In my devotional reading this morning, it was about the transformation of Saul. Not the king in the Old Testament but the persecutor of the New Testament. We all know that Saul was a pretty bad dude. His job was to pretty much go around and find people who were followers of “the way” or called themselves Christians. Saul would track them down, throw them in prison or have them tortured. But, as he was on his way to find more Christians to torture, he had an encounter with God. During his encounter, he was struck with blindness and was sent to eventually meet up with a man named Ananias. A little after Saul’s experience, Ananias had an encounter with God where God told him to go to a specific house where he was to meet Saul. God told him that he needed to go and restore Saul’s sight.
Ananias knew the risk. He knows Saul. Saul’s reputation and the things he has done to other Christians are well known to people like Ananias. Mentally he has calculated the risk of running into Saul on the street. He has probably thought about what he would do if he saw Saul approach him. He has probably rehearsed what he would say if the encounter would ever happen. Maybe he even walked through some scenarios with his family and what they should do if an encounter with Saul ever happened. But now God tells Ananias that he needs to go. Ananias told God about Saul… yup, Ananias told God about how bad Saul was. God’s response? “GO! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16)
Ananias had a decision to make. He could play it safe and not go to meet Saul. I mean, who could blame him? Put yourself in his shoes (or sandals). Would you go before someone who had the legal power to put you in jail or persecute you just for what you believe? Nope! You’d be weighing out your options and trying to figure out how you could get out of such a task. But there’s something bigger here. There’s something that Ananias did that literally changed the course of Christianity. He was obedient. He did what he was told and submitted to what God said. He was obedient.
I have 2 boys. From the time they could understand sentences and knew right from wrong I have emphasized a saying to help them stay out of trouble. I say to them, “There is one sure way to stay out of trouble and never get a spanking. All you have to do is Listen and Obey.” Honestly, as an adult, you know that you could have avoided many lectures, groundings, spankings or other forms of punishment if you would have just listened and obeyed the person(s) over or above you, right? If you boil it all down, listening and obeying would have saved so much time and hard-learned lessons.
Apparently Ananias knew this. He knew that he should obey what God was telling him. To be honest, I am so thankful that Ananias had the courage to face his fears and be obedient to what God was asking him to do. But, as I was thinking about this story and as God allowed me to see the importance of being obedient, I realized something about the life of pastors. Obedience to what God is asking us to do costs us something. Being obedient always costs us something.
In the last several months, I have listened to God’s desire for what He wants my family and I to do. We have said yes to Him and have subsequently: quit a position in ministry I enjoyed, sold our beautiful home, packed up our belongings, said goodbye to a great church and friends, moved away from our parents and our kids’ grandparents and extended family, left what was comfortable, faced some people who thought (and probably still think) we’re crazy, we moved most of our things into a storage unit and instead of buying a house like most normal people would do, we bought a camper and are now living in it.
Obedience cost us. It cost us a comfortable life. (Yeah, that sounds dumb to say that…) But, comfortable is where most of us like to “live”. If we’re uncomfortable, we do what we can to change it. If we’re cold, we turn up the heat or put on another layer of clothes. If we’re hot, we turn down the A/C. We like comfortable. When God asks us to do something different and out of our comfort zones, most of us quickly write that off because “There’s no way! God doesn’t want me to do that!” or “Are you sure, God? Do you know what they will think of me???”
I have known a lot of pastors that, because of their obedience to follow where God wants them to be or say what He wants them to say may cost them their friendships. Some pastors have to make tough decisions that cost them friendships even within the church. Whether it is going from 1 service to 2, canceling the traditional service or no longer providing a Sunday evening service or asking a person to step down from a position of leadership. Being obedient may cost a pastor.
A pastors obedience may cost them their family. Many pastors have made decisions based on obedience to their call and it caused their kids to turn their backs on the church. Many pastors know that, due to their obedience to Christ, it puts their family at risk of going through some extremely tough times. So many of my pastor friends pray for their families overall health and well being as much or more than they pray for anything else. For my wife Tiffany and I, before we began packing things up for our move into a camper, we prayed so much for our 13-year-old son to not be lost in the shuffle. See, it’s so easy for our kids to go through the transition and be overlooked. Or there are some pastors that think the move they’re going to make will be best for their kids and it ends up being the hardest for them.
And even some pastors act upon the obedience of Christ within their church and it ends up splitting the church. I am convinced that many pastors (not all) make decisions for their churches that are birthed from their prayer time and based upon their obedience in Christ. However, just because they are being obedient doesn’t mean that it will win the majority or be popular with everyone. Pastors have tough decisions to make for their flock. There’s a lot hanging in the balance.
So let me ask you; what has your obedience cost you? Can you say that you have done things that you know God has challenged you to do? Have you stepped up or stepped out? Have you struggled with something that you feel He is asking you to do? Make no mistake about it, when we step out in obedience with Christ, it can and will be the best thing for us. John 14:23 says, “Jesus replied, ‘if anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’”
If you’re struggling with being obedient because, like Ananias, you feel like there’s a lot to risk and a lot at stake and you don’t want to go through it, remember what John 16:33 says, “… In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” He never said it’d be easy but He did promise He’d be with us.
Lord, the last several weeks have been tough for our family. We have faced some pretty hard times for the sake of following your lead. We know we are where we’re supposed to be but being obedient is tough. I know there are many pastors and church leaders who are wading through some deep waters due to being faithful and obedient to your call. Strengthen us. Strengthen them. May the desire to run the race and to win the prize you have for us drive us to be faithful. When we can’t quite see the way to go, draw us close to you. May our faithful obedience to your calling spur others on in their walk. Amen