“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
GOD’S WORD IS NOT GIVEN TO US FOR THE PURPOSE OF IDLE SPECULATION BUT FOR THE PURPOSE OF OBEDIENCE. We misappropriate the truth God has revealed when we make it merely the grist for intellectual debate. The greater design of the Scriptures — requiring more effort and promising a richer reward — is to provide the practical materials for building a better, more obedient life. When we study, we ought to be looking for this “obeyable” information. To study for any other reason is actually dangerous.
In the matter of obedience, one problem is that we delay obeying what we’ve learned from the Scriptures because we can’t see as far down the theoretical road ahead as we’d like. Perhaps we don’t fully understand why God would require such a thing as the Scriptures have indicated. Or it may not be clear to us what the consequences would be if we took God at His word. Or we may not see how this or that act of obedience fits into the overall scheme of God’s will. There is no shortage of obstacles, more or less theoretical in nature, that can stymie the serious student who wants not only to obey but to understand what is being done. The irony of growth, however, is that understanding comes from moving ahead with our obedience, rather than holding back. In any case, understanding can wait, but obedience cannot.
But another problem related to obedience is that we often delay doing our duty until we feel that we can get it exactly right. We may think we need to make more progress in the realm of spiritual theory before we can do very well in the realm of spiritual practice. And so we linger in our many abstractions, seeking the strength we need for obedient living. Yet solid spiritual progress lies down the clear road of honest obedience to what we presently know is right, not the winding path of theoretical curiosities. We can’t seek God without using our minds to the best of our ability, it’s true. But neither can we find God without carrying out what our minds have learned already.
“The really important thing in life is not the avoidance of mistakes, but the obedience of faith. By obedience, the man is led step by step to correct his errors, whereas nothing will ever happen to him if he doesn’t get going” (Paul Tournier).