Monday, August 22, 2016

Useful Obedience

I've often played tug-of-war with the ideas of both God's Sovereignty and Man's responsibility. Just look at the current political situation. We are required to vote according to our conscience, but we also know that all authority is established by God. So, which is it? Us or Him? The question comes up all over the place. We are required to plant and water, but God gives the increase (1 Cor 3:6). We are required to work out our salvation, but it is God at work in us to do it (Phil 2:12-13). So, which is it? Us or Him?

I came across this interesting little story in 1 Samuel 25 that makes this point. David and his little band were hiding out and while they did they guarded the flocks and shepherds of a man named Nabal. Eventually David dropped in on Nabal, pointed out the service he had done, and simply asked for a meal for his men and himself. Nabal kicked him out. Well, David was ... miffed. "May God do so to the enemies of David, and more also, if by morning I leave as much as one male of any who belong to him." (1 Sam 25:22) More than miffed. But Nabal's wife, Abigail, got wind of the trouble her husband was bringing down on them. She put together a sizable tribute and hurried off to intercept David before he killed everyone. She was apologetic and kind and David acquiesced. Here's what David said.
"Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. Nevertheless, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, unless you had come quickly to meet me, surely there would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male." (1 Sam 25:32-34)
So, here's the question. Did Abigail prevent David from killing everyone over at Nabal's house or did God do it? Well, the text tells us the answer.

David starts with God. "Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me." Oh, see? It was God who sent Abigail. So it was God who prevented David from carrying through with his plan. But wait! He goes on to say, "Blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed." Oh, now that's different. Now he is crediting Abigail with preventing him from shedding blood. So it wasn't God. But wait! David finishes with, "... as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you ..." Now we're back to God doing it.

And that, dear reader, is the right answer: Yes. When God tells you to pray, who accomplishes what you prayed for? You or God? Yes. God uses our obedience to accomplish His plans. When God tells you to share the gospel and someone comes to Christ, who accomplishes that? You or God? Yes. God uses our obedience to accomplish His plans. Over and over the answer is "Yes." God does it, and He does it by using people. Sometimes it is faithful believers. Sometimes it is a donkey (Num 22:28). Sometimes it might even be you. He does it. He uses us. And then He gives us rewards. Such a deal! So do not grow weary in doing good (2 Thess 3:13). God will use your obedience.

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