By Jim Murphy
Let Thy unexampled love constrain me into holy obedience, and render my duty my delight. If others deem my faith folly, my meekness infirmity, my zeal madness, my hope delusion, my actions hypocrisy, may I rejoice to suffer for Thy name. – Divine Support (Puritan Prayer)
Obedience. This is a word that can conjure up a world of thoughts and emotions. Depending on the context, it can lean positive or negative. What thoughts and emotions go through your mind when you hear the word obedience or obey? I think if we are going to be honest, it is not always pleasant. We might obey because we do not want the hassle that comes from not doing so or because we receive a paycheck. Some of us obey to earn some sort of approval or favor. For many, obedience can often be motivated by a deep sense of fear. But what about a Christ follower? How should they view this word and concept? The Puritan prayer above gives us a biblical view of what a Christian’s approach to obedience should be: “Let Thy unexampled love constrain me into holy obedience, and render my duty my delight.”
Our desire to walk obediently to Christ should first and foremost be motivated by His love. Jesus’ love has not precedent or parallel, it is exceptional in every way. It was His love that caused Him to take on flesh and live as a man. It was His love that caused Him to obey His Father perfectly, even to death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). In John 14:30-31, Jesus said: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” Jesus loved His Father and everything He did was to show the world this profound truth. How could He endure so much pain, humiliation, and sacrifice if not for a deep love for His Father? Loving His Father first, also brought about wonderful consequences for us!
Jesus’ love for people in general was equally unparalleled and was not untethered from His joyful obedience. Every interaction He had with others was completely loving and holy. He was gentle, He was kind, He was not self-seeking and He gave of Himself for the good of others. He did not allow selfish obstacles to get in the way of serving others and proclaiming truth. Through His perfect life, death, and victorious resurrection our lives can be restored back into relationship with our Creator. Where would we be without the love of Christ displayed in His obedience?! His work continues to shape us and cause us to stand ever more firm on the hope found in Him. It was the love Christ had for His Father that was the foundation for His great love for us and what added a depth and a richness to His life. Love was and continues to be the distinguishing mark of His obedience. This was not drudgery, even when it was difficult. For Christ, obedience was the way He showed His love…and it brought Him joy to do it.
This is the love by which the author of the prayer desires to be constrained. To be inspired by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, having no other option but living a life of joyful obedience. Through our obedience, we would show the world we love God above all else and it is the fountain from which we love the world around us. Yes, as a follower of Christ it is our duty to walk in His ways (Luke 17:7-10). We are His servants being shaped by the Spirit for obedience to Him (1 Peter 1:2). However, may this duty be our delight! May we delight in showing the world we love our God even when it is difficult. To the world that says ‘love self above all and therefore seek comfort and pleasures’ may our lives stand in stark contrast to it. Let us be a people who walk in the footsteps of Christ and love our God above all things, seeking His pleasure above our own. Let us be willing to lay ourselves aside as an act of worship and for the good of those around us.
When we do this, there is a ripple effect that is not meant to point us, but is to be a wave that drives them to Christ Himself. Our obedience should be a pitiful shadow of Christ’s. Our obedient love of others should be an echo of the One who truly loves. How can our lives accomplish this a part from joyful obedience? The answer is that it cannot! But, in view of the rich mercy of God in Christ Jesus, under the power of Spirit, we can offer our bodies as a willing sacrifice, which is our spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). In this way, our obedience is not just an act of worship to God, it is also witness to the world.
This is a very peculiar thing to those who do not know Christ. Often times others will consider you out of your mind, like they did Paul (2 Corinthians 5:13). But a life lived in joyful obedience puts the Kingdom of God on display. This is antithetical to the world around us. When others treasure themselves first and make decisions accordingly, we treasure Christ. When others treasure their families above all else, we treasure Christ. When others treasure their possessions, we treasure Christ. Whatever the world stands for, we stand for Christ. When others want to follow the rules of the world, we follow Christ. Others most likely will not understand this type of life, even those who regularly attend church. There may be ridicule that comes with a life like this, however, may we shine anyway. We may suffer for treasuring Christ and walking in His ways. But, what a blessing it is to be so identified with our Lord that we bear a modicum of the suffering He did and learn to count it joy. After all, with whom or what else would we want to be so identified?
Read this prayer again, slowly and prayerfully consider your life. Could you pray this prayer with sincerity before the living God? Do you see the joyous and meaningful life that lies in its meaning? Are you able to see the incredible releasing of grace to the world through a life that seeks to see this prayer answered? I pray with all of my heart the Lord helps me where I have trouble or fear in being able to do so that my duty would be my delight!
“Let Thy unexampled love constrain me into holy obedience, and render my duty my delight. If others deem my faith folly, my meekness infirmity, my zeal madness, my hope delusion, my actions hypocrisy, may I rejoice to suffer for Thy name.” Amen and amen!