Tag Archives: obedience

Being Least in a Most World

5 Jul

How big is your pond?

I once had a university friend ask if I’d rather be a big frog in a small pond or a small frog in a big pond. Hmmm. It’s a bit like asking if I’d rather be valedictorian in a class of twenty or ranked twenty in a class of 1000. We all have a tendency to want to be most or best at something—most beautiful, organized, popular, or intelligent; best athlete, CEO, parent, or grandparent. It’s an endless list. The smaller our pond, the greater our chance of becoming the biggest frog.

Our need to feel important isn’t a new thing. Even Christ’s disciples weren’t immune to such attitudes.

[Jesus] asked [the disciples], “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:33–35 NRSV).

Later, ten disciples became angry with James and John who asked to sit on Christ’s right and left hand when He came into His glory (Mark 10:37).

So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:41–45 NRSV).

“But it is not so among you…” Christ followers walk a different path to glory. Glory doesn’t come through intelligence, talent, connections, education, or other contributors to “worldly success.” Jesus says greatness comes through slavery. Slavery has never held much appeal. Who wants to be completely controlled by someone or something?

Actually, I can name several. Paul, James, Peter, and Jude all declared themselves bond-slaves of Christ. I’ve known too many who yielded to alcohol, drugs, food, or sex. We’re all obedient on some level. We submit to laws, company policies, wedding vows, and more.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16 NRSV).

In “My Utmost for His Highest” (March 14), Oswald Chambers says, “remember what lust is: ‘I must have it at once,’ whether it be the lust of the flesh or the lust of the mind.”
What must we have at once? That thing controls us.

Lord Jesus, I want to be Your bond-servant. I confess that I often make wrong choices and want to be a big frog. Teach me to be “slave to all.” Amen.

What have you learned about obedience and yielding? What’s hard? What consequences or rewards have you experienced? Please share your insights and experience.

Control

7 Jun

I may be a slow learner, but one thing I know: I have no control over another human being. I can’t make someone love me. I can’t control someone else’s drinking, spending, risk-taking, or attitude. I can influence, guide, instruct, even threaten or beg, but I cannot control. Neither can you. There’s freedom as well as frustration in that realization.

As a teacher and parent, I attempted to motivate obedience through teaching personal responsibility and intrinsic benefits. I wanted my children and students to know the joy of learning and the rewards of commitment and hard work. However, failing that, I dispensed consequences. Faced with consequences, most people comply with rules and standards. But not always. Sometimes we try to get between our loved ones and life, but that eventually becomes impossible. Life overflows with consequences—everything from a damaged relationship to life in prison.

I control only one person. I can choose my thoughts and my behavior and emotions will follow. Excluding physical restrictions, so can you.
“Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:28 NASB95).

I require God’s help controlling my spirit; it’s not an option. His faithfulness is my stability and strength for living. I need Christ’s love as my motivation and purpose.

“For the love of Christ controls us. . .so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him. . .” (2 Corinthians 5:14–15 NASB95).

As we grow in knowledge and love for God, we’re changed. We’re able to give God control when we remain focused on His character and compassion rather than our fears or needs. Then, like a fruit-producing vine, the Holy Spirit reproduces Christ’s nature in us.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things (Galatians 5:22–23 NRSV).