Obeying Despite Consequences

Man what a month it has been.  I try not to whine all over this blog every time (haha) – so let me just say this month was a bruiser and I have not reacted so well to all we’ve encountered.

Our friend, and mentor (really our own personal Pastor this past two years), Bryan McAnally, posted this quote yesterday and it resonated through me:

Faith is not believing without evidence, it is obeying despite consequences. – Chuck Missler

That is a choice (much like choosing to love your spouse or to place your children’s needs before your own).  Those are  moment-by-moment, sometimes incredibly difficult, man-up because this is real life, choices.

That quote, and what I am about to share from Deuteronomy, shifted my perspective today.

Because here’s the truth, friends.  I have not been choosing to obey, or see truth, lately.  I have been acting like a big stinking baby in my head the past two weeks.  Questioning and doubting, hurting and battling.  I am tired.  To the bone, tears-at-the-back-of-my-eyes, breathing “Jesus where are You in this?” many times a day… tired.

So I read this quote today and feel a whisper in my heart – “This is for you.”

Obeying despite consequences.  What does that mean?  Aren’t I doing that already?

I’m simultaneously reading about Moses delivering the Israelites to the border of the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 32.  And I say it that way intentionally – he delivered them to the border, but he was not allowed to enter.

Moses was a faithful guy – much more so than the Israelites that he was serving, and yet his promise was never fulfilled.  And I read this today and expect to see some sign of his disappointment, his exhaustion.  I want him to be tired too.  I want someone else – maybe even a big father of the faith – to act like a baby (for no other reason than to make me feel better and to give me an ally in my own personal “God is not fair” rally going on in my head these days).

But in Deuteronomy 32, Moses delivers to the Israelites a song, his farewell address.  He says:  “I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God!  The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice.  A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is He.”

He goes on to remind the Israelites of the time when they were faithless, and the Lord turned His back on them to open their eyes to their need for Him.  And then He reminds them that the Lord is always faithful, as he says “The Lord will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their power is gone.”  He affirms the sovereignty of God and actually speaks in the voice of God as he delivers this message; “There is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”  He reminds them to live by the Word of God, for it is life to them as they enter the land the Lord has given them.  He joyfully blesses each tribe and each leader, as he praises God for His love and faithfulness.

No whining.  No rallies (at least not the kind I was looking for).

After this speech, Moses ascends a mountain on the edge of the Promised Land, and while looking into the land he will never enter, dies.

Faith is not believing without evidence, it is obeying despite consequences. – Chuck Missler

Moses got this.  He died getting this right.  His eyes were opened to another plane and he simply obeyed, seemingly without thought of consequence (or rights, or selfish ambition).  Oh to have faith like that!

I’ll confess I don’t see like that most of the time.   I catch glimpses, but they are fleeting and the selfish mentality of my default mindset quickly takes back over.  When I see this story with human eyes – it stinks.  Righteous guy gets nothing while selfish people get it all.  Wah lah – God isn’t fair.

But when I see it with the eyes of faith I see that Moses traded the Promised Land (temporal, flawed, momentary) for the PROMISED LAND (eternal, perfect, no pain, no death, next to JESUS).  And for that moment, when I see it and get it, that tension in my head, that desire for fairness and reward here on earth and for everything to work out the way I think it should, begins to ease the slightest bit.  For a second, I can breathe more deeply and I think “Wow – He is as good as I read He is.”

Sometimes I wonder, as I write these posts, if I am the only one who struggles to trust the heart of my Creator like this?   Is it some flaw in me, some psychological remnant of mistrust from life in this broken world?  Or is it a universal human condition that many of us don’t even recognize or acknowledge because it is altogether too common?  I honestly don’t know.

But I do know that I have to make a choice, because allowing this whiny fit to go on in my head is not okay.  I don’t have backing on this one.  People have faced MUCH bigger hurts than we are facing with grace and confidence in the goodness of God.

Faith is not believing without evidence, it is obeying despite consequences. – Chuck Missler

Lord, I don’t understand some of what is happening with our family on this earth.  And I’m sorry that I define Your faithfulness, so very often, by what I see and by what I define as good, as if I were the judge of You.  I confess that as absolutely abhorrent sin against You, my Maker and the Almighty God of the universe.  Please forgive my arrogance.  I am in constant, unending need of Your mercy and grace.  Please grant me more faith and make me better at this tomorrow than I was today.   I choose to obey despite consequences and I ask You not to give up on me – to continue to be faithful when I am faithless.  I thank you for Your love for me and Your understanding of my many limitations.  I feel like the man wanting healing for his child,  “I believe, help my unbelief!”  I need You, even to believe properly or see clearly.  You are good.  Please help me obey.

Simple.

We as humans tend to want to qualify others as one-dimensional people.  Or at least I know I do.  I can take a tiny bit of information and run with it forever.

That woman is selfish.  That church is all about the money.  That kid is a brat.  That man is evil.

But here’s the truth – it really is never that simple, right?

We are each capable of honor and beauty, love and glory, to an extent that is a preview of heaven.  And we are each capable of terrible evil that is absolutely deserving of the fires of hell. We are a glorious chaotic mix of contradictions, moving towards one end of the spectrum or the other.

We know this about ourselves, so we enter the world defensive and self-protective from the start.   We desperately want people to see the depths of good in us, but we want to hide the weakness and darkness.  We expect the world to believe the best in us, and yet we instinctively assume the worst in people around us – especially people who are different.

When you study history – you see this common theme of fear and distrust of people who are different – a willingness to assume the absolute worst of anyone we don’t understand.  It is the basis of quarrels, war and genocide, racism, sexism and ageism.  It is the common evil of humanity – a rush to judgment and an instinctive need to position ourselves as better than others.

What if, for just a few moments, we could turn that off?  What if we could, in humility, realize our weaknesses, sins, struggles, and darkness while we see the beauty, light, glory, and goodness of others?

What if we didn’t compete?  What if we didn’t judge the character of people around us based on the one negative thing we know about them?

We’d be free, right?

We’d be more loving.

We’d be like Christ.

He was the only perfect man – yet somehow He was also the only man who truly considered others before Himself.  He somehow saw something in us worth fighting for – worth dying for.  Despite our darkness.  He didn’t have a dark side, but while we put Him to death, He willingly took on the sin and darkness hidden in our hearts.  While we put Him to death He loved.  He made himself nothing to save us from the judgment and death we deserve, dying a brutal death like a common thief.  And when He rose from the dead defeating death, He opened the door for us to be righteous.  We, too, could share not only in His glory for all eternity, but in His humility here on earth.  We too, with the power of Christ in us, can put others before ourselves.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!                                                                                 -Phil 2

So I think we have a choice as we interact with the people in our world.  We can continue the broken, evil, human cycle of judgment and self-protection.  Or we can, only by the power of Christ, give grace, love, dignity, and respect to others.  Even to people who, in our estimation or our inherently flawed judgment, don’t deserve it.

Because when we love and honor others, making ourselves nothing, we are like Christ. 

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Not for this girl.

Come Jesus Come.  I need You to change me.

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35