The Discipline of Obedience
I sat with a friend the other day, over a delicious pizza pie. Our kids were chatting it up in the booth next to us and the air-conditioning hummed above our heads. She started sharing about a journey she’d been on recently. A trip full of adventure, wonder and even some wild faith steps. I was glued to her every word, expecting an amazing outcome, a big ol’ glory moment.
That moment didn’t come as I had expected, and apparently not like she did either. Between pepperonis she said:
“You know, I went on this journey and would ask God to help me prepare for both the positive and negative outcomes, but he wouldn’t let me. He wanted me to press on as if there was no safety net.”
No safety net.
Then she said, “Jesus didn’t get to have a safety net. He was sent to earth to fulfill a purpose and He simply had to obey with no safety net, no back up plan. Why would I have anything different?”
She’s right. Jesus faced incredible suffering (beyond comprehension) and yet, He still pursued His purpose, He still obeyed. That’s the discipline of obedience. I heard it said once we learn obedience by obeying. And that process is a lifetime of faith and a whole lot of surrendering.
There’s a moment where Jesus asked God about the back-up plan.
Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.“
Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?” …
He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.”
Matt. 26:36-38, 42 MSG
The words “crushing my life out” are so vivid. The weight of the ‘what if’ is so much Jesus feels suffocated.
This man, this flesh and bone, the Son of God, wrestled with the safety net. He was not only facing grueling physical torture but more devastating was the thought of being separated from God as He took on the sin of the world. I don’t know about you, but I would seriously wrestle with the what-if’s around that one.
He would face more rejection, more backstabbing, more judgement than you and I ever will. He would face more pain, more suffering than we can imagine. And here He is contemplating the cost of his obedience. He wants the finished outcome, He desires the full completion to His mission… but can he finish this work?
“Lord, not my will, but yours be done.” Matt. 26:42
There’s only one mention of a heavenly response to Jesus’ pleas. Luke 22:43 says: “An Angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” No magical switcheroo, no celestial eraser to just make it all better. Jesus still had to endure the process, but His prayers didn’t go unanswered.
So often the in-between of being called and finishing the work is flat out grueling, sometimes devastating. Just today I laid out on my bed and declared “Lord, I want to quit”. The process was too frustrating and me, well I’m weak and discouraged. But just like Jesus, my cup wasn’t taken from me, instead God’s presence became palpable and here I am finishing this blog post.
Prayer. Gut level honesty with God. Sweating out your fears, bleeding out your doubts, face planting your complaints — all of this is the discipline of obedience. It is far beyond showing up when you don’t feel like it. It goes deeper than fighting off the pain of exhaustion. The discipline of obedience is in the surrender of it all. Surrendering the outcome, the process, and yes, even yourself.
Apparently it is all worth it. God takes the messy surrender, the honor of your discipline of obedience, and turns it into glorious grace.