Monday, October 26, 2009

Obey to Learn

Our ‘major league’ baseball team, the Trojans, was playing against the Firefighters. But no one called the Firefighters by their ‘mascot’ name of ‘Firefighters.’ No, this team was known throughout the league as ‘Ricky’s team.’
By some kind of chronological hocus-pocus, Ricky was playing in a league of mostly 10-year olds who were in 4th and 5th grade. However, Ricky was in 6th grade and was a good foot and a half taller than anyone else in the league. He could have really shined in the ‘pony’ league where he belonged, so you can just imagine how he dominated our league.
Well it just so happened that I was pitching and I had gotten myself in a jam of having the bases loaded. And who do you think was coming up to bat? That’s right – Ricky.
I glanced over at our coach in the dugout, and he motioned for me to throw the ball high – right across the shoulders. While not particularly known for my control (the bases were loaded, after all), I lucked into getting the ball to go right where my coach told me to pitch it.
CRACK! Grand slam.
A couple of innings later, fate found me in the exact same position – bases loaded and Ricky at the plate. I eyed my coach for advice and he motioned his hand across his knees – “keep it loooowwww.” Miracle of miracles, the ball went right where I wanted it to for exactly the second time in the entire game.
CRACK! Grand slam.
In the bottom of the last inning of that game, I had made it to third base and my teammate, Dennis, was at bat. Despite having hit two grand slams, Ricky’s team was only one run ahead of us. My coach called a suicide squeeze play. The pitcher started his windup, I broke for home, and as I slid between Dennis’ legs, his upper body was cork-screwed around watching the ball sail over the fence.
While I had what I considered to be a miserable day of pitching, after the game our coach commended me for doing what he had told me to do. And although we won the game on Dennis’ homerun, the coach chastised Dennis for ignoring his squeeze play signal and swinging away.
The folks in the stands thought Dennis was the hero; but our coach was sorely disappointed with him. Everyone was eager to forget my pitching performance; but my coach was quite satisfied.

In the ‘game of life’ – at school, at the D.P.S., in professional certification classes, etc. - we take tests to see what we have learned. But in the ‘game of godliness’, we learn by taking tests along the way.
The ‘test’ is whether or not we will obey God. Choose to do first (obey), and we learn as a result – we learn about God’s goodness, His trustworthiness, His love, and sometimes about His plans (but certainly not always). We learn about godliness.
We do not learn about godliness by obtaining lots of information about it. We learn about and grow in godliness by taking tests every day.
Yes, it is imperative to study the Bible to ascertain what is written about leading a godly life. But putting it into practice (taking tests) is the only way to learn about godliness.
[T]rain yourself to be godly. “Physical training is good,
but training for godliness is much better,
promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:7-8, NLT
What kind of ‘physical shape’ would you be in if you studied fitness magazines to ascertain exactly how to get in shape, but never did anything about it? Training in godliness is exactly the same – you have to ‘do’ to get there.
Jesus didn’t tell us to ‘study’ His life to become godly. He said: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:28-30, MSG (emphasis added)
It is all about ‘doing’ – it is all about ‘obeying’ what we read in the Bible and hear from God. When we hear from God – by reading the Bible, listening in prayer, receiving godly counsel – we need to put into action: [M]ake every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.
So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
. (2 Peter 1:5-11, NLT, emphasis added)
Do you want to become godly? Do you want to live a godly life? Well, quit just studying about it and do something about it!
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. (James 1:22-24, NLT)

It’s by doing what the Lord is telling us to do, without yet knowing the results, that we begin learning from God. First we choose to obey, and then we start learning.
Pitching the baseball to Ricky where my coach instructed didn’t turn out so great (at least from the fans’ perspectives). But I became a better baseball player by doing what the coach told me to do.
I usually don’t have any idea what the results of obeying God will be, but I know that I’ll be a more godly man by obeying anyway.
And the Coach will be satisfied with that.

Today: When you hear from God today, obey immediately without contemplating the results or consequences. You will grow in godliness by passing that test.

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