Last Saturday morning, Becca and I were leaving from Vail and we went over to my brother’s house to eat breakfast and say goodbye. We were playing with my niece, who is 16 months old, and she started getting a burst of energy. Out of the clear blue, she decided that she wanted to go down the steep staircase on their back porch without help. My brother warned her that she better not or she was going get in trouble, and this began a game that went on for the next few minutes. She kept inching towards the ledge until she would get caught and get a verbal warning. Then she would start sticking her leg out towards the stairs with a grin on her face just testing us all. We would all laugh when she wasn’t looking because it was so cute, but when I later thought back on this moment in the airport it caused me to think of the nature of life and the discipline of obedience.
There is something innate in each of us as human beings that causes us to rebel and have the desire to disobey. Trust me, if my little pig-tailed, four front toothed, adorable little munchkin of only 16 months is capable of this, then we all carry the very same capacity within us. When you look at your life and the majority of bad things that have happened to you, they can mostly boil down to one thing: obedience. Many people will push back against this quote saying that life has been unfair and thrown things at them that were beyond their control, but those situations tend to be the exception not the norm. The typical thing in life is that our disobedience leaves us marred, battered and bruised. And the ordinary thing is for us to blame it on someone or something else. “It was my ex’s fault.” “It is my parent’s fault.” “It is God’s fault.” The bottom line is we have a difficult time leveling with ourselves and the ways we have been disobedient. We often spin a web of excuses in order to protect ourselves, and over time we start to believe these justifications.
On Sunday, James talked about obedience in the mundane, normal things of life in his sermon. He said that the reason Paul gives commands to husbands, wives, children and slaves that consist of terms like “submit” and “obey” is because there is a natural order to life. And if you cannot learn to obey your earthly parents, then you certainly will not learn to obey your heavenly Father. In Andy Stanley’s new book called The Principle of the Path, he says, “Choosing the right path begins with submission, not information. Not even direction. Submission. Specifically, submission to the One who knows where each path leads, as well as where it doesn’t lead. Submission to the One who knows what’s best for you better than you know what’s best for you.” And that is why Samuel tells King Saul that “to obey is better than sacrifice” in 1 Samuel 15:22. Following God always boils down to something as elementary as obedience. Jesus said it this way: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:26)
And this is what brought my mind back to my niece and her attempt to disobey my brother. My brother knows that if she tries to go down the steep stairs, she will get injured and possibly seriously damaged. He also knows that she tried to go down them once before and bonked her head on the cement pavement so loud that it echoed. He knows that her legs are not big enough or strong enough to get her what she wanted. And in the end, it was his determination to not allow her to make the same mistake that kept this scene from turning something cute and innocent into something dangerous and damaging. The question for you today is, “Are you listening to and obeying God’s voice in your life?”