The flag of Texas at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Obedience is better than sacrifice

I’m independent. I like my freedom. I like being able to do what I want to do without having to ask anybody for permission, without having to clear my schedule with anyone else, without having to juggle my life to suit someone else (unless I want to). And apparently I’ve always been that way.

Turning 31 yesterday brought up some old stories of when I was little, and I always get a little nostalgic when it comes to birthdays. I can’t say I struggled with authority when I was little, but I certainly had my own opinion about how the world should work. I’m so thankful my parents taught me to respect and obey authority. Why? Well, the Bible shows a direct connection between obedience to authorities and the blessings you receive.

I ran into a bit of an incident last night at the Judgement House dress rehearsal. I’m not going to go into details because there’s no point, but suffice it so say some people decided that they were going to do things their own way rather than obey the authorities who had been put in charge over them. And things like that always irritate me because Judgement House isn’t about getting our own way. It’s not about being cool. It’s not about getting to hang out with friends. Judgement House is a declaration of war against our enemy, and it burns me up to see people not taking it seriously.

I almost did something. I almost said something. But someone gave me great advice many moons ago: Never write a letter when you’re angry. Same thing applies to dealing with people. Don’t deal with people angry because people aren’t you’re enemy. And while part of me wanted to go all righteous on these other people and how they flipped the authorities off, the other part of me reminded my traitorous brain that I’m not that much different from them. I understand the urge to buck the system all too well. I understand the deep, yearning sensation to go against the grain, to tell the powers that be that they’re morons, to do my own thing because it’s easier and–let’s face it–my way is better.

Anybody else been there? Well, you’re not alone.

The flag of Texas at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

The flag of Texas at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verses are 1 Samuel 15:22-23.

But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”

The first king of Israel was a guy named Saul, who was set up to be the king because he looked kingly. And he did a pretty good job starting out, but it wasn’t long before he was eaten up with insecurity. And people who are ruled by insecurity make very unwise decisions. And soon, Saul was doing his own thing his own way. Because his way was better. God didn’t get it, and it wasn’t like He’d do anything about it. So Saul was free to do as he pleased.

Not so much.

The High Priest at the time, Samuel, delivered this message to Saul. And it was something that I needed to remember before I turned my righteous indignation against someone else who was thumbing their nose at authority.

Obedience is better than sacrifice.

Think about that. Think about what that means. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Doing what God tells you to do is better than giving up something you think will make Him happy. Ouch. That’s where I get stuck because I don’t have a problem sacrificing. I can throw time and energy and finances at every God-cause that comes my way, but just because I’m willing to do all that doesn’t mean that’s what God has asked me to do. I mean, none of those things are wrong, especially if you’re doing them for the right reasons. But what is that one thing God has told you to do that you haven’t done? Are you just sacrificing things for God to make up for it?

I’m sorry to say, it doesn’t work that way. Obedience is better than sacrifice.

I’m not always that good at obedience. I want to do things my own way in my own time the way I want to do them, and I don’t like having to wait for God, having to think like God, having to do what God would do. But the plain and simple truth is that blessings come from obedience. Saul disobeyed, and God rejected him as king.

So who is the authority in your life today that’s causing you a headache? Who is the authority that you don’t want to obey? The authorities in my life are there because God put them there, and disobeying them is tantamount to disobeying God (with the exception of when they ask you to act contrary to how the Bible says to live, but that’s a different topic).

Stop fighting it. Stop sacrificing for it in vain; it’s not fixing the problem. Obey. Just do it. You don’t have to understand, and you sure don’t have to like it. But blessings will follow, if not from your direct authority then from God Himself.