"Is the Lord to be obeyed in all things whatsoever He commands?...How much do we love Him?"
It is human nature, a little pride mixed with a little stubbornness, to want to know the reason behind a request before we comply with it. But God often asks us to obey even if we do not completely understand the “why.”
It is sometimes easy to forget that the people we read about in Scripture were real people. Even though they were devoted followers of Christ they were still human and experienced all the doubts and frustrations that we still struggle with today.
Imagine the reaction of the Apostles when Jesus tells them to feed a crowd of thousands with five loaves of bread and two fish. In spite of all they had learned, all they had seen, they still did not quite understand what was happening. How would you react when asked to do something that seemed impossible? It would probably depend very much on who was asking. The Apostles obey because it is Jesus who asks them. They do not understand necessarily, but they obey. Then Jesus works a miracle and the Apostles confusion and frustration is turned to joy and gratitude.
Trusting in God is perhaps the hardest thing for us to do. This is the recurring theme in the history of our salvation; do we trust in God? It is a question we have been faced with from the very beginning. In our small finite lives here on earth we cannot see the completeness of God’s plan for us. We are children who cannot know everything the parent has in mind. But Christ’s teachings are God’s teachings, conveyed to us through His Church, and we are called to obey them.
God also wants us to understand His teachings, that is why He has given us His Church, to explain His teachings to us. But too often we lose sight of this and think of the Church as a man-made institution. But we are finite creatures and our job is to obey our creator even if we do not fully understand the whys and hows.
One of the most famous football players in the history of the game is Hall of Fame quarterback, Roger Staubach. He won the Heisman Trophy in college. Then he went on to lead the Dallas Cowboys to seven division titles and two Super Bowl victories. He was the NFL's passing champion four times and made six trips to the Pro-Bowl before being inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
How did he reach such an extraordinary level of excellence and effectiveness? Through learning to obey.
Even though Roger was the quarterback, his coach, another Hall of Famer, Tom Landry, insisted on calling all the plays. Staubach admitted that being a quarterback who didn't call his own signals was a source of trial for him at first. Coach Landry sent in every play.
He told Roger when to pass, when to run, and only in emergency situations could he change the play. Even though Roger considered coach Landry to have a "genius mind" when it came to football strategy, his pride made him itch to be able to run his own team.
And yet, he did what the coach wanted.
At first he did it reluctantly, but later he did it gladly. As he explained after he retired, "I faced up to the issue of obedience. Once I learned to obey, there was harmony, fulfillment, and victory."
God is much wiser than even the greatest football coach. And he wants us to experience his victory in life even more than we do ourselves - victory over sin, over selfishness, over frustration, over everything that holds us back from true fulfillment now and for all eternity.
Why do we obey? The apostles obeyed the commands of Jesus out of their love for him. Our obedience is not dependent upon the importance of what we are asked to do but rather on our love for Him who asks it of us.
Our first parents were faced with the same questions we face today. Is the Lord to be obeyed in all things whatsoever He commands? Is He a Holy Lawgiver? Are His creatures bound to obey and accept His will? How much do we love Him?
We are often faced with a choice between what we want to do and what we feel is the right thing to do. Or to put it another way, what we want to do and what God is calling us to do. This situation can cause agonizing stress as we feel we are pulled in two different directions. But we frequently put aside our own wants and desires for the sake of a loved one. Why would we not do so for God? We may find in doing so that what we gain is worth far more than what we have given up.
Creative individuals have been taught for the last 150 years or so, to follow their muse, to do whatever they want to do because no one can tell an artist how to use their gifts. But this is a selfish attitude born out of self-love. If we love God above ourselves, we will bring to Him the gifts and talents that we have sharpened into skills, and He will use them to change the world.
All we have to do is follow in the Apostles' footsteps by handing over our loaves and fish. Above all God wants our trust, faith, and obedience. With those He will work wonders that far exceed anything we could accomplish on our own.
“Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience. Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience, withdraws from Grace.” -Thomas Kempis
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at www.DeaconLawrence.organd can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com