kingdom than you think. Throughout the Bible, little-known people acted quietly behind the scenes making a significant difference in the lives of famous Bible heroes – people whose absence could have changed the course of history. 

  • God put Miriam, Moses’ sister, in the right place at the right time to ensure he would be discovered by an Egyptian princess. Moses grew up to be – well, Moses!
  • Moses needed Aaron and Hur to hold up his hands to secure an Israelite victory over the Amalekites. The Israelites eventually won the Promised Land.
  • Jonathan became a friend to David and helped him escape the wrath of King Saul. David’s family became the path through whom all of Judah’s kings would come – including King Jesus.
  • God used the young slave girl of Naaman’s wife to introduce Naaman to the healing power of Almighty God. This Syrian commander of great influence went home rejoicing in his healing and newfound faith.
  • The loaves and fishes of one unknown young boy wound up feeding a multitude more than just bread and meat.
  • Paul’s nephew thwarted the plan to have Paul killed in an ambush. Paul went on to write two-thirds of the New Testament.

You can be that person who listens to the Spirit’s nudge and then places you in the right place at the right time to make a noticeable difference in the life of someone else. You can be that friend who stays through the good times and the bad. You can simply hold the hurting or laugh with a bunch of kids. The love you have for your spouse, children, and grandchildren can encourage them to become who God made them to be so they can do what He created them to do. Don’t underestimate the power of your warm smile, gentle hug, listening ear, or kind words. 

Maybe your gift isn’t as much ministering one-on-one as it is making money. Money is not a bad thing when you share it with those who DO have the gift of ministering one-on-one. Most of us are blessed with more than we need so we can bless others. Maybe you’re a painter, writer, teacher, doctor, accountant, business leader, clerk, janitor, or waitress. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it for the glory of God! Don’t let others dismiss, discount, or discourage you from sharing what you have been given. Without you, the course of someone’s history could be forever changed. Pay attention to love in ALL its many forms. The biggest love you can show is sometimes best received when it comes wrapped in quiet, humble, subtle obedience. 

Obedience doesn’t have to be a burden, nor does it have to be loud and seen. It is not an itemized checklist. Small acts of obedience done humbly often lead to bigger things without the believer ever realizing just how big they are! Obedience is a lifestyle of love modeled by Jesus.

Let this tender encouragement from Jesus fall gently on your spirit: “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28b-30 MSG)

Lord, thank you for loving us. Prompt us to remember that our power to obediently serve comes from the Holy Spirit. Help us discover subtle forms of obedience. Keep whispering in our ears that we are Yours so that Satan’s lies have no room to move into our thoughts. As we grow, give us new opportunities. Help us incorporate Your love into every act of obedience, so that everyone we touch will get a little love on them to share with someone else. We love you, Lord! Never let it be about us, but all for Your glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Donna Jackson

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