Philippians 2:12-30; Ezekiel 21-22; Isaiah 50
Obedience Training is for the dogs…literally. If you look up obedience training in your favorite search engine, you’ll probably find pages and pages of schools for dogs, with not one on training kids or other humans to obey. I’m sure that there are times when my wife would love to find an “Obedience School for Husbands” and I have no doubt that other ladies would love something like that for their husbands as well. Alas for them, and fortunately for husbands like me, there is no such school. Sadly, though, our wives work to teach us obedience anyway. And as husbands we tend to learn the hard way, or refuse to learn to our own detriment.
Seriously, though, obedience is an important quality for Christians to practice. Ultimately, we are called to be obedient to God. Sometimes that comes when we obey the teaching of those God has called to lead us, but mostly it comes from obeying God in all circumstances. I wish it were easy to tell you what that meant, because sometimes we’re put in situations where it seems like there are no good choices. What I can tell you, though, is that when you use those opportunities to show the love and grace of God to others, you’ll never go wrong. Paul dealt with the Philippians on obedience. He also reveals an important secret in the process. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13 NIV)
Paul applauds the efforts of the Philippians in seeking to be obedient. If we assume that he’s talking about obedience to his teaching, then the church really is showing obedience because they’re acting appropriately not only when he’s there to monitor them, but also when he’s off in some distant land. I think that Paul is actually dealing with their obedience to God and their desire to work out their own salvation. That phrase makes me cringe a little bit, because it almost makes it seem like our salvation is based on works, on what we do to make God happy. Paul clears that up, though, in the next sentence when he reminds the Philippians that God is working in them to allow them to obey. He makes them want to obey and He helps them to act obediently so that their lives might proclaim the glory of God and fulfill His purpose for them.
As a teacher who appreciated good behavior from students, I was always concerned when I had a substitute. Some classes didn’t worry me. In my last year, I had to leave my classroom for a few minutes to deal with a tech issue. I asked my next-door neighbor to keep watch over the class. While I was out, the assistant principal who did my observations did a walk-through observation. I apologized later for not being in the classroom. He brushed it off, noting that the kids seemed to be actively engaged in doing their work whether I was there or not. I missed about half of one of my best walk-through observations. The students were more than obedient, they were excited about the work even though I wasn’t there. I point that out to remind you, and myself, that sometimes it may not seem like God is around; sometimes it may seem like God is delaying revealing His presence in our lives again. He’s prepared the work for us to do. We can sit back and ignore His call, or we can be obedient and do it. We can do it out of obligation, or we can enter into His work with joy. I choose to do His work with joy because of God’s presence in my life. There’s nothing greater.
Lord, set Your work before me and teach me the joy of obedience in following You every day.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.