Why do you obey God?
As we have been considering those who wrestle with their faith—and therefore are wrestling with their God—we take a look this week at a godly woman who faced the burden of acting faithfully in trusting obedience to God even though she had not received the blessing she sought most of all. This was followed by receiving that very blessing, and yet being called to act with that same trusting obedience.
This godly woman is Hannah.
And Hannah’s story reminded me of the reasons and motivations we have for our obedience of God. So why do we obey God? Here are a few responses.
- A sense of fear/punishment—One of the lowest forms of motivation for obedience, though still a good and appropriate one, is the understanding that disobedience brings punishment. There is an unhealthy sense of being afraid of the God who loves us and gave His own Son for us, but there is also a healthy awareness of who God is, what He deserves, what He calls for, and what He will do to those who disobey Him and reject His will. Scripture calls this fearing or having a reverence for God.
- A sense of anticipation—With this motivation one doesn’t just fear the punishment disobedience brings, but also looks forward to the reward that comes with faithful obedience. There is nothing wrong with looking forward to that reward—in fact, we sing about it most every Sunday. So this is a very appropriate and healthy motivation. Yet it is still at a more immature, somewhat selfish level.
- A sense of gratitude—This is where we get more into what motivated Hannah. She recognized, when she finally did receive the desire of her heart, that her blessing came from God. And so when she conceived and later gave birth to Samuel, she acknowledged that he was a gift from God, and that motivated her to be faithful and obedient to God in giving Samuel back to the Lord to serve Him, just as she had promised. A disobedient person would have distanced themselves from God, and tried to cling to the blessing they had, forgetting that it was the Lord who gave that blessing. Do you recognize that every good thing in your life is a gift whose ultimate source is your loving, heavenly Father?
- A sense of understanding—I think this is one of the most mature levels of motivation for obedience a person can have. And I think Hannah demonstrated this motivation as well as anyone. What did Hannah understand? She understood that not only was God the source of her blessing, He was also the One who owned that blessing. She recognized that Samuel was God’s already, and so to give Samuel to the service of the Lord was a natural thing to do. Do you recognize that everything you have is God’s already?
Of course, what we haven’t talked about is why some choose to disobey God. And I think the answers are the same, but in the negative.
- When we disobey God, it is because we don’t have a healthy fear of the “one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” (Matt. 10:28)
- Or we have lost sight of the great reward that is ours for trusting obedience to God.
- Or we have failed to count our blessings and have no sense of gratitude for all the wonderful things God has given us and done for us.
- And certainly we have lost sight of the fact that God is the eternal Creator, the only true and living God, and that ultimately all that we have is His already, and that He alone is worthy of our sincere worship and faithful obedience.
What a tragedy.