I’m taking a book launch course. It’s kicking my butt.
Online instruction six days a week. Homework to complete and post the same day (for critique by the whole class and the instructors). The assignments are hard. Even soul-searching.
My teachers are industry giants. My respect and admiration of them approaches veneration. There’s no reason to daydream during a session or skip a homework assignment.
But I want to. I’m tired. Really tired.
The course requires sacrifice. Sometimes I sacrifice sleep. Other times, leisure activities. Sometimes even curtailing phone calls when I just want a long girl-chat and rest for my overworked brain.
Can I get by with doing most, but not all the work?
Not if I want to reap the full benefits of the course.
My semi-disciplined self protests when I tighten the screws. (Can you relate?)
The same applies with obeying God. When it gets hard, we want to cut across the grass. Create a shorter, easier route. But our limited sight keeps us from seeing the dangers of doing so.
When the Israelites took shortcuts and obeyed God only in part, shockwaves swept over generations of history. Here’s just one example.
God commanded Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites, including all the people and all their possessions. Instead, Saul captured King Agag alive and destroyed only the possessions deemed worthless (2 Samuel 15). When the prophet Samuel confronted Saul with his partial obedience, Saul said, “But I did obey the LORD … and [took] the best of the things devoted to destruction in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal” (verses 20-21, emphasis mine). Samuel’s rebuke to Saul included that now-famous phrase, “obedience is better than sacrifice.”
Saul justified himself then deflected accountability from himself by saying, “Look at the good thing I’m doing [instead].”
The short-term fallout was bad enough. Saul lost Samuel’s counsel—his direct pipeline to heaven. And God told Saul he would lose his kingdom because of his partial obedience (vs 27-29). But Saul could never have imagined what sparing King Agag’s life would do five hundred years down the road. One of Agag’s descendants, Haman, almost exterminated all the Jews (Esther 3).
That global-scale drama far overshadows my struggle to faithfully finish all my coursework. But, just like Saul couldn’t see past his immediate decision, I can’t see how each day will build upon the previous one. My instructors can because they created the course. They know I’ll get the full long-term rewards from it only if I do all the work—and submit to sometimes painful critiques of it. They also know, from experience, that doing all the work enables their books to reach and bless people beyond their wildest expectations.
God calls us to the same. Trust His plan beyond what we can perceive. Believe in faith that what He tells us to do now—the sliver of His plan that we can see—will lead to something far bigger than today’s effort. Obey completely. Because partial obedience … isn’t.