Over the past week or so, we have been talking about Paul and his worldview. How you fill in the blanks, to live is blank and to die is blank, I believe will have a great impact on what you pursue in life.
You may realize that you are in the wrong race, that you are living for temporary things. God invites you to first make Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and from that point on to invest in eternal things, the souls of people.
Or you may realize that you are in the right race but not running in a way to get the prize. You have many good intentions but life and all of its unending barrage of cares and concerns squeeze out all room and desire to run this race for God wholeheartedly.
To both sets of people, I want to say the same thing. In order to put yourself into the right race as well as to run God’s race with everything that we have, we need to be willing to take a step of obedience. And that step of obedience will lead to another step of obedience. And another and so on and so forth.
Our lives are the sum total of all the small decisions we make everyday. The mundane, day in and day out decisions to obey or not obey God projected over your lifetime will determine if you lived for God and others or you mainly lived for yourself. Whether you were heavenbound or earthbound.
Honestly, I am very impatient by nature and I get frustrated because God does not appear to speak loudly enough for me to hear often times so it’s hard to know what to obey day in and day out.
And sometimes, I read Acts and see how Apostle Paul lived his life and I wish that I could hear the voice of God as loudly and clearly as Paul did. Or at least I wish I could have an Ananias, as Paul did, in my life who could tell me specifically what my calling is or prophets like Agabus who could warn me about the trials ahead.
If God spoke loudly all the time and clouds overhead formed to spell out our names in the skies, like Go ray to caltech and i will make you fishers of scientists, then we have no excuse but to obey. Because things are crystal clear. God does speak loudly at critical junctures of our lives when he needs to get our attention.
But because God doesn’t always shout at us, does that mean he is not speaking?
God may not speak very often through a Christophany, or some audible voice or a very specific vision like Paul’s Macedonian call, but I believe God does speak in a still, small voice more often than we realize.
It is these whispers of God, these impressions that hit us in a fresh way here and there, a feeling like something or someone is tugging at your heart, a burden that suddenly appears for a task or for a person, a verse that nags at us in the back of our mind and doesn’t let up for weeks and months, an unexpected conversation with a friend, a troubling circumstance where we feel like life has us chained up. These are the ways that God is constantly speaking to us. The whispers of God.
And I think the majority of us hear the voice of God like Peter did when he and the disciples were on a boat during a storm. Jesus appears in the midst of the storm and he is walking on the water. And the disciples hear a voice coming from somewhere in the sea. It’s noisy and it’s hard to see. And Peter is not sure who is calling out his name. The winds are tossing the boat, the waves are crashing into them so Peter asks, Lord, is that you? And he says to Jesus, if it is you, tell me to come and I’ll come. And Jesus offers one simple word, come.
Think of the scene from Peter’s perspective. It sure seems like God is speaking to me, but I am not sure if it is Jesus. I can’t see through this storm. I can barely hear him and now he says, come, but how can I know for sure? The point is, he doesn’t. Until he steps out of the boat. That one tiny step of obedience and the water under Peter solidifies and he is able to stand on water.
It took obedience to the hard-to-hear, muffled voice of Christ in the middle of a storm. And in that obedience, Peter was validated. It was Jesus who invited me to come and walk on the water. He never would have known for sure unless he took that step of obedience.
It’s important to take that tiny first step of obedience. The gospel message is not something that we were meant to merely talk about. It is a message that needs to be lived out step by step in concrete choices and decisions.
That’s why Paul could say imitate me as I imitate Christ. And when he couldn’t be there, he sent Timothy who was like Paul’s clone. When you see Timothy, you will be reminded of Paul’s WAY OF LIFE and his teaching. The gospel is not something that is merely taught on Sundays, but it is something that is caught. You see the gospel truth embodied and lived out in a person and you say, aha, that’s what it means to live for God.
I am always reminded of the testimony of Mother Teresa who consistently and faithfully cared for the poor and the lepers of Calcutta even though she felt like God was silent for over 10 years. Her obedience mattered a great deal to God.
Or Joni Ericson Tada who was paralyzed during a diving accident. And because of her condition, she has to rely on others every morning to help her get ready. And she recounts many mornings when she doesn’t feel like smiling today. So she is lying in her bed asking God, please give me your smile because I don’t feel like smiling. And the friend arrives and Joni smiles at her. Her obedience matters a great deal to God.
Or our very own Pastor Don who wakes up some mornings and he feels lousy from old age and all of his bouts with cancers and numerous surgeries. And he doesn’t feel like giving thanks to God but he gives thanks anyway every morning. His obedience matters a great deal to God.
Whether small or big, whether we feel like it or not, our obedience matters a great deal to God. Because it is in our obedience that God’s grace comes to us and fills our lack.
I want to end with one final verse written by Paul in 2 Tim 4:6-8.
2 Tim 4:6-8 – 6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
The heavenly crown is awarded to those who have longed for Christ’s appearing their whole lives. May this be our confession at the end of our lives, that we, too fought the good fight, we finished the race, we have kept the faith and to the end, we poured out everything we have for Christ, for a future crown, and for the saving of souls.