Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Tag: Obedience

Seeking & Serving

“Two men please God – who serves him with all his heart because he knows him; who seeks him with all his heart because he knows him not.” (Nikita Ivanovich Panin; 18th century Russian statesman, advisor to Catherine the Great). 

Whenever I’m pondering something, I like to think in categories. What I like about this insightful quotation is that it describes man’s relationship to God in terms of four categories: Knowing God, seeking God, serving God, and pleasing God. 

In the first category, you either know God or you don’t. To know God is NOT simply acquiring information about him. It IS knowing him relationally, knowing him intimately. The Bible wasn’t written simply to give us information ABOUT God, but to show us HOW to enter a close relationship with him.

In the second category, if you don’t know God, you should seek him. To seek him means to look for him intentionally and intensely. We need God the way we need air, and when we want God as badly as we want to breathe, we’ll have no trouble finding him. God reveals himself to seekers.

In the third category, if you’ve found God, you should serve him. Service to God proceeds from gratitude. We serve God because we’re thankful for what he’s done for us. Obedience to God is our way of saying “Thank You” to the one who has saved and transformed us.

Finally, in the fourth category, when we seek and serve God, we please him. An old hymn says to “trust and obey.” I would suggest that constantly seeking and serving God are how we express those two things.

Hopefully most readers have reached the fourth category. We know God and because of who and what he is, we want to serve whole-heartedly. But sometimes it’s hard to maintain complete devotion. At times, our efforts seem anything but whole-hearted. But as Panin’s quotation suggests, we continue in seeking and serving and knowing. 

Panin’s dictum reminds me of David’s final words to his son Solomon, the future king of Israel. David said, “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever”
(1 Chronicles 28.9).

A Long Obedience

Americans LOVE speed and convenience. We want things easy, and we want them now. 

  • We want gourmet meals at microwave speed
  • We want to lose 30 pounds before the next holiday
  • We want Olympian fitness in just 20 minutes a day
  • We want instant communications – cell phones, video conferencing, emails, texts, Facebook, news

All these things have their place and are amazingly useful. BUT the problem is that we often expect the same thing in our spiritual lives – we want instant and easy spiritual growth; instant and easy relationships; instant and easy conflict resolution; instant and easy Bible knowledge. However, the reality is that spiritual growth takes time. It takes persistence.

What does persistence look like?

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; whereby there results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”

A “long obedience in the same direction” is Biblical perseverance, endurance, or steadfastness. 

  • Jesus said – (Luke 8.15) “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”
  • The apostle Paul said – (Romans 5.3-5) “…tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…”

Worthwhile things take time and effort and perseverance. They require “a long obedience in the same direction.” Whether it’s your career; or your marriage; or your relationship to your children; or your character; or your finances; or your spiritual life – these things take time, effort, and perseverance. They take this “long obedience in the same direction.”

One more thing: If persistence is this “long obedience in the same direction,” we must have a direction. But direction is determined by destination. If there’s no destination, we’re simply wandering aimlessly. For Christians, our destination is the Father, and Jesus provides the direction – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14.6). 

Do you practice persistence? Do you have this “long obedience in the same direction?”