The Journey of the Reluctant Obedient

Straight Highway in Nevada / USA
Straight Highway in Nevada / USA

Apparently there are many of us that connect deeply with C.S. Lewis and him being the “most reluctant Christian” in the world. I have a theory about this.

We want to be happy. We think we know what will make us happy. We seek after what we think will make us happy only to find out that it does not make us happy. We find that one (more) thing that we think will make us happy and the cycle continues.

And not all the things we pursue are bad things. In fact, some of them are quite good – great family life, fulfilling career, serving others or community, making a difference in the world. But consider this thought from Psalm 1…

1 How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers!

2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.

So there are two forces at work here. The first force is ‘the advice of the wicked’ and ‘the path of sinners’ and ‘a group of mockers.’ At first glance, I’d say this really isn’t a huge temptation because who wants to be the wicked, the sinner, or the mocker, right?

It’s never that straightforward though. How many people have pursued greatness in their careers, earned truckloads of money only to realize they’ve lived an entirely selfish, wasted life? Or how many people have pursued a deep meaningful relationship only for it to become an illicit affair or pregnancy out of wedlock? How many people thought more free time, more entertainment, more whatever would make us happy only to realize they wasted a lot of time, money, and energy?

I think the core of what Psalm 1 is saying is simply this – when pursuing happiness, don’t take the world’s advice. Instead take time to give careful thought to the instruction of the Lord. ‘Delight’ in that. Psalm 1 goes on to say this about the one who delights in the Lord’s instruction…

3 He is like a tree planted besides streams of water…whatever he does prospers.

6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

The journey of the reluctant obedient starts with this understanding. I don’t have to chase after the wind anymore, I can plant myself by a stream that will never cease to nourish and grow me. I can delight in His ways and be sure that He is watching over me.

This is faith – putting something in action that doesn’t have an immediate return on the investment. Staying and working in a marriage that you feel like leaving. Giving grace and forgiveness to someone that you feel like seeking revenge on. Spending time in prayer and in the Word when you feel tired, hurried, and stressed. Practicing thankfulness when you actually feel like you don’t have enough.

A few years ago we had some dear friends dropped a major life bomb on us on a Saturday night. They were divorcing. She wanted another man, didn’t love her husband anymore. Not only were they dear friends but they were highly active in leadership at their church. We prayed over the phone, cried as well. Before we hung up, my friend asked what I was preaching on the next morning.

I said – ‘Who cares about that right now?”

He said – ‘God does. I’m getting up and going to church tomorrow to worship. To pray. To praise. I don’t feel like. But if this marriage has any chance of surviving, it’s got to be done by Him. And if I’m going to my church in the morning, somebody is coming to yours needing to hear from you about the goodness of God, His grace, His love, His pursuit of us. So, tell me… what are you teaching on in the morning.’

Years later, I have no idea what I taught on. I do know that I watched them both put in years of reluctant obedience to God’s ways. Today – their marriage is as strong as ever.

That’s the journey of the reluctant obedient…to do life according to His ways believing that is putting them in a place to be constantly fed.

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