In our culture of individualism and free thinking, obedience has negative connotations. Obedience has fallen out of vogue — it tends to evoke thoughts of compulsion, duress, or even abuse. In fact, we think we should have the right to decide for ourselves what is best in every situation. Typically, we don’t like to have to answer to anybody else. The reasoning goes like this — Anyone who requires anything of me should be able to give me a legitimate reason for that requirement, and I have the right to determine whether that reason is enough to warrant my compliance with the requirement at hand. At least in the western world, we insist that we as individuals are our own final authority on nearly everything.
In fact, the only positive association most of us have with obedience is when it applies to our own children. As parents, we can usually see the practical benefit of teaching our children to obey us. No one wants to have to argue with a child over every little thing that needs to be done during the course of a day. In twenty-nine years as a mother, I have learned that I don’t always have to explain to my children my reasons for absolutely everything I ask them to do. Some things they will find out for themselves. If they choose not to eat the dinner I cook, they will be hungry later in the evening. It is a long time until breakfast. If they choose not to pick up their rooms when asked, their toys may disappear for a period of time. Over the course of time, they all learned that obedience eventually pays off. Most importantly, it builds a relationship of mutual honor and trust between parent and child. This type of relationship is vitally important to God.
When it comes to obeying God, our feelings simply don’t matter. Whether we “want” to or not, or whether we think God is being fair or not, or whether we understand the reason behind the request, has nothing to do with our ultimate decision to obey. Jesus demonstrates that obedience to the Father has nothing whatsoever to do with our feelings. “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, Sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” (Matthew 21: 28-31; New King James)
Often the fruit and power of obedience do not become apparent until much later. Jesus spent his entire life resisting every temptation known to man. Had He not obeyed His Father in every detail, the power and fruit of the Cross would have been rendered null and void. I have no right to demand that God explain everything to me. I don’t have to obey. I don’t have to WANT to do what He asks of me. God is not obligated to give me immediate fruit from my obedience. I have the privilege of CHOOSING to obey, trusting Him in that area, and knowing that He will release His power in that place of my obedience. Ultimately, there will be fruit from my choice to obey. In the meantime, I will enjoy an intimate relationship of trust and honor with my heavenly Daddy, who will be faithful to complete the work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6).