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To Love Honor and Obey: A Testimony

By Todd Banks

Presented by Omni-University




The root word of obedience is "obey". They are both derived from the same source. To obey is to be obedient, "to listen or pay attention to".[1] But, what are its catalysts? To whom, if anyone, do we owe our obedience? To whom do we owe the most? And for those who, like me, believe in a higher divinity, on whom do we lean? Whom do we treasure most? My answer, regardless of what others may name that divine entity, is, simply, “God.” For me, the “owing” is the result of the unmerited favor that God bestowed upon us through the substitutionary atonement of His only son, Jesus Christ. Jesus, Himself, said that those who love Him will obey His teachings, regardless of the personal cost of doing so. Most importantly, I think, our obedience matters to God. 1 John 2:3-4: “And this is how we know, daily, by experience, that we have come to know Him, to understand Him and be more deeply acquainted with Him: If we habitually keep focused on His precepts and obey His commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know Him,” but does not habitually keep focused on His precepts and obey His commandments is a liar, and the truth of the divine word is not in him.”[2] What does obedience mean in the context of God, to whom we owe everything? Do we understand what really is required of us?: 1 John 2:5-6 "But whoever habitually keeps His word and obeys His precepts and treasures His message in its entirety, in him the love of God has truly been perfected, it is completed and has reached maturity. By this we know for certain that we are in Him; whoever says He lives in Christ, that is, whoever has accepted Him as God and Savior ought, as moral obligation, walk and conduct himself just as He walked and conducted Himself.”[3] It may overwhelm us to think that obedience to God requires us to emulate God. That seems to me to be impossible, for obvious reasons. Yet, with any goal that appears insurmountable, we believe that in God, through whom all things are possible, we can, at minimum, aspire to obey Him "unconditionally “, especially when called upon by Him to do so.” This is where I believe our commitment, "our debt" (what is “owed" to God) begins. “When called upon by Him to do so” starts with hearing God's voice. This requires the discipline to transcend the noise and distractions endemic to our daily lives and commit to a continuing dialogue with Him. I believe that like we, ourselves, God relishes intimacy and is pleased when we reserve time and space specifically to optimize our relationship with Him. We nurture this relationship, not only through our dialogue with Him, but also through the retention of His Word, in which His statutes, rules, commandments and testimonies are embodied. The catalyst of our commitment to hearing, understanding, and subscribing to the aforementioned catalog of written dialogue also lies in how we define success. Is success defined upon by our version of it- which is often times defined by the “world’s” version of success, i.e., fame, money, stature, etc.? Success, as defined by the world, conflicts with success as defined by God. God's definition of success is obedience to Him. Obedience to God can come with the amenities identified in the world’s version of success but, those things cannot be the genesis of our focus or motivation. There is nothing wrong with success as long as it’s incorporated into our obedience to God. Deuteronomy 28:1Now it shall be, if you diligently listen to and obey the voice of the Lord, your God, being careful to do all of His commandments which I am commanding you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on the earth.” [4]


God asks us to aspire to perfection, but, God readily forgives us when we fail. He does, however, demand obedience and requires us to honor his commandments, knowing that, despite our misgivings, we are capable of doing so. The predominant prerequisite in this demand is that with obedience comes acknowledgement and acceptance that God will care for us according to His plan- not ours.


From personal experience, I can provide testimony to the benefit and detriment of hearing- or not hearing-God’s voice and either heeding or failing to heed when called to obey. Failure to obey God, when I was called upon to do so, has caused some dire consequences for me. When faced with a decision to sever a business relationship several years ago, God's voice told me to “cut ties and move on". I did not listen, convinced that “I” knew better than God and that "I" was going to make good on my investment. That decision cost me a significant financial setback, which would have been mitigated had I "cut ties" as God led me to do. My lack of faith in God’s governance magnified the adverse effects of my disobedience. As with any petulant child, my Father reprimanded me in a manner conducive to gaining my attention. Conversely, some of the greatest outcomes I have experienced were a result of “blind' obedience, wherein I was able to hear God’s voice and follow His direction.


Several years ago, my wife was diagnosed with an aneurysm. It was life -threatening and an emergency procedure was required to save her life. What was also required was someone to care for her on an ongoing basis for an indefinite period of time, most likely a permanent caregiver. As I prayed to Him to save her life, God again spoke to me. He told me that it was I who was required to take care of her. That meant that I needed to take an early retirement from my job in an order to do so -something that I did not feel that I was prepared to do. God reminded me that it was His plan- not mine- to which I needed to adhere, and that my uncertainty should not precipitate a rupture in our relationship. God's voice was clear. It was as though God was saying, "I have other plans for both of you, and your work in the corporate arena is over".


I took the early retirement, my wife had a successful operation, and her prognosis has improved to the point where her aneurysm is stable. More importantly, subsequent to my early exit from the corporate world, our journey has allowed my wife and I to more closely align ourselves collectively with God’s desires. In spite of my wife’s "disability", we have been able to use our combined skills and resources. My wife spent over twenty years in leadership roles in retail management before her health was challenged. The combination of our leadership experiences- mine in operations management and governmental affairs- has been instrumental in helping organizations in underserved communities in the Chicago area. We have built relationships that are effective in making positive, incremental changes in the economic footprint in long- dormant areas of Chicago. And our work is just beginning.


I believe that God kept my wife and I together, on this side, to bring His plans to fruition and that obedience to God's requirements of us/of me was the catalyst. In spite of this Pandemic, I am currently as happy and content as I have ever been. Unconditional obedience has given me the peace of knowing that God’s plan for me does work and removes from me the anxiety that comes from letting any other negative emotions rise above His control. The "love of my life" and I have cultivated a bond of unconditional love, trust, and respect and we have been blessed with beautiful, productive adult children, in addition to family and friends whom we love and who love us, unconditionally. This is all because of doing what, at the time, seemed uncomfortable but, that I that knew was required of me.


All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you pay attention to the voice of the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 28:2


So now, I go back to my debt. My debt is what I owe God, for all that God has given me, for providing me with the conduit that absolves me of my imperfections, through His sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ. In "redemption" of my debt to Him, God asks of me- of us- a miniscule "price": simply that we obey Him. After everything that God has done for you, that is the least you can do.


I view obedience as the "minimum payment" on my debt to God, because I owe God everything!


I owe Him Me.


Blognotes:


[1] Obey- Middle English From Old French "obeir", from Latin "obedire ", from "ob"( in the direction of) + "audere" ( hear).


[2]ABV - Amplified bible version


[3] Op cit ( cited above)


[4] IBID ( in the same place)


The H3O Art of Life Blog Song Selection:

BeBe & CeCe Winans - I.O.U. Me


I owe love (I owe love)

All my love

I owe everything to you

All of my life, you’ve given love to me

I owe love (I owe love)

All my heart belongs to only you

The rest of my life

I know I owe you me"

Chorus to “I Owe You Me” (BeBe and CeCe Winans)





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