The battle took place around the dinner table, just as many battles with children do. However, this time we were surrounded by family…on Thanksgiving. Not necessarily the place where you want to have a teachable moment with your child. But there we were with our daughter who was screaming at the top of her lungs because her macaroni was touching her peas.
Wearily, and more than slightly embarrassed, we gave her an ultimatum: “You have a choice,” my husband said, “You may either eat your dinner here with all of us or you may go upstairs by yourself and cry. You will not cry here at the table. That is your choice.” As she continued to cry, I scooped her up and took her upstairs. Her continual crying told me she had made her choice and it was not to stay at the table.
As I came back and sat down at my now cold plate, my son patted my arm. In his serious, two year old voice, he whispered in a concerned tone, “What’s my choice, mama?”
Choices are wired into our society today. When we buy a cup of coffee, we have endless choices of how we want that cup of coffee fixed. If we do research on a topic, hundreds of articles are at our disposal. If we read one and it does not suite us, we simply move onto the next. For most of us, what church we go to or how we educate our children or what sport our kids are involved in are simply matter of our personal choice. “It’s what fits us,” we say. So many choices are a blessing in many ways and definitely one of the benefits of living in a free society.
However, as believers we must be very careful not to apply the expectation of personal choices to our relationship with God.
When God gives us commands in Scripture, we really only have two choices. Are we going to follow God’s instructions and live in blessing or are we going to disobey and live in frustration? That’s it.
I know what you are thinking…That is quite simple in our “100 flavor options” society. But it’s just like in the case of my daughter where she could either stay with a good attitude or go away and cry. Staying and crying was not an option. Going into the doorway and crying was not an option. Sitting in my lap was not an option. It was either one or the other.
Let’s apply this to a command God has given us in Scripture. John 15:17 says, “These things I have commanded you, that you love one another.” We might read that and say in our hearts, “Yes, I want to obey.” But as we face the relationships God has placed in our lives, we come back to God saying something like this, “I know you said love, but they have hurt me.” Or “They don’t want to be loved by me.” Or “They are not loveable.” Or “They just really annoy me.” We want another option.
However, woven into God’s commands is the immutability of God Himself. God does not change; therefore his instructions to his children do not change. To expect another option is to expect the character of God to change, and that is not going to happen.
Another example is Ephesians 4:29. This one is a command given by God through Paul: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” I can think of numerous other options that sound easier to tackle than simple obedience to this command. But my God, who loves me and loves those around me, commands me to make sure that the words that come out of my mouth are necessary for edification and that they impart grace to those hear them. That is a huge task, but one worthy of pursuing.
As we work in our own hearts to simply obey the commands of Scripture without seeking other options, we will find that it is more difficult than anything we can do in our own strength.
I believe that is the exact point! All of the different options we bring to the Lord – all of the different excuses we present for simple disobedience – can be accomplished in our strength. However, God does not want us living in our own strength. He wants us relying on Him and His strength. When we choose simply to obey God’s commands in our life, we are moving forward in trust and accepting that we cannot do it in our own strength. That is the moment where we see our obedience actually sanctifying us to be more like Christ (Rom 8:29).
So the next time the Lord presents you with an opportunity to obey His clear commands, refrain from seeking other options and choose to wholeheartedly act in obedience. Then, you will experience the magnificent blessing the Lord has for you.