Courage and Obedience

Courage leads to obedience leads to courage.

Brave Heart (5)

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God wasable to raise himup, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. Hebrews 11.17-19

Promises and commands
What do we do when something God has promised appears to conflict with something He is leading us to do?

For example, God has promised to give His people a great name, a name that is able to influence others for good and lead them into the blessings of God. But He has also called us to bear witness to Christ, and we’re not very good at that, and we fear that the people around us may not want to hear about Jesus. How can we bless them if we don’t share the Good News? How can we influence them for the Kingdom if we never talk to them about it? But if we do share the Gospel, we’re just going to make them angry and drive them away.

How can we reconcile what appear to be conflicting promises and commands of the Lord?

By acting in obedience, that’s how. By taking God’s Word at face value, and putting into practice whatever He commands, knowing that He is good and wise and loving and true, and hoping in His glory with thanksgiving.

Consider Abraham again: He was told that Isaac would be the one through whom all the promised blessings of God’s relationship with Abraham would begin to flow to the nations and peoples of the world. Abraham surely must have taken good care of young Isaac – feeding him well, teaching him all the right ways to make a living and serve the Lord, protecting him from danger, and so forth. Now God was commanding the unthinkable. He ordered Abraham to take his son to a high mountain and offer him up as a sacrifice.

Faith and obedience
How was Abraham to reconcile this apparent conflict between the promises of God and this unmistakably clear command?

By holding on to the promises and acting in obedience. By taking the steps of obedience that would lead him to carry out the command of God, Abraham showed that he believed God would fulfill what He had promised, even if He had to raise his son from the dead! We hear this in Abraham’s instruction to the servants who went with him and Isaac to the mountain: ““Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Gen. 22.5). Abraham believed God’s promise and he obeyed God’s command.

Here is faith courageously at work along two tracks – the track of faith in what God has promised, even when we can’t figure out all the details of how this is going to work out; and the track of obedience according to what God had plainly revealed.

Abraham must have felt great fear and dread in this situation, but he did not allow his fear to keep him from acting courageously. By focusing on the promises of God and taking explicit steps of obedience, Abraham engaged the Spirit of God for the courage to do the unthinkable. His act of courageous obedience reinforced the promises of God and strengthened his relationship with the Lord. And this is yet another way that we can increase in Christian courage.

Moving toward the promises
Do you know the promises of God? Do you meditate daily on these exceedingly great and precious promises? Do you long above all else to partake of God through these promises, so that you know His glory and show His glory to the world?

Don’t worry about figuring out how these promises are going to work out. God has His ways, and He works in His time. Our job is to stay focused and keep moving toward what God has promised. Faith in God and obedience to His Word: this is what creates a heart brave enough to live for Jesus, whatever He requires.

And when He directs us to specific acts of obedience – repent of that sin, get to know that hurting friend, share the Good News with your co-worker, give of your time and substance for this worthy endeavor – by keeping focused on the promises of God and taking the small steps of daily obedience, we will find the presence of God with us to encourage and strengthen us for whatever He calls us to do.

Courage arises from hoping in God and living toward His promises. And it is sustained through the fear and love of God, as it acts according to the revealed will of the Lord.

For reflection
1.  What does it mean to be always “moving toward the promises”?

2.  What are some things that can keep us from doing that? How can Christians encourage one another in this way of life?

3.  Explain the role of promises and obedience in Abraham’s offering of Isaac. How did the promises serve him? Why was it important to obey, even though that seemed to conflict with the promises?

Next steps – Transformation: God commands us to be His witnesses and make disciples (Acts 1.8; Matthew 28.18-20). What fears or other obstacles are keeping you from carrying out this clear mandate from the Lord? Make a list of the promises of God that relate to this mandate, and of the daily steps you can take in fulfilling it. Ask a Christian friend for support in prayer.

T. M. Moore

This is part 6 of a multi-part series on Keeping the Heart. To download this week’s study as a free PDF, click here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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