But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth].
— James 1:22 (AMPC)
Adapted from the resource Battlefield of the Mind – by Joyce Meyer
As a Christian, for a long time I didn’t understand that believers could know what God wanted them to do and then deliberately say no. Now, I’m not talking about those who completely turn their backs on Jesus and want nothing to do with salvation. I’m talking about those who disobey God in the seemingly little things and don’t seem to be concerned about it at all.
In verses 23 and 24, James goes on to say that if we only listen to the Word but don’t obey it, it’s like looking at our reflection in a mirror and then going away and forgetting what we saw. But a doer of the Word, he says, is like one who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience) (See James 1:25 AMPC).
Whenever Christians are faced with God’s Word, and it calls them to action but they refuse to obey, their own human reasoning is often the cause. They’ve deceived themselves into believing something other than the truth. It’s as if they think they are smarter than God.
I’ve met people who seem to think that God always wants them to feel good, and if something happens that makes them feel bad, they don’t believe it’s God’s will for them. Or they dismiss what they read in the Bible by saying, “That doesn’t make sense.”
One woman, referring to Paul’s instruction to “be unceasing in prayer” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), said that verse kept coming to her every time she prayed.
“What do you think that means?” I asked her.
“Oh, I think it means that day in and day out, we are to pray when we feel a need or when we want something.”
Her words shocked me. “What about fellowship with the Lord?” I asked. “Isn’t that a good reason? Or maybe God just wants you to spend time reading His Word and praying about what you read.”
“I have too many things to do,” she said. “That’s fine for people who like to sit and read and pray for hours every day, but that’s not the way for me.”
In our brief conversation, I learned that her decisions about obeying God’s Word depended on whether or not it was convenient for her lifestyle. When she read things in the Bible that didn’t fit with the way she lived, she explained it to herself in such a way that she convinced herself God didn’t expect her to do that.
In contrast, I remember a very dignified woman who had been a member of a traditional church most of her life. She often spoke of the noise and confusion in charismatic churches (although she’d never been to one). Then she visited one of the services where I spoke, and her heart was changed. “I couldn’t believe that God would ask me to do something like clap my hands or sing loudly or even shout. But when I saw the joy on the faces of those in the congregation and heard you quote the Bible verse that commands us to clap our hands and shout, what else could I do? That was God speaking to me.”
She had exactly the right attitude. She didn’t try to reason it out, or wonder why God had told her to take that kind of action. She believed His Word and simply obeyed, and as a result, she had a new kind of joy that she would never have experienced otherwise.
When the Bible speaks about obeying the Lord, it’s not a suggestion. His Word doesn’t ask, “Would you like to obey?” God commands us to take action by being a doer of His Word, and when we are obedient, He’s promised that we’ll be blessed.
Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for the instructions in Your Word. I may not always like what I read, and sometimes it’s difficult to follow You without hesitating, so please help me to trust You with what I don’t understand, and to stay obedient no matter what. Thank You for the wisdom to know how to apply Your Word to my life, for the strength to carry it out, and for the ability to honor You in every moment. In Jesus’ name, amen.