Is Obedience to God a Formula for a Blessed Life?
We had just finished our brainstorming session when one of the ladies in the task force reminded us to pray for a woman whose children were “a mess.” The woman we were praying for had struggled through a terrible divorce and now her teenagers battled for control with each parent. It was one of those heart-wrenching situations with no easy answers.
But the person who brought the prayer request felt she had figured out the formula for this situation. “You know,” she said, “my husband and I have had a fairly easy life. We’ve had good jobs and our children are well-behaved. We haven’t struggled with any major illnesses or tragedies. I believe it’s because we’ve always lived by the principle of the fifth commandment. We’ve honored our parents and since that commandment is the one with a promise – God has honored us in return and blessed our lives.”
Indeed, Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (ESV) Her premise sounded nice, and I was truly glad that she and her husband felt God had blessed them. But in the back of my mind, I was thinking, what about me?
I honored my parents, respected my elders and tried to live by the mantra of loving God and others. Yet life has not been easy – I’ve experienced divorce, cancer, unemployment, my son’s cancer, my mother’s Alzheimer’s – to name just a few of the difficulties.
Wasn’t God paying any attention to my plight or had I somehow missed the algebraic formula for an easy life?
Honor your parents + the promise of the Fifth Commandment = blessing upon blessing.
Although Scripture often offers a cause and effect principle, such principles aren’t guaranteed. Some are blessed with a charmed earthly existence while others struggle with financial traumas, chronic illnesses or family tragedies. Justice does not always occur on this earth and within our timelines.
Consider the saints in Hebrews 11. They faced major challenges and often had difficult lives. “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40, ESV). No happy or easy formulas, at least not in this life.
As Christians, we know God looks at the big picture and the final victory. He longs for us to love him and love others – not just focus on ourselves and the blessings we try to earn while we live on earth. Sometimes love and obedience still equal a difficult struggle, but at least we know the final victory is ours in heaven.
It’s better to wake up every morning with a fresh desire to listen to the Spirit and obey; and let God decide how the story ends.
Instead of neat little formulas, we can trust God to strengthen our hearts and help us focus on Him rather than an easy existence in this life.
When I live in faith, I don’t have to deal with resentment if my particular formula doesn’t work out. I can focus instead on being grateful for all the blessings that I didn’t earn – those special nuggets from God’s storehouse of grace.
Because when we really stop to think about it, we don’t deserve our blessings, even if we’ve kept all 10 of the commandments perfectly. Yet for some reason, God still chooses to bless us. Maybe his formula looks more like Grace + I love you = I am with you no matter what happens.
The Old Testament choir director, Asaph, summed it up well when he wrote, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26, ESV).
Where have you tried to use “formulas” to make your life easier? What would change if you simply obeyed God and trusted him instead relying on a formula for success?
Check out an earlier post by RJ here.