Delayed Obedience

Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.

So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:7-12)

The call of God is a process. Whether it is a call to vocational Christian ministry (i.e., the pastorate) or the calling to another vocation, the initial prompting, ongoing preparation, and necessary affirmation in God’s call are spread out over a lifetime.

My own calling to vocational ministry probably came most clearly to me when I was 16 years old. The clarity of this call was affirmed by my local church pastor who, to this day (over thirty years since that initial sense of calling) still serves as an encouraging voice to me.

However, my own desire to define God’s calling on my life lead to several years of misery on my part as I tried to chart my own course instead of submitting fully to His will.

A turning point in this struggle came when I placed a desperate phone call to another pastor in the wee hours of the morning during my freshman year of college. I explained to him that I was struggling with my calling and that I was so miserable that I had not been able to sleep adequately for weeks.

His response was quick and simple: “All I can advise you to do is to remember that delayed obedience is disobedience.” He then hung up, leaving me even more frustrated. This frustration lasted until I honestly confessed to God that, although I had initially embraced His calling to ministry, I had gone off track by seeking to define His calling in my own terms. I had postponed full surrender to the direction of God’s Spirit. I had delayed my obedience until I accomplished what I thought I needed. I was disobeying!

Over 25 years later, I cannot claim that I have always immediately obeyed God’s call. Nor have I always immediately responded to God’s corrections or change of plans. However, I can attest to the peace and fulfillment that comes when we, with the help of God’s Spirit, say “yes” to His plans for our lives.

I continue to learn and appreciate the benefits of saying “yes” sooner rather than later!

Prayer for the Week:

“O Jesus, I surrender myself to you,
take care of everything! Amen.” (Don Dolindo Ruotolo)

Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.

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