Merriam-Webster defines obedience as:
a: an act or instance of obeying
b: the quality or state of being obedient
I think that when many of us hear or see God and obedience being used in the same sentence, or thoughts immediately turn to the Ten Commandments. They are, after all, God’s instructions for the way we should live our lives. Of course, if you want to read the ultimate instruction book on life’s dos and don’ts, I suggest that you turn to the bestselling book of all time, the Bible.
Today, I want to talk about another type of God related obedience, and this one focuses on what we should do, rather than on what we shouldn’t do. More specifically, this obedience relates to acting on opportunities that God puts in front of us, and the consequences of that obedience.
I’m gonna go ahead and tell you right up front that the last couple of weeks have left me in a state of “mental disarray,” and I’m not really sure of where I’m going with this, but I’m being obedient to what I believe He wants me to do…
I don’t know if you had the opportunity to read Blind Sided (last week’s post), but I was really struggling when it was written; so much so that, were it not for a not-so-subtle reminder from my good friend Melanie, the post may not have been written at all. Her message got me so fired up that I immediately opened this laptop and poured out what was on my heart.
Several days later, Melanie assured me that it was God’s prompting that lead her to send me the message in first place, and that He should get all the credit. While I didn’t disagree with Melanie for giving the credit to God, I was quick to point out that it was her obedience to His prompting that put everything in motion. He laid it on her heart to do something, and she did it. Obedience.
I began the first week of November on a spiritual high. On Monday I had the privilege and absolute blessing of sharing my testimony with a group of ladies at the Dream Center, a building funded and staffed by Church of the Highlands that serves as the nerve center of several community outreach programs here in Birmingham. Tuesday morning began with a new Seed post, and being given the opportunity to fill in for one of our Pastors as leader of a Bible study/fellowship group for men that meets each week in the hair salon that my wife Jackie and I own. Wednesday included lunch and amazing conversation with yet another Pastor from our church, and ended with a Spirit-filled church service that night.
I was on fire for God, and ready to go out and change the world!
And then the world caved in on me. One minute, I was on top of the world, and in seemingly the blink of an eye, I was so low that I had to look up to see the bottom, which in turn, made matters even worse. I was sinking spiritually, and I knew it, and I was praying and fighting it with all that was in me, and I was crying out to God for help. I was losing my temper over trivial things, and I was crying out to God for help. I was snapping at Jackie, and had no patience with people in our salon, and I was crying out to God for help. I was in prayer during fitful and restless sleep, and getting up and out of bed at 4:30 in the morning to listen to worship music, and crying out to God for help.
I was crying out to God for help!!!!!!!
And God answered, but not in a way that I expected. Bear with me…
About eight months ago God laid it on my heart to put a prayer room in our salon. I’ll be honest with you in saying that my initial response was “Really, God? You want a prayer room in our salon? Is that really what You want me to do? I mean, I’m already bold in what I do, and it’s probably cost us a few clients. But, a prayer room in a hair salon? REALLY?”
We opened the prayer room in May, with no real expectations as to when or how it would be used. Without going into detail, I’ll simply tell you that there have been a lot of people in our prayer room in the months that have followed, and there have been many, many prayers offered. Any reservations that I may have had about being worthy, or about “knowing” how to pray for others quickly vanished with the opportunities that God has presented to me on a fairly regular basis. Obedience.
So I’m having this horrible week, and I’m giving up hope, and I’m crying out to God for help, and what does He do? How does He respond to my cries for help?
Near the end of the work day on Thursday, the first really bad day, a lady who had been in attendance at the Dream Center earlier in the week comes in the salon and asks if I have a few minutes to talk with her in the prayer room. Even as I’m saying okay and walking with her towards the room, I’m thinking, “Really God? I’ve been praying to You for help, and You answer by sending me this sweet lady who needs some conversation and some prayer? Really?”
We sat and talked for close to twenty minutes, about her and her family, and we ended with prayer. Obedience.
The next day was even worse. I’d had another sleepless night, followed by crack of dawn worship music and prayer, and feeling that nothing was getting better, and still crying out to God for help. I didn’t want to go to work at all, but I did. What made it even worse was the fact that I was gonna have to let someone go at the end of the day. “God, are You listening? Can You give me a little help here?”
I have to tell you that at this very moment I’m smiling as I recount what happened that day, but at the time I was doing anything but smiling…
It was around eleven that morning, I just happened to be at front desk at the salon helping out a bit, and one of our guests who had been in the week before just happened to come in at that moment to purchase some hair spray. When the transaction was completed, she (the guest) turned to leave, then wheeled back around and without missing a beat said, “I want to take you up on your offer.” A moment of silence passed, because I was frantically trying to remember what my offer to her had been. She continued, “Last week you told me that if I ever needed to talk, or if I needed prayer, to let you know. Can we go to the prayer room and pray for my daughter?”
Offering the best smile that I could muster up, I replied “You bet! Follow me.”
As we walked to the prayer room, I remember telling God, “This is Your idea of helping me? Are You kidding me? You had better put some peace on my mind and in my heart if you really expect me to pray for this lady’s daughter.” (Some of you may be bristling at the idea of me speaking to God in this manner, but in my mind, my conversations with God are real prayers being offered to a real God.)
What happened next was truly amazing. I could sense that this lady’s concerns for her daughter were too overwhelming to talk about, and that she had a ton of hurt and fear on her heart, so I just began to pray. As I prayed, the lady, her daughter, and her family, became the only thing that mattered in my world. Everything else just faded away. And the peace that had been missing in my heart was suddenly there…. It was, without a doubt, a God anointed and God appointed moment; one that I’ll never forget.
You see, at that moment I realized that many blessings are to be gained by putting the needs of others ahead of our own, and that being obedient to opportunities given to us by God to help others can be a blessing in and of itself.
It wasn’t over…
I’d love to tell you that everything got better at that moment; that the act of praying for my friend and her daughter made all of my cares and worries just vanish. Poof!
Unfortunately, it didn’t. I continued to struggle until I received that wake-up call from Melanie several days later. During that time God gave me several opportunities to pray for people in that room, and I took advantage of every one of ‘em. So what’s my point?
When I was in the midst of a raging storm, and the skies were dark, and I felt that there was no hope, that I could no longer see the path, I was able to take shelter and feel God’s peace, if only for those few minutes when I was praying, not for my needs, but for the needs of someone else.
And I can’t help but wonder “what if” I had not been obedient to God’s “opportunities.” I have a feeling that I’d still be struggling, wondering what had happened to me, where the storm had come from, and when it was going to pass.
Amen and Amen.