So since we are discussing faith, I asked myself “Who in the Bible had the greatest faith?” Was it Noah who built the Ark? People must have really thought he was nuts. Was it Abraham, we studied his faith several weeks ago. Was it the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Elijah? Each of these and many more whose stories are found in the Bible displayed great faith. But Jesus pointed out the person with the greatest faith and once again Jesus surprises us when he commended the most unlikely person, a Roman Centurion.
Matthew chapter 8 tells us Jesus had just entered the city of Capernaum, near the Sea of Galilee. The centurion came and pleaded for Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus then shocked the Jewish crowd saying that He would go with the centurion to his house and heal him. Seriously Jesus, you’re going to help an oppressor, one of them, someone who isn’t us? But the centurion told Jesus that such a trip wasn’t necessary. He probably knew his house was unclean according to Jewish law, but more importantly he understood obedience and authority.
He said, ““but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” The implication is that they’ll do whatever they are commanded to do, no questions asked.
Jesus was amazed, “When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. “And then He said to the centurion, ““Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.”
You see the key then to great faith is linking God’s authority with our obedience. This understanding is what made the centurion’s faith so great. Faith and obedience go hand in hand. When you trust someone, you’ll do what they say. If you don’t, then the trust really isn’t there. God has linked trust in him, i.e. faith, with obedience. All of God’s promises are conditioned on our following His directions.
And when we do, then God says we’ll have success and a life lived to its fullest. Deuteronomy 5:33, “You must follow exactly the path that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you are to possess.” God has made incredible promises and has linked them to our obedience, it’s the “if,” and “then,” promises of the Bible. If we obey what He says, then He promises that He’ll save us, watch over us, take care of us, and give us our needs.
If we follow God’s directions our life will be more fulfilling than without obedience, it’s that simple, have faith in that. Behind God’s promises is this premise of our obedience to His word.
God gives us His commandments, which by the way aren’t suggestions. They’re found in His word so we can live our lives to the fullest. And while some of God’s commandments and Jesus’ commands may sound unfair and unreasonable, God always knows what’s best. God’s not out to cramp our style or limit our lives. Jesus said John 10:10, “I have come that you may have life, and that more abundantly.”
From our perspective, some of these commands don’t make a lot of sense. Like giving God the first ten percent of what we make first, before we pay the bills or anything. It’s called the tithe. Or if someone hurts us we’re suppose to forgive them, not return their evil with our own. But no matter how unreasonable these commandments may sound, God tells us to obey anyway. It’s a matter of trust, it’s a matter of faith, and since God created us, he knows what’s best for our lives. Obedience to God’s word is then our statement of faith, and it’s the key that unlocks all the promises of God. So, let’s look at how we can receive God’s promises through our obedience.
1. Obey God Immediately
Don’t delay, wait, procrastinate, put off, or make excuses. Instead we are to just do it. David understood and said in Psalm 119:60, “I hurry and do not delay to keep your commandments.”
If there’s ever a time to be in a hurry, this is it. When God tells us to do something we should do it immediately, whether we feel like it or not. Think about it, we don’t have to understand something to benefit from it.
I don’t understand how a big old airplane can take off with 300 plus passengers, but I still benefit by flying on one. I don’t understand how computers work or the Internet, but I get the big benefit. I don’t understand the car engines with computors, but I benefit from driving a car.
I don’t always understand God’s commands, but by obeying them I’ve greatly benefited. Like the command to tithe, we have a hard time understanding how when we’re in debt and can’t pay our bills, how can we benefit from giving the tithe? Yet God promises when we give our first fruits from the job or investment HE GAVE US, we will be blessed.
Everyone has told a child not to do something and they often say, “Why.” Often our response is, “Because I told you so.” The reason we do this is because of how long it would take to explain it, especially to someone who’s not old enough to comprehend. One day they will be, but not now, we just hope we’ll be around before we die from the aggravation.
So it’s the same, as God’s children we often do the same thing. When God tells us to do something we ask, “Why.” It’s as if God says, “Because I told you, and I know more about this stuff than you do, for My ways and thoughts are much higher than yours, so for right now you have to trust Me.” And here is the big rabbit hole, we actually often have the guts to question the Creator of the universe if what He’s doing is right? It also helps when we obey God with the right attitude, but even if we have a wrong or negative attitude, it’s still better to obey. Again, did you or do you tell our children to clean their room only when their attitude is right? If that were the case their rooms would never get clean.
We are also to walk by faith, not by feelings. That’s because feelings lie, and we have an incredible ability to believe our feelings rather than God’s word. Therefore, we’re to do what is right according to God’s word whether we feel like it or not, and we’re to do it immediately, not later. Here’s a question. “What if God responded to our needs with the same speed that we obey Him?”
If God tells us to do something we’re to do it immediately, and if we continue to pray about it, or go to counseling about it, then it’s the same thing as delayed obedience, and delayed obedience is disobedience.
2. Obey God Completely
We can’t just cherry pick God’s word. It’s not like we’ll obey this but not that. Psalm 119:2
“Blessed are those who keep his decrees and seek him with all their heart.” To seek God with all their heart is to obey God completely. To do this there are two truths we need to consider.
a. God Doesn’t Change
God’s standards for right and wrong have never changed, and they never will. Malachi 3:6, “For I the LORD do not change.” That’s pretty clear! If it was wrong 6,000 years ago, then it’s still wrong today. Lying was wrong then, and it’s still wrong now. Cultures change, popular opinions change, lots of things change, but truth doesn’t change. What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong regardless of opinions.
b. God’s Ways Aren’t Ours
God has a much better perspective than our own, because He can see things we can’t. He knows the future, we don’t. Our trying to see from God’s perspective is much like an ant trying to see life from our perspective. We’re not capable of seeing it as God sees it. He’s infinite, and we’re finite! He’s all knowing; at best we know that we don’t know. So we need to trust God and His word. The Lord said, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
Here is the number 1 oldest temptation, it’s the desire to be like God, and with that temptation comes our doubting God’s word. Satan said, “Did God really tell you not to eat from this tree?”
Every time we’re tempted Satan uses this exact same line. He hasn’t changed his strategy. He says, “I know the Bible says this, but is that what God really means? This is the 21st century, the Bible was written about 2,000 years ago, so God surely didn’t mean it for today!”
Faith is not only trusting God, but it’s also doing it Gods’ way. That’s what Solomon said in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Try it one time! Remember that partial obedience is disobedience. Simple. So:
3. Obey God Joyfully
Psalm 119:47, “I find my delight in your commandments, because I love them.” The psalmist enjoys obeying God’s commands. It’s enjoyable to do what God says. God is the creator of this world. He created every one of us, therefore we should follow His directions for life. In addition, these commands aren’t burdensome, but a joy. When you love someone you don’t mind doing things they may ask. 1 John 5:3, “For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
When we realize just how much God loves us, and what He’s done for us, then we’ll love to follow His commandments. When we realize that God loved us so much that He gave His Son to die for us so we can have everlasting life, then following His commands aren’t burdensome at all, rather they should be a pleasure. God measures our love for Him, not by what we say, but by our obedience. Jesus said that if we love Him then we’ll keep His commandments. Finally,
4. Obey God Continually
Last week we understood that we’re in a marathon, not a hundred yard dash, therefore our obedience needs to be continual, not sporadic, so we can reach the finish line. Psalm 119:111-112 “Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. Obeying God is something we’ll want to do until the very end. Psalm 119:33, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end.”
We need to come to God by faith saying, “Whatever you say, Lord, I will follow, I will obey.” But here’s the point, why should God tell us anything when we haven’t done what He’s already said. God isn’t going to give us further revelation until we act on the revelation He’s already given. Obedience is the key then to receiving God’s promises.
Here are a couple of questions for us to answer.
What does our obedience to God reveal about our faith?
Is our obedience to God immediate or delayed, complete or partial, joyful or reluctant, or is it continual or sporadic?
And so receiving God’s promises is all about obedience by faith.