by Susan U. Neal @SusanNealYoga
“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:10–11 (NIV)
I had read the above verse many times, but this time I realized Jesus was teaching that obedience to God’s commands brings us joy—His joy. In 1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV) Samuel explained, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice.” God takes pleasure in our obedience. So when I am obedient to God, he is pleased. And you know what? That makes me joyful.
When it’s spelled out in God’s Word, there is little to question. But when God nudges in a small, quiet voice, submitting can be more of a challenge.
Unfortunately, obedience often goes against our natural inclinations. Most people have an area of resistance to God. For me, my lack of submission concerned tithing. I wanted to obey God, but I was afraid that if I gave Him a larger part of my income, I would not have enough money for the future.
I let my fear become bigger than God. The God of the future.
So I told God my fear. And the more I prayed, the more my fear decreased. At first, we did not give a full 10%, which was what we felt God would want us to give. But as time went on, we eventually jumped into the deep and began to tithe fully. What Jesus said to his disciples in John 15: 10 was that when we are obedient, we can rest (remain) in His love. (The Greek lexicon defines “remaining” as an inward, enduring personal communion.) I found this to be true: eventually I stopped fretting, finally able to trust that God would provide for our needs. And He did.
Tithing is no longer a struggle for me. Instead, I actually find joy in writing checks for the church, a Christian camp scholarship, or sending support for our Compassion child.
In fact, our family chose to sponsor a child while we were on a mission trip in Ecuador. My daughter fell in love with a five-year-old girl named Laurita (little Laura). They were hand-in-hand on the playground all week. The pastor at the VBS site told us, “Laurita is the only girl at our church that does not have a Compassion sponsor.” My heart longed to take care of this little girl like I do my own children. I felt God’s calling to sponsor her. But an uncertain future made me wonder: would we have enough money to support her on a monthly basis for over a decade? Our family discussed the sponsorship together. We were tithing at 10% now and still could meet all our financial needs, so we chose to take a leap of faith once again.
Even when I was afraid to obey God, I discovered that when I did obey, I found something so much more precious than money—it was a joy that is complete. It seemed strange that obedience and joy were so connected. I also found that having a willing heart enabled me to hear His call on me more clearly. My heart was full. I felt His joy keenly—just like the verse indicates: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you.”
It has been nine years since we sponsored Laurita. Our family members take turns writing to her. I joyfully look forward to reading her letters. The day I read, “I pray for your family every night,” a tear dripped down my cheek. Oh, what joy!
About the author: Susan Neal RN, MBA, MHS, lives her life with a passion to help others improve their health so they can serve God better. She is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach, and her mission is to improve the health of the body of Christ. She is the author of six healthy living books. You can find her on SusanUNeal.com.
Susan’s best-seller, 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates, a Selah award winner, sold over 5000 copies in its first thirteen months. Over half of Americans live with a chronic illness, primarily due to the overconsumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. This book provides a day-by-day plan to wean your body off of these addictive products and regain your health.
Join the conversation: Is there an area in your life in which you struggle to obey?