While humility, prayer, and seeking the face of God are the first three legs of our race towards victory, obedience is the power that pushes us across the finish line and unleashes the blessings of God in our lives. This analogy to the relay in track and field illustrates that obedience is only powerful when done out a heart of love – a heart set on humility which in turn leads us to prayer and seeking the face of God. If our obedient action is not motivated by love, then it is motivated by greed or by fear. Too many of us are obedient to God because we simply want to use Him as our cash cow!
Light-bulb moment: Cash cow obedience is not born out of love but instead is born out of our greed and self-seeking.
Jesus gives an example of obedience that does not please Him when he describes the people that put ashes on their cheeks to show they are fasting. Although they were being obedient to fast (for Christ says when and not if you fast), the motivation behind it all was the adulation of the people around them. In actuality, their action had morphed into a form of idolatry, with their god being the need to be recognized. Since the penchant to be glorified rather than give God all the glory comes out of fear (of not being good enough, or of rejection), we see that it cannot please God for it is not done out of love. This is why Cain’s offering was not pleasing to God; why Jesus called the seemingly perfect and obedient keepers of the law brood of vipers; why our obedience at times do not yield any fruit for us
Light-bulb moment: Obedience is simply a seed. Just like any other seed, it has to be sown into ground that has been fertilized by love to be effective and yield fruit
Since the opposite good is evil (wickedness) and anything that does not flow out of God (love) is no good, it becomes clear that the command to ‘turn away from our wicked ways’ is not simply talking about turning away from disobedience, but is also addressing obedience that is steeped in fear. Therefore, the only way to turn away from our wicked way is to turn to love. Why turn to love-driven obedience? We do it so that healing can take place in our life and we can have peace. See, while our obedience can yield fruit in other people’s lives, why we are obedient is what determines whether fruit is produced in our lives. A fantastic example of this is Prophet Jonah. Although his preaching of the Gospel yielded the fruit of deliverance for the people of Nineveh, it produced bitterness in him because He was not obedient out of love. This is why Jonah asked God to take his life even when Nineveh was spared. Sheesh!
Light-bulb moment: What we do determines whether other people are blessed. Why we do it is what determines whether we are blessed!
Once we have truly developed the heart of love behind obedience, the question is how do we put it into practice? How do we ensure we do not fall into the trap of looking at ourselves in the mirror and forgetting what we look like as soon as we leave – of falling into complacency? (See James 1: 23 – 24).
Some Practical ways to ensure we do not fall into complacency and into disobedience are as follows:
Read the Word (Give no place to the devil – Ephesians 4:27): We do this by arming ourselves with the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God). We have to get to the point where we are so filled up with the Word of God that it leaves no room for any junk to enter.
Have Accountability Partners (Bear one anothers burdens – Galatians 6:7): We help each other lift our loads when we do not forsake godly gatherings but keep each other accountable to lead a godly life
Stay Away from Ungodly Company (A little leaven leavens the whole lump – 1 Corinthians 5:11): We have to ensure we rid ourselves of the sin (leaven) that is leavening our lump. At times, that means we must distance ourselves from people who do not care to discard their sin for any leaven is infectious and has a tendency to spread. Once the leaven is removed, the fellowship may be restored. Note that the relationship was never broken.
Food For Thought: Those who love God obey Him because they love Him
What are you doing with God’s favor? (listen here)
God’s grace is multifaceted! His grace saves us from eternal separation (through the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ), covers us in a myriad of situations and covers our sins when we confess, and empowers us (through the Holy Spirit) to live righteously and to attain all the covenant blessings or promises (favor, healing, prosperity, wisdom, might, and much more) that has been won for us.
Since we receive grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8), as we grow our faith (belief and trust) in the Lord through the study of His Word (see Romans 10:17), we ensure we experience more grace (power, gifting) in our lives. Thus, a life of faith is an empowered life that leads to the manifestation of the fullness of His covenant blessings in our life.
Yet, many of us receive the grace of God in vain when we fail to realize that God lavishes His grace on us not just to proper us but for us to be His hands and feet and to fulfill the requirements of love through His gifts – to walk in His purpose for us, to reveal Christ to others, and to be a blessing to others. Paul puts it this way:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me – 1 Corinthians 5:10
Light-bulb moment: We receive grace in vain when we stop laboring to fulfill the requirements of love by walk in His purpose for us, revealing Christ to others, and being a blessing to others. When we think it is just for us and we become lazy
Favor Gone Berserk
Favor goes berserk when we receive favor in vain. I started thinking of how favor goes berserk when I was asked this question: What would you rather have – favor or blessing? I found the question puzzling, not because it is difficult to answer, but because it makes a fundamentally flawed assumption. The question assumes that favor and blessing are mutually exclusive.
The will of God is to pour out his blessing on us and doth on us as a loving Father. He longs to bless us so that we can be a blessing to others – not to hog all our blessings in selfishness. By blessing others, we show God’s heart and walk in obedience. We open the door to God’s blessing when we obediently follow the path the He has for us. Favor is something that God grants us as we continue on the path of obedience. It is God’s favor that propels and catapults us towards the blessings that He has in store for us. So the relationship between favor and blessing is simply this:
Light-bulb moment: Favors are simply doors that God opens to accomplish His purpose through us
The mindset that favor and blessing are exclusive keeps us from reaching our destiny! People who chase after favor rather than blessings can be compared to those that base their performance on effort rather than results. They congratulate themselves on effort without ever achieving much. Hence, favor minded people often find themselves stuck in the same situation in life.
Light-bulb moment: Favor is the means to an end, and not the end in itself.
The story of Mark lays out the peril of being solely favor minded
Mark Receives Grace in Vain (listen here)
Mark is a favor-monger! He loves favor. Mark does not have much but he does very well on favor. He is favored everywhere he goes – he gets free parking in places others need to pay; he gets the closest parking at sporting events, and a friend usually picks up his tab at dinner. Mark enjoys so much favor that he has come to expect it. It has come to the point where he can just about budget favor into his monthly financial plan. For this, He is very thankful to God and prays to God for even more favor. From the outside looking in, it would be nice to be Mark right? Wrong!
Here are some things that being solely favor minded has done to Mark
He Cannot Bless Others: Mark is never able to pick up the tab for any of his friends. He is never able to help or bless anyone as he is the one that is always in need of a blessing. He needs others to continue favoring him and so is unable to be God’s hands and feet.
He has Become Lazy: By being solely favor minded he has imbibed a poverty mentality where he is satisfied with barely scraping by. He has the ability to achieve more, but laziness has crept into him. He has become the servant that the master admonished in the parable of the talents for being lazy (see Matthew 14:26). Mark has buried his potential under the seductive soil of favor!
He is Dissatisfied: Mark is never fully satisfied with any particular blessing his friends bestow upon him as he is always looking for more! His friends have noticed that while he always smiles and thanks them for blessing him, Mark becomes very sad, withdrawn, and even cold when he does not obtain their favor. They secretly wonder if Mark is only friends with them because of what they do for him. They wonder if their friendship with Mark is built on being his cash cow, and they wonder why he does not do more with the talent he possesses. On the other hand, Mark wonders why his friends have not picked up the tab especially when they are able and he is unable! He rationalizes it as his friends being cheap and not really loving him. He judges them for not following the biblical injunction of caring for the “needy” – as he is one who is in need! He conveniently forgets about all the other times they pick up his tab……. Mark has truly become a burden. And since he is never truly satisfied, he is never truly content. As such, he always nags. He has become a person that bible calls quarrelsome and nagging (see Proverbs 21:19).
He Cannot Keep a Relationship: Mark cannot maintain relationships because he is always the “taker” in them. He never gives because he rationalizes that he has nothing to give – but a whole lot of condemnation which he considers advice. He sees nothing wrong with always being a taker. In fact, He thanks God for blessing him and for putting people in his life he can take from. They are such a blessing! But in time, his partner realizes that Mark loves favor more than her and leaves him. Mark is stunned! He cannot see his own selfishness. He prays that God sends him another partner – another partner to drain!
Mark has forgotten that the bible says we should give and it shall be given unto us. It does not say to take so that we can get more.
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” – Luke 6:38
Mark’s Heart Condition(listen here)
The story of Mark illuminates what can happen when favor goes berserk – when we make favor the goal and not a means. It may lead to laziness, ingratitude, inability to fulfill our potential and broken relationships. As heirs to the throne, Jesus has unlocked for us covenant blessings; not just covenant favor for our selfish gain. We must not allow the enemy to twist favor in such a way as to keep us from God’s best. If this is happening, we have to examine our hearts. If we truly have a heart for God (a heart of love), then we will have a heart to be a blessing to others. We will have a heart to be givers.
So to answers the originally levied question of whether I would rather have favor or blessing, I say give me bless me so that I can be a blessing to others.
Food for Thought: The path to God’s blessing is paved with favor