Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven, as well as on many other national and regional radio and television programs. She is a contributor to Zondervan’s NIV Bible for Women and writes at LaurieCoombs.org. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their three daughters.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. - Deuteronomy 30:19-20
We don't often like to talk about obedience. It's simply not a popular topic to address. Quite honestly, I don't think any of us naturally want to obey God. We all seem to have this thing in us that wants to go it alone. To do our own thing. To be masters of our own domain and live our lives however we so choose. Even the thought of having to obey seems to evoke the desire not to––the desire to rebel.
But I think we have gotten it all wrong. When we consider the need to obey God, we often think our obedience resigns us to live a dull, joyless life. And I have to admit––God's commands do seem burdensome, at first glance, but they're not intended to be. The law was given that we might experience a blessed life. Just as loving parents lays down appropriate rules for their children, God has given commandments to bless us and keep us from harm.
God does call each of us to obedience. He calls us to follow Jesus with everything we've got. And this requires us to lay ourselves down before Him. To do things His way. To follow His plan for our lives. But when played out, our obedience is anything but burdensome. In John 15, Jesus tells us to abide in His love. He tells us that if we keep His commandments, we will abide in His love and that when we do obey, we receive the fullness of His joy (verses 9-11).
Now, just so we're clear, we are not saved by our works. We do not achieve salvation through obedience, but we are blessed through it.
When I set out on my journey with Jesus, I pledged my unhindered devotion to obey His commands, and let me tell you, I saw blessings I never thought possible. That's when all that stuff with Anthony happened. When I followed Jesus into my scary places and chose to love and forgive my enemy––the man who murdered my dad. The things God did in and through me during that season were absolutely astonishing. But after that, I think I sort of settled into my faith a bit and complacency started to take root.
Sure, I had seen God do the impossible right before my eyes, but after a while, I started to go soft on the whole obedience thing. A seed was planted, a lie, that told me if I continued to be "by the book," so to speak, I'd become religious and legalistic, and I certainly did not want to go down that road. I wanted to live by faith––great faith––(and I still do!), as the men and women of the Bible did. But I believed then, as I continue to believe now, that religion and legalism kill real faith. Quite simply, we all have a little Pharisee in us, and I was afraid my pure faith would die at the hand of religion. And so, I began to sluff off a bit. Not much, but just a little. Just enough to make me a bit less effective. Not enough to diminish my faith too much, but just enough.
But I refuse to be like that any longer. I refuse to be fooled. God says we are to obey, and we must obey. I've already experienced the immeasurable blessings that come as a result of obedience by faith, and so I know what God does when we choose to obey. I've also played around with a small amount of disobedience, and I can tell you first hand that I was not blessed to the same extent during that season as I was before.
I had a dream about the time when I began to sluff off on my obedience. It was a crazy dream, and I woke a bit startled. In the dream, I was going about my day as usual with my girls in my house when I saw a man out of the corner of my eye in my backyard. I looked at him, and he stared back with eyes evil and piercing deep down into my soul. It was odd that he was there, but for whatever reason, I wasn't really bothered much by his presence at first. But then, I realized who he was. He was Satan, and as I came to that realization, I saw him walking slowly toward my back door. Panic suddenly struck my heart, as I quickly tried to close the door and lock it. I got the door shut, but it wouldn't lock, and as I frantically continued to work the lock, he looked straight into my eyes with a taunt and a smirk and said, "What? You think you can play around with me and expect to keep me out?"
The dream went on, as I gathered my daughters and ran upstairs to hide. I was looking for something. I didn't know what it was for a while, but then it occurred to me, "I need my sword," I said. I was looking for my sword. I was hiding my children in the upstairs closet, and then I woke.
It was the Sword of the Spirit that I needed. Scripture tells us our only defensive weapon against Satan and evil in this world is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. God's Word has power, but we cannot wield that weapon unless we're living it. God's Word is to be lived. And quite honestly, the only way we're going to live the fullness of life God wants to bless us with is through doing the Word.
That may seem burdensome, but it's not. Jesus tells us that the whole of the law can be summed up in two commands. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. And love others as yourself. It's pretty simple when it comes down to it. It's all about love.
But you need to know that Satan will try to bind you. He will try to convince you that you're powerless to obey, but you're not. You have been given the will and ability to do everything God calls you to do. Both you and I can do God's will, but it requires us to lay down our own desires for the sake of obedience. It requires us to say, "Not my will, but Yours!" And when you do, you best get ready for the blessings God will most assuredly rain down upon you. He will do things you never thought possible.
And so let's stop our rebellion and start obeying. Let's do life God's way and receive all He has for us.
He tells us we have a choice. Let's choose LIFE!