Yes, … Later
For the first two weeks of her new job, Kim Till, the Chief Advancement Officer for Dallas Seminary, would not sit at her desk. She’d work rigorously at the table next to her desk, while glancing over at her desk chair from time to time. She considered the full weight of raising millions of dollars annually—a heavy burden for any person to carry, not to mention the first woman to ever be entrusted with such a responsibility.
After two weeks of observing her desk from afar, Kim said that she committed herself “to work every day as though it were up to her, trusting that is was entirely up to the Lord,” and she sat down at her desk.
I’ve witnessed Kim’s high level of faith and corresponding action. She leads several departments with boldness, although she would not have raised a cent had she never sat down and fully accepted God’s next steps for her. She reminds me of the biblical woman Deborah in Judges 4. Deborah was the first female judge to lead Israel. She held her position by listening to God under her very own palm tree and then evaluating Israelite’s disputes.
Deborah was a prophetess who saw God’s plans well in advance and spoke boldly based upon what she heard from God. During a pivotal period in Israel’s history, she summoned Barak, the military leader, and she prophesied, “The Lord has commanded, ‘Go and march…I will draw out your enemy, and I will give him into your hands.” (Judges 4:6-7, paraphrase). I imagine Deborah was able to speak out with such boldness because she truly heard from God. As Israel was in a cycle of ignoring God, it’s not too surprising that Barak balked at the order.
Francis Chan, one of my favorite teachers, recalls a time when his daughters balked at his direct orders. Francis instructed his daughters to clean their room and then returned a few minutes later to check on their progress. The girls were still sitting on the floor talking and playing. He motioned to them, “Hello, your room?” The girls responded, “Oh, Dad, we memorized what you said. We will.”
I do that. I recall distinct moments when I sense sadness in my soul while watching a TV episode. It’s like a groaning in my Spirit to come and meet with God. I can see His Word next to my bedside table; I have an iPhone filled with worship music, but instead I bail on His call and keep watching TV. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with a TV episode here and there, but when I opt to stare into the light of the flat screen over the light of His Presence, when I sense Him inviting, then I bail… on God.
I doubt the fullness of His reward and the benefit of His presence, so I negotiate. I’ll meet with you, God, later. I guard my TV downtime rather than invest my weakness into the God that is jealous to strengthen me. I doubt His benefits and rationalize, “I will … after.”
The problem is that good intention that does not lead to obedience is not actually obedience. Grace covers all sin, no doubt. But grace-backed obedience is worth the fight. A heart that wants to listen to God and do what He desires finds strength, joy, power, and vision. God rewards, but we forget that Christ died to not only cover our sin but also to empower us with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that lives within us groans for us to desire and to do what is pleasing to the Father. The flesh loves to cheapen grace and stay comfortable with pseudo happiness in all our little distractions. We negotiate rather than obey from grace.
We are not too far from Barak, who set his own conditions to obedience. He bartered with Deborah’s prophetic call to war by replying: “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, then I will not go…” (Judges 4:8). Most of us put conditions on our decision to obey, like Barak, because we are not thoroughly convinced that if we step out that our Leader, Jesus, will show up with something greater than what is presently in our hand. We half-way believe so we make very persuasive excuses. My daughters are brilliant at this.
I ask them to come here, and they delay for such great reasons that I recently needed to implement a new parenting strategy. Whenever they are playing and I need their attention, I gently call out (so not to sound like a drill sergeant): “Attention position, ladies.” They know that means to come right then and listen with their eyes. If they do this, I have lots of kisses and praise for each of them. It is so encouraging when they actually come and listen the first time. I cannot imagine how frustrating it must be for the God of the Universe to have His children respond to His Word and His Spirit’s leading with “Oh, we’ll get to that, when it’s convenient.”
Fortunately, Barak eventually obeyed Deborah’s prophetic word from God, but because he hesitated, he lost what would have been his reward—glory (Judges 4:9). Eventually, Barak manned up and stepped out onto the battle field. And after Barak stepped out, God showed up, and “the LORD routed the enemy and all his chariots…” (Judges 4:15, emphasis added). What grace God showed!
God tends to show up, when we step past intention and into obedience. There is a difference. It was only after Kim Till sat down into the chair accepting the responsibility of Chief Advancement Officer that she fully transferred her trust over to the Lord. It is only after I choose to turn off the TV, sit down in my bed, open His Word that God shines vision into my heart for my family and for ministry greater than any sitcom story line could offer. No leader, mommy, wife, or woman deserves the grace it takes to obey God, but Jesus bought us both forgiveness and His power to even desire to obey the Father. So let’s go after what He has given!
Love, Adrianne Schwanke with Shabby Chic Ministries
~ God is jealous for your attention (Duet 6:14-15). It may not be hard for you to walk away from an episode of the Bachelorette or American Idol, but when is it most difficult for you to give God your attention? (After work project, after the kids, after … ?)
~ Read James 1:22. Are you hearing, considering, discussing, or doing the Word without excuse and without delay? None of us are perfect, but if our intention is to give Him our best, imagine what might be the reward? Talk to God about this.
~ Write out Philippians 2:13: