How do we show that we believe God? If the famed Sunday school song is correct, obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.
Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe:
Doing exactly what the Lord commands; doing it happily.
Action is the key—do it immediately—joy you will receive!
Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.
We sing these words heartily and hope that the truth they teach will sink into our children’s hearts. We try to model what it looks like to display our belief by our obedience. But obedience isn’t always easy.
The Bible is realistic about this. Take Hosea 1 as an example. In this chapter, we find God calling Hosea to obedience. The task to which he called him was a difficult one, which made little sense from a human perspective, but God nonetheless expected him to obey.
When a young man expresses a desire to enter pastoral ministry, we pray that he will marry a godly woman and that his marriage will be stable and reflect the relationship between Christ and the church. We intuitively know that the man’s marriage will say something about his message. How strange, then, it must have been for Hosea to hear God’s command: “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD” (v. 2). To take a wife with a mildly checkered past is one thing, but to take “a wife of whoredom” makes no sense at all. But God wasn’t calling Hosea to make sense of his will; he was calling him to obey it.
The text does not tell us that Hosea questioned God, but it is hard to imagine that he did not at least have some questions when he heard the instruction. Though he could have offered a dozen reasons that the instruction made no sense, and lamented how foolish it would make him look to others, he chose to obey because of who gave the instruction. He trusted God, rested in his wisdom, and therefore stepped out in faith to obey what God called him to do. Gary Smith gets to the heart of the principle when he writes, “One who wishes to serve God cannot limit the unsearchable mysteries of God’s wise plans to what makes sense to the common person.”
We all find it difficult to obey when we can’t see the outcome of our obedience. We want to know the future. We want to know the positive fruit that our obedience will bear. When we can’t look into the future and figure out what God is doing, we are hesitant. We need to embrace the reality that God knows what he is doing and gladly obey even when we don’t.
Though we would never say it out loud, our disobedience often betrays the reality that we think we know better than God. We know that God tells us to be generous with our material wealth and that he will meet the needs we create through generosity, but we think it will be wiser to hoard. We know that God tells us that we need to rest one day in seven but we think that we will be far more productive if we work that extra day. Humans never flourish when they blatantly disobey God, thinking that they know better.
It all comes down to trust. Do we believe that God knows and wants what is best for us, even when what he requires makes no sense in the moment? Do we believe that everything he calls us to is working to make us more like Christ?
In the end, of course, the noblest motive for obedience is love. Bernard of Clairvaux said, “The soul that loves God seeks no other reward than that God whom it loves. Were the soul to demand anything else, then it would certainly love that other thing and not God.” We may obey out of fear. We may obey for the benefits that obedience brings. We may obey because we take pride in obedience—because obedience is an end it itself. Or we may obey simply because we love and trust the one who is calling us to obedience.
As you meditate on Hosea 1 this morning, be honest about the fact that obedience doesn’t always make sense. Then pray that God will help you to love him supremely so that your obedience is the natural overflow of love.