It’s very common to put off an act of obedience, because we tell ourselves it’s too impracticable at the moment. To obey God now is too complicated, so we decide to postpone it to a time when, in our heads, it will be easier. For example:
– rather than cancel my commitment to play on a Sunday sports team, I’ll wait until the end of the season.
– I won’t stop wearing the rainbow lanyard now; I’ll wait until I’ve left my job.
– When I’ve finished my exams, I’ll make sure I give God more of my time.
– I’ll end this unhelpful romantic relationship in a couple of months, because I don’t think it’s fair to end it sooner.
– I’ll do my part to patch up a broken relationship when I’m in a better place.
There’s a brilliant example of this mind-set at work in 2 Chronicles 25. Amaziah, king of Judah, teams up with Israel’s military and hires an Israelite army for 100 talents of silver (v.6). That’s a lot of money! But a man of God tells Amaziah he is not to take these Israelites into battle (v.7-8). Amaziah’s understandable response is: “But what about all that money I just paid?!” (v.9). Renting these soldiers didn’t come with a money-back guarantee. Wouldn’t it be so much easier for Amaziah to use the Israelite soldiers this one time, and just not team up with them again in the future? Amaziah is being tempted to postpone his present obedience, for practical financial reasons.
But the man of God answers: “The LORD Is able to give you much more than this” (v.9). It’s a lovely answer.
When we decide to obey the Lord, we’re often conscious of what we stand to lose. After all, Amaziah did see his 100 talents of silver go down the drain; what’s more, the Israelite army were unhappy that Amaziah changed his mind, and did a lot of damage to Judah on their way home (v.13). But this incident is showing us that when we obey God we stand to gain more than we can imagine. “The LORD is able to give you much more than this”. In the gospel, God gives us himself; he gives us his Son and his Holy Spirit. He gives us a place in his eternal kingdom. It always makes sense to obey God today, ahead of anything and anyone else. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [i.e. the “practicalities”] will be added to you” (Matt 6:33).
It’s so encouraging to watch people put right what’s wrong today, rather than leave it a week. It’s what Zacchaeus did when Christ visited his house (Luke 19:8-9). It’s what the Ephesian Christians did when they burned their magic books (Acts 19:19).
There are all kinds of ways we try to rationalise our delay in obedience. But God wants us to stop trying to reduce the costs, and instead to trust that “the LORD is able to give you much more than this” (2 Chr 25:9). God calls for obedience now, not next week.