The Nevertheless Of Obedience


By Mark Rutland

We often labor under the burdensome illusion that all obedience must be joyful. “Be crucified upside down? Oh, thank You, Lord. Gladly, Lord. Ha, ha, what could be better?”

Don’t be absurd. There are places to which He leads or calls us, burdens He may ask us to heft and obligations so strenuous that they make no more sense to us than fishing in the daylight did to Peter.

It is, despite what they say, permissible to explain things to God. Apparently Jesus did not understand the situation, and Peter took pains to clarify it for Him. You can, too. God will let you talk.

“Lord, I know You said to invite my neighbor to church, but he is an atheist–a very disagreeable atheist.”

“Lord, I know You said to forgive my mother-in-law, but You have not met my mother-in-law.”

“Stand up and walk? Can’t You see, Lord, that my legs are twisted and useless?

“God is big. He is neither destroyed nor dissuaded by our objections, complaints and explanations. Tell Him all about it.

When you are completely finished, however, and He just sits there in the other end of the boat staring at you, a decision must be made. God will listen, but He will never argue. He just sits there trailing His finger in the water while He studies your face. He has told you what to do. You have told Him why it makes no sense. Now, what do you say?

The bridge between our discouragement and God’s will is “nevertheless,” and on the other side are the bulging nets of His bounty. The “nevertheless” of naked obedience unlocks more miracles than we can imagine.

When Peter pulled up the nets, they were miraculously filled. This is not to say that we should try to hold God to a bargain. “All right, I’ll obey, but these nets better be full!”

Nonsense! He speaks; we obey-period. Having said that, however, it must be added that obedience unlocks miracles. Frequently, the more unlikely the command, the greater the miracle.

Do not look at the sun on the lake or at the improbability of the catch. Look beneath the surface. See with the eyes of faith, and throw out the net. First comes “nevertheless.” Then comes the miracle.

There will come a point, sometimes an excruciatingly painful point, where we, in one end of the boat, will stare into the steady eyes of Christ as He sits calmly in the other end and summons us to acts of obedience, ministry or sacrifices that fly in the face of all natural reason. These will never be the mad impulses of the emotionally unbalanced. Some misguided soul with a religious spirit will occasionally wade out to his death and leave a note on the shore claiming God told him to walk on water. That’s the nevertheless not of faith, but of presumption.

When mature, seasoned saints have wrestled through and gotten a word from God, when they have said it all, argued with God, offered up all their objections and God is still steadfast, then only one word will serve to move from reluctance to action. Remember, you do not have to understand it or relish it, or even like it. You just have to cast the net anyway.

Been hearing from God for a tough and seemingly unrealistic task? Be of good comfort. You are in good company.

Moses was a speech-impaired octogenarian when God called him back to Egypt where there was a price on his head. Abraham was a married man with obligations when God called him to leave it all without even knowing the destination. David Wilkerson was the pastor of a rural church with no inner-city experience when God called him to work with gangs in New York City. And no one, not even a nun named Teresa, wanted to care for the filthy, terminally ill of India.

“Lord, Peter was different from us.”

“No, he wasn’t.”

“What about Joshua? He was different, right?”

“Wrong.”

“Paul?”

“Nope.”

“Elijah?”

“Just like you.”

“Well, why did they get all those miracles?”

“Because when I commanded, they answered.”

“What did they say, Lord?”

“NEVERTHELESS.”

When you are too tired, too old, too young, too impoverished, or too bound up by obligations to obey a calling of God, let Him hear all about it. Tell Him about your long, dark night of fruitless fishing. Tell Him that your back hurts and your arms are sore, and that, anyway, fish don’t bite in the daytime on your particular lake and that you are surprised He doesn’t know that. Tell Him all that.

Then look into His wonderful, calm, unruffled eyes and say:

“Nevertheless, at Thy word…”

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