I did some pretty dumb things when I was a kid. When my brother and I were having ice cream at Grandpa’s, my brother (Mr. Instigator) dared me to take a spoonful and fling at it Grandpa’s face. Yep. Right at those glasses Grandpa was wearing, the ones he peered over as if to warn me of impending doom if I went through with it. The clock hanging on the kitchen wall ticked, ticked, ticked while I debated, while my brother egged me on. Grandpa’s glare. Brother’s snickering. Which one? Which one?
Unfortunately, I listened to my brother, did the dirty deed, and watched as Grandpa marched right to the phone and called Dad. I was in trouble. BIG trouble. Suddenly pleasing my brother seemed like an awfully stupid thing to do, especially when I had to abandon my bowl of ice cream for a fun-filled, bottom-spanking walk back home while my brother finished his ice cream with a smug smile on his face.
Why would my brother convince me to do something like that? Maybe he just wanted a good laugh, to get me in trouble, or maybe he wanted my ice cream. I don’t know. But whatever the reason, I didn’t do the right thing and I had to pay for it.
You know, you and I have to deal with two instigators every day who will get us into loads of trouble by trying to convince us to do the wrong thing, to disobey God.
The first instigator is our flesh; that weakling, whiny little toddler who pouts and stomps her feet until she gets her way. She’ll demand we pay attention to her and make sure she’s comfortable at all times and she certainly won’t part with anything we want to share with someone else. “That’s mine!” she yells as she folds her arms, sticking out her bottom lip a bit further to show her displeasure. She will deliberately drag us away from volunteering at the soup kitchen because she wants to go to the fair, insisting she needs cotton candy and a funnel cake. She proudly wears a T-shirt that states, “It’s all about me” and she will point to it anytime we forget.
The second instigator who diligently works at keeping us from obeying God is Satan. He is the enemy of our souls, the father of lies, the accuser, and the thief. He will work very hard to steal our obedience because he knows if he gets it, he’s rendered us pretty useless for God’s Kingdom. We’ll just sit in the corner, looking a lot like our fleshly selves, sucking on our thumbs and whimpering about God wanting us to do something that’s too hard or weird. Satan will try to use our weakling flesh against us, to side with him. He will creep up beside us, beside our fleshly selves, and pat us on the back, murmuring lies and filling us with doubts:
“What will everyone think if you do that? You know. Everyone is going to think you’re crazy. Why don’t you just stay put, get comfortable. You don’t need to do that. You don’t need to do what God tells you to do. Surely if He’s God He can find someone else to do it.”
But when you hear that last one, you shoot straight up in your chair. Of course God can find someone else, but He chose you. Our Almighty God hand-picked you out of every other person on the face of the planet to do something for Him in this precise moment in time. Why would you want Him to pass you up and find someone else?
What do you do? There is no middle ground on this battlefield. You’re either going to obey God or disobey Him. Which will you choose?
Let me tell you, there is such joy in obeying God, in stepping out and moving through the fear to meet Him in the moment He ordained for you to be involved in.
And yet, there is such deep remorse, such profound and lingering sadness in disobeying God, in giving into those instigators and their ridiculous thoughts and lies. When you disobey God, you grieve His Holy Spirit who is within you. It’s a pain you will share with Him, one that is nothing short of excruciating.
The choice is yours. Just remember the price to pay for listening to the instigators and disobeying God is far greater than the price of missing out on a bowl of ice cream. You’ll miss out on a blessing, a moment with God Himself. A moment He chose to share with you.
“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:10 NLT.)
“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Galatians 5:17 NASB.)
“So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. (James 4:7-8a MSG.)
“He [Jesus] replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” (Luke 11:28 NIV.)