Obey and Be Happy?

The hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.” In the Old Testament Samuel told Saul “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22). This sounds so simple. Obey and all will be well. Disobey and you’ll be in trouble and unhappy. What if that isn’t true? How could someone go wrong by obeying the Lord or those He has put in authority? What if you just don’t want to do it? Is something wrong if obeying doesn’t make you happy?
I heard many lectures while growing up about how I needed to change my bad attitude. Usually what I heard either missed the mark, or I wasn’t ready to hear it. My dad told me often that in life we must do many things we don’t want to do. This is true because life is filled with mundane and boring activities; but my dad made it sound wrong to do things we really do want to do. Knowing my dad, that’s indeed what he was trying to tell me because he often thought I was doing something I had no business doing. I’ve since learned that I can do things I want to do, and they’re not out of the will of God when I do them. The question is, Where is my heart, and where is yours? Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). Don’t we need to let God change what we treasure? Psalm 37:4-5 says, “Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”
Meanwhile, as human beings, our ways and thoughts are not usually in step with God’s, and as a result obedience in itself doesn’t guarantee we’ll be happy. A classic example is Jonah. He didn’t want to obey God’s command to preach to Nineveh, because he knew God would cause them to repent. Jonah had a change of heart after being in the belly of the great fish, but by the end of the Bible’s account of him in chapter 4, he was just as unrepentant as at first. His heart simply wasn’t where God’s was.
In the story of the prodigal son, the elder son who stayed home was upset when their father celebrated the prodigal’s return. Luke 15:28-32 reads: “And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” This son’s heart wasn’t in the right place. Jesus spoke this parable to the Pharisees to teach them their heart wasn’t in the right place either, just because they kept many rules.
God wants our heart, not merely conformity. Believe it or not, in Luke 9:57-62 Jesus discouraged prospective followers who wanted to follow in their own way and time. In Col. 3:23 Paul says, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” So, do you and I just shut up and follow all the rules unquestioningly? Take it from a rebel at heart, broadly speaking, yes. If there’s a question about a specific situation, we have to ask whether we would be doing God’s will if we disobey. Only in Acts 5:29 do we find Peter and the disciples saying, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” This wasn’t until they had been punished for preaching Christ.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Christian Life, Thoughts from John

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