Obligated or Obedient? (Ariel Long)


(5 min read)

I asked my wife Ariel if I could use a devotion that she wrote recently for our post today. It was too good not to share. She's a very gifted writer (and person in general).

If you told me ten years ago that I would be a work-from-home mom of two kids, and married to a pastor, I would have laughed in your face.

You see, life doesn’t always go as planned. Actually, life RARELY goes as planned (I am probably not telling you anything you don’t already know). The past four years have been some of the most challenging of my adult life, but as a result of those challenges, I have seen myself grow unlike any other time in my life. I am not “on the other side” just yet, but I’m not sure anyone ever really is. We are forever a work in progress until the day we pass away. But, let me share with you what God has shown me over the past few years so that hopefully, you can avoid some unproductive thinking habits that I got myself into. 

“For The moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

When I initially thought about obeying God “boldly”, I wasn’t quite sure how to put that into words. We either obey God, or we don’t, right? Partial obedience is disobedience.

I believe that you can obey God and follow His commandments daily, but that does not mean you’re obeying Him BOLDLY. 

There was a time in my life that God was directing my husband in a very specific direction, but I was resistant to obedience. I was blinded by my own selfish ambition. God was calling my husband to be a worship pastor and I wasn’t convinced that was our path. The Bible is pretty clear about this in Ephesians. Wives are to submit to their husbands, and husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:22-28). I had a husband who was loving me as Christ loves the church, but I wasn’t doing my part. I submitted with my words, but not with my actions.

Now I can see that I was incredibly fearful at that time. There was no way, in a million years, that I would have considered myself a good enough person to be the wife of a pastor. (Side note – I still feel completely unqualified, but I’m learning that the unqualified is just the kind of person God uses to do His best work.) My mind immediately went to what others would expect of me, and I knew that I would fail them on a daily basis. I came up with every excuse in the book - finances, the effect it would have on our kids, our past transgressions. The list goes on. My life wasn’t going as I had planned and I truly did not know what to do or how to handle it. I wanted to be a “perfect person” before I would fully and boldly pursue what God had for our family.

I would love to say that I had a tipping point where I suddenly woke up one day and saw the error of my ways, but this too has been a work in progress for me. However, what I want to convey to you about that time in my life, is that I technically WAS living in obedience. I went to church. I prayed and read Scripture. I treated others with love. But the difference is that I wasn’t obeying Him boldly. 

Have you ever seen a parent tell a child to go clean their room? Many times, the child will obey their parent but it’s the manner in which they go about cleaning it that I want to look at. The child may throw their head back, sigh loudly, stomp their feet back to their room and put everything back in its place, slamming toys on shelves and haphazardly placing clothing in drawers. But another child may hear the parent’s command, respond cheerfully, and clean their room quickly and delightfully. Do both children have a clean room? Did both children obey their parent? Yes. But which child cleaned their room out of obligation, and which child cleaned their room with love and joy?

Are you living out of unwilful obligation or bold obedience?

You see, Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:36-37 that the greatest commandment of all is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” I truly believe that boldly obeying our heavenly Father must be done because we truly love Him more than anything or anyone else. Read Ephesians 3:14-19. We love because he first loved us. Jesus stayed on the cross and died a painful death purely out of love for us. Read Luke 22:42 - “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”– Do you not believe that he could have easily removed himself from that cross? He stayed in agony simply out of obedient love for us.

I have acknowledged that my own opinion, by nature, is flawed and selfish. Making that acknowledgment has helped me grow to obey our Father boldly, not just to check a box. It is truly a joy to see my husband grow spiritually and lead others to eternal life through his ministry – and to think that I could have potentially hindered that! My job as a wife and mother is a blessing to me and I can honestly say that I have a peace about our life and what we are pursuing as a family. Bold obedience WILL bring blessing.

Take a look at 1 Corinthians 13:1-3:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

In what areas of your life are you living in true BOLD obedience? In what areas of your life are you living in obligation, and how can you use Christ’s love as an example to change that to bold obedience? Drop a comment below 👇🏼