'Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey'
John H Sammis, 1887 (public domain)
Is this the gospel summed up in two lines? And two lines that rhyme, at that? Is that all I need to know?
The meaning of life?
I'm sort of thinking as I go along, here, so this might be theologically unsound, but it strikes me that pretty much all the problems I have and all the difficulties I face might be explained away by these two lines.
I worry and get anxious and chew my fingertips and let my shoulders get all tense and I confide in friends and I lose sleep about things. More often than not things that I can do nothing about. Eventually, usually, I get round to bringing it all to you, and when I do, I find that then, I sleep. I find that even though the worry doesn't go away, or even though the circumstances don't necessarily change, something in my head is different. Better. Why didn't I do it sooner?
When I trust you, I am different.
When I don't trust you, when I take things into my own hands and try to fix things, or when I am so sure that I can handle it that I don't give you a look in, that's when things go wrong. Sometimes immediately, sometimes a way down the line. Sometimes it's a hindsight sort of thing. There are things that I think I might have got away with, but who knows (but you) what's going to turn out down the line? They might go a bit wrong, or totally pear-shaped. When I think that I don't need you, that's when the ominous music starts in the film of my life. The audience might know what's going to happen, but I blunder onwards...
Trust and obey...
Obedience. Now there's a word I'm not keen on. In a world where it's good to be a free spirit, it's not that trendy to be obedient. Not even if your Master is the Creator of the Universe. Nobody tells me what to do... and even in my most humble moments I chafe at the idea that I am not in control of my own life. I so want to be in control. I want to call the shots. Even my prayer life often consists of little more than a list of things I'd like you to do my way, please.
Thy will be done... but please could your will be pretty much in line with mine? And if one of us needs to change, I'd rather it be you, please?
Obey. Do as I'm told. How often do I bark 'Do as you're told!' at my children? And do they? Ha. Well, occasionally. How pleased am I when Katy puts her shoes on when I ask her to? How frustrated when I know what's good for them but they don't do it?
If she'd only put her shoes on I'm going to take her to the park/the sweetshop/swimming pool/fireworks show but for some reason she's so stubborn and short sighted that she won't put them on. She's going to be so happy when she does as she's told, but she doesn't like being told what to do.
Neither do I. And yet I know you, my Father God, and I know that you want good things for me.
'If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?'
Please put your shoes on, Kate. You're going to be glad that you did.
Are you telling me to put my shoes on? And here I stand in my socks being snippy about being asked to do something?
'Trust and obey, for there's no other wayTo be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey'Is there another way? So I don't trust you and I don't do as you tell me to do and yet I wonder why my life isn't straightforward? I think Mr Sammis got this right. I might carve out for myself moments of satisfaction, or the odd laugh whichever way I go, but the happiness that lasts is only for those who walk in your footsteps, Lord Jesus. I know that if I follow you, there are no half measures. It simply doesn't add up; either I have given you my life, or I haven't. I can't give it to you and take it back, or try to make a deal to be your child on Sundays but do my own thing in the week. I am either in you, or not in you.
I am either wholehearted, or I'm not. I'm in, or out. Not hanging around the doorway trying to decide if it's too much trouble.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"Jeremiah 29:11
I know that you love me and you want me to make the best of my life. You have a plan tailor made for me. A part of your Grand Design that only I can do; my little contribution to the Kingdom. How wonderful is that? And yet I sometimes wonder if perhaps my plan is better? Sometimes I amaze myself with how little sense I make.
If I am trusting you, then I needn't worry, for I am in your hands, and there's no safer place.
If I'm in the place you want me to be, I'm in the right place.
If I'm doing what you want me to do, then I'm doing the right thing.
Why would I not be happy?
You have A Plan. It can't go wrong.
I want to be in Jesus and I want to be happy. Therefore I must trust you even when it doesn't come easily. I must step out in faith and obey you when I hear you ask me to do something, even if it scares me.
Trusting turns out to be a choice and not a feeling. It might not feel right to me. I might have the little voices in my head that tell me that I know better; perhaps this is not a good idea, it's all going to go wrong - but I will choose to trust the One who made me and knows me better than I know myself.
I trust you.
Likewise obedience isn't something to which I'm naturally inclined. I don't like being overruled any more than my two little girls do. But once again, I know that you know what is best. Maybe there's a firework display to end them all out there if only I'll get my shoes on and come and see.
John Sammis' last verse:
'Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,I'm liking the sound of that. I like that one day I'll get to sit at your feet. I like that one day you and I might take a walk. I'm assuming that 'in the way' means along a beautiful picturesque Heavenly path, rather than me being underfoot. Me and you, having a chat. Enjoying each other's company. Me, me and my God. Me, happy in Jesus.
Or we'll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey'
It makes me smile.
Lord, make it so. Help me. I think I have a way to go.
What you say, I will do. Where you send me, I will go.
Never fearing, only trusting and obeying.
Let it be like that, Father God.