“What if God asks me to do something I don’t want to do?”
I sat at my grey kitchen table, pink-rimmed tulips wilting in their vase. The sunlight seared the pages of the book of James spread out before me. A friend on the other end of the phone shared she was afraid to submit to God and say, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do” because it would most likely result in her working some place she hated, or moving to a dangerous foreign country, or abandoning a relationship she valued.
Many church members consider full obedience to be certain punishment.
It can feel like that, but – blessedly — this isn’t true.
Know His Heart
Are you afraid to surrender to Him completely?
First of all, we have to clear our head from the me-approach to Scripture. Realize “the Bible is a book about God” as Jen Wilkens reminds us. Too often we’re searching our Bibles to find out how we can feel better. “Where am I in this?” we ask of Isaiah’s poetic chapters.
Good news! As we stare intently at His Word to simply know Him, we’ll be granted more knowledge of Who we left all to follow. Just from the first chapter of James we learn He is wise, righteous, generous, a promiser of the crown of life, can’t be tempted, giver of good and perfect gifts, Father of lights, never changes, speaks words of truth, wrote a law of liberty, and blesses doers of the Word.
Sounds like a God who is trustworthy of our utmost submission. Do you believe the intentions of His will toward you are always kind? Ask Him for the faith to believe His capability to grant wisdom and to weave together His goodness into your story.
As we notice who is He is, we see His heart for us and for His world. And the more time we spend with Him, the more He starts to peel away our fleshly desires and replace them with His set apart ones.
Stare intently at His Word to be unified to His heart.
Know His Will
But what if you can’t figure out the thing He wants you to do?
Thankfully, God doesn’t hide His will from us in a big divine guessing game.
“Let’s begin with a simple assumption. Since God has a will for us, He must want us to know it. If so, then we could expect Him to communicate it to us in the most obvious way. And how would that be? Through the Bible, His revelation.”
― John MacArthur, Found: God’s Will
Need to know God’s will? See the Bible. Need to know how to plan for the future? Acknowledge Him in your plans and He’ll direct Your paths (Proverbs 3:6).
Of course, knowing me and you, we just would resort to worrying about the few decisions not lined out in Scripture, like who we’re going to marry or where we’ll live.
You’ve heard the missionary stories like: “I told God I would go anywhere except Asia, and then He sent me to Asia!” I used to worry that God would make me marry someone I didn’t like.
Ah, dear younger me, God doesn’t work like that. His ways are not a forceful, grit-your-teeth burden – they’re a joy. He’s a friend and father who guides us gently, who knows us intimately. He doesn’t plan devastation for His children. Joyless, fruitless futures are not ours.
But what about the scary country He could call us to?
What’s important to know is that if God asks us to sacrifice, He equips us with the giftings, passions, help, support, and any other provision we need. We’re never left and high and dry without His strength. He leads us beside still waters for His own name’s sake. There is always plenty of grace for tomorrow’s problems. As Hudson Taylor put it, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s provision.”
He gets the glory that way.
“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Stare intently as His Word to know His written will, and don’t worry about where He’ll lead you or if you’ll miss out on His direction. He’ll provide.
Know His Hatred for Sin (What the Flesh Hates, The Spirit Loves)
God gently aligns us to His straight and narrow way when we acknowledge Him (Proverbs 3:6). Is it uncomfortable? Sometimes. But is it worth it?
I had braces as a teenager. As I parted the orthodontist’s office for the last time, they instructed me to wear my retainers at night. I did faithfully for a while. Then the habit loosened. Now whenever I get convicted about how my teeth could move back into their original jagged state, I pop the retainers back in. But it hurts! I have to take them off in the middle of the night just so I can sleep. But the next night it’s better. Then…well, if I would just keep wearing them periodically, I wouldn’t have to repeat the pain, and my teeth would stay aligned!
Alignment of the heart is something beautiful, though, it can also be difficult. The end result is far better than staying on crooked paths.
When we first start following Christ, we don’t hate all of our sin as much as we should. But as we gaze at His holiness longer and longer, we start to view disobedience to Him as He does — undesirably. We begin to see the goodness of walking with Him, and the wickedness of our own ways.
We certainly get the better end of the bargain. Sure, God will lead us to do things our flesh despises. Alignment is uncomfortable, like barely-used retainers. But holding onto our sin patterns won’t bring anything remotely good. If you think your will and way is fun and worth it, be aware it’s a lie from the world and the devil.
Our flesh would NEVER choose suffering or denying itself. But submitting to Him is freedom and joy. Reward and fulfillment.
The spirit is WILLING. The flesh is what’s weak (Mark 14:38).
Know His Correction
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”
2 Timothy 3:16
Correction might conjure up images of traditional teacher blackboards and humiliation. But James, Jesus’ half-brother, wrote this:
“But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
Who looks at a mirror and doesn’t correct the messy hair and the mascara smudge or the crooked tie? Mirrors lead to something better than before.
Jesus also states the blessedness of correction:
But He said, “On the Contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”Luke 11:28
Being a doer of the word brings blessing! The world’s burdens will enslave us to our own passions reaping the punishment of death, but His law is a law of liberty.
What to Do
First, know the One who asks for your obedience, how He is trustworthy and kind. If you don’t want to obey Him, you’re missing the Person He is.
Second, He won’t lead you anywhere without His abundant provision. If you’re afraid to obey Him, you’re missing the point of His will.
Third, God will absolutely ask You to do things that your flesh will hate (like denying yourself). Take courage, however, God’s spirit in you is willing. If you don’t want to obey Him, you’re missing a place in your life for His spirit.
“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”Philippians 2:13
Read Psalm 119 until you begin to agree with God about how good His commandments are.
PC: Photo by Joshua Earle, Yellowstone