Planning To Obey

This is a revision of a previous post called, “Think Big For Jesus”.

I recently went through some personal “stuff” that opened my eyes to two nasty qualities in my life: judging and injury by words.  I realized that “Think Big For Jesus” bore witness to both.   This revision is more about me and a lot less about others.  My goal for this post is to let you see the trap I was in and help you avoid it in your journey.

I bought into the USA business model that says I control the results.  It said that I must control as much as possible in order to “stay focused”, “ahead of the curve”, and “guarantee success”.  But I no longer feel comfortable with this model.  If Jesus is LORD then all I have to do is obey him.  I don’t need to be strategic or significant; I can leave that to him.   What was happening to me was an invasion of selfishness.  I started to think more about my planning and manipulating than God’s provision and production.  I plotted too much and prayed too little.

There is nothing wrong with planning.  I still consider that to be a valuable part of following God.  But I do it with less selfishness.  I am more earnest in asking God what is best.  I give more accolades to him and less boasting about myself.  And I really try to do what I think is right by God rather than right for me. 

I can’t pick out the best instructions from God as I would pick the strawberries out of a fruit salad.  When I start deciding which of God’s instructions will have the greatest yield on my investment, I am actually evaluating God.  It’s almost like God and I have traded places.  He tells me his ideas and I decide what’s worth my time and then revise accordingly.  I can’t believe that he finds that arrangement satisfactory.

I freely admit that there is a part of me that wants to run the show.  “It’s your life,” says the voice in my head, “You should be able to do what you want.”  However, I can’t do whatever I want if I truly think God is God.  If God is God, then I am his inferior.  (Unless I am God, then we’re all in trouble.)  I have often heard of people being called “children of God”.  And in most cultures around the globe, parents expect their children to submit to instruction.  Often the child disagrees or does not understand why the instruction is given.  But as time passes, the lessons learned become the character of the child – a reproduction of the character of the parent.  If the child resists instruction, the character formed no longer resembles the parent.  In the case of God and his children, his character is the most enviable, and his instructions are always the best.

 So whose plan am I committed to follow – his or mine?  I think I’m supposed to follow God.  If my obedience doesn’t produce something significant, that’s God’s doing.  Gandhi, a Hindu who admired Jesus but was disappointed with Christians, said that nothing he did was significant but everything he did was important.   Obedience does not always yield results I would consider significant, but neither does significant results always indicate obedience to God’s call.  It is enough to obey.

“But you don’t want to do something wasteful or trivial!” says the part of me who likes to plan, plot, pick, and choose. “Didn’t Jesus pick the twelve most strategic disciples?  And besides, being strategic is just figuring out the best way to do something.  What’s wrong with that?”

The part of me that makes these arguments is trying to distract my focus from three basic principles:

  1. If God says to do something, big or small, I should do it.  I don’t need to evaluate it to see if it yields a return worthy of my efforts.  It is a dangerous thing to believe God’s call is beneath my qualifications, ability, education, or position.  Jesus spent all night in prayer to be sure he selected the right disciples, but his chosen disciples didn’t look strategic at all.  The final dozen included some fishermen and a tax collector, not the ones who were doing the best in seminary.  God’s ways are different from my ways.
  2. Results aren’t my concern, let alone my responsibility.  Focusing on results, rather than obedience, invites me to take charge and do things my way.  It also tempts me to take the credit for success.  If I say that something was accomplished because I was strategic, it sounds like I deserve credit.  If I say something was accomplished because God used me and other resources, it shifts the credit to him.  Often this takes a blind faith, a step into the unknown.  Personally, I find it awesome to look back and suddenly have it dawn on me, “Wow.  Now I see why those things happened!  God had it planned all along.”  And I can’t take a bit of credit for being strategic.
  3. Sometimes little insignificant things can add up to be big, significant things.  I’m pretty sure Jesus likes it when his followers fully follow his instructions.  That allows him to use many of us in a grand and beautiful tapestry of events.  No single thread gets admired, just the final product.  And the artist gets the praise.

I wonder what would happen if I was more passionate about obedience to God than about getting big results.  What if I was willing to obey a step at a time in insignificant things rather than seek giant leaps in spectacular things?  How would things be different? 

I bet I’d have more faith and less stress.  Joy would be common; anxiety would be rare.  My faith would be lived daily instead of when it suits my purpose.  My work would be less mine and more God’s.  I would be more godly and less business-like.  People would remember God more than they remember me.

I’d like that.


Filed under Christianity, Inside Phipps

6 responses to “Planning To Obey

  1. Jody

    # 2 – especially a challenge for me! More faith. Less stress. Step by step… it sounds so easy… why do I struggle so much???

  2. Charlie Keller

    We r on the “same page” with all that u wrote. Those r the major struggles I have had & continue to work through as a pastor these past 7 years especially. More later

  3. Julie

    Very insightful. On one hand, a great relief. I do not have to feel insignificant or measure my efforts or offering by the world’s standards. I’m not so much responsible for results but for my obedience. However, it is an indictment of my not living with simple obedience to God as my first and most important purpose.

  4. Todd

    It is such a struggle for me to narrow down God’s will and then to actually do it. As my pastor has said, we must be willing to “risk it” for Jesus, to risk that we might be wrong in understanding God’s leading. But it is even more wrong to sit there and do nothing. I heard someone say that God’s will is often confirmed AS we are doing it, and not before when we are preparing to do it. He is so much stronger than my inability to hear His voice clearly. It seems invaluable to know that He is in control of my confusion, and can communicate His will to me in spite of it and through it.

    Love your thoughts too to follow the small steps, to follow the nudge of the Spirit, even though buried by my fears and confusion. If we follow Him in the smaller things, we might be more likely to follow Him in the larger things, or maybe the smaller things will actually become the larger things as we look back.

  5. Jody

    I should read this every day as I “plot”… ugh! Will I ever really get it. OBEDIENCE. (wish I could put the “period” in all caps!

  6. Charlie Keller

    I’d like to suggest that WORSHIP comes before obedience. It seems to help me focus less on “doing” and more on “being”.

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