How many times have I known what I should do, what I really want to do even, “BUT”…there’s always an excuse. I can come up with a hundred different scenarios that justify why I can’t do what I know I should do…what I said I wanted to do! And if for some reason my highly justifiable excuses fail me, I can pull out the “reality” card and claim common sense. “What was I thinking? I can’t really do that.”
Why don’t I stick with the things I want to do? Why is it so hard to be obedient to the things God has set out for me to do? There are lots of times when it doesn’t make sense to be obedient in the face of my present reality. Sometimes obedience looks foolish.
And the truth of the matter is that I’m not a big fan of looking foolish. There is this thing called pride, and sometimes I am too proud to risk looking foolish. So it is out of my pride that excuses and justifications flow. My pride tells me that maintaining control of my present reality is a more sensible choice than humility, trust, and obedience. So I choose disobedience and the illusion of control.
When Moses stood in the desert with hundreds of thousands of people who needed water for their survival, God told Moses that if he spoke to the rocks, water would come out. That’s right, God told Moses to TALK to ROCKS. Sounds pretty crazy. But this was actually the second time God used Moses to bring water out of rocks in the desert. The first time this happened God told Moses to use his staff and hit the rocks. Moses and the people had seen this before, but this time there was something different in God’s command. He specifically told Moses to SPEAK to the rocks. But instead of choosing obedience, Moses chose compromise. Instead of using his voice as God asked Him, Moses resorted to the tool he was comfortable with, his wooden staff. Moses took his staff, hit the rocks, and miraculously water did come gushing out. Moses got what he was hoping for in the moment, but his compromise came at a cost. He was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Moses backed down from obedience in the face of reality.
Noah was a common man living in what we would consider a very uncommon time in relation to what we know today. Noah and all the people living on the earth at the time had never seen rain. Yet, God asked Noah to build a huge boat. I doubt he had ever even seen a boat, and certainly he had never seen a boat anything like what God was asking him to build. Still, Noah was obedient to gather the thousands of tons of materials needed to build this thing that God described to him. He was obedient, not just for days or weeks or months, but for years building this contraption for an event that he could not even imagine. In the face of ridicule, Noah was obedient. With no conceivable reason for this boat, Noah was still obedient to build it, stock it, and bring his whole family to live inside of it. As water covered the earth, Noah and his family understood the gravity of his obedience in spite of reality.
Obedience in spite of reality. We can look to the present moment and find all of the reasons why obedience seems foolish, or we can look ahead and trust in an eternal reality. That reality says that I need to be rescued from myself. I am a divided person, and I am never going to be capable of choosing the right thing and being obedient every time. Jesus is the only one who can deliver me! Jesus came to give us hope and new life. His obedience paid for our disobedience.
The question is, what next steps is God asking us, you and me, to take today in spite of the reality in front of us? Maybe it is to be obedient in baptism or maybe it is to be obedient in accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior. Maybe it’s to serve the neighbor or widow down your block. Maybe it’s to become a generous giver. Fear and excuses lurk around every corner, but God is bigger!