Why Is Obedience So Hard?

Date: October 12, 2022

To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.  1 Samuel 15:22-23

A certain pastor was spending far too much time with a staff member in his church, and the man was honest enough to admit that he was attracted to her and considering leaving his wife and family for the other woman.  A doctor friend, who was distantly related to the pastor, confronted him over the issue.  “How can you do this?” she challenged, adding, “You know that what you are doing is wrong.”

With a grossly false sense of piety, he replied, “Oh, I’m making this whole situation a matter of prayer.”  And how did the issue resolve itself?  He walked away from his ministry, his wife of more than 20 years, his family, and his integrity.  “I’m praying about it,” he warmly intoned with about as much hypocrisy as any individual ever summoned.

There are times to pray, and there are times to obey.  Unless your prayer is that God will give you the strength to do His will and to do what you know is right, save your prayers.  Needed is not prayer, but the sinew and fortitude to walk away from a situation that is wrong and can never be morally justified.

Question:  Why is simple obedience often clouded by other issues, which seemingly justify disobedience?   Granted, every issue is not black or white, but most of the time we don’t need a counselor to tell us what to do.  We know.  We simply don’t want to do it.

When a child is born, he never has to be taught how to express himself or how to voice his emotions or feelings.  He’s born with that.  But what we must teach a child is how to obey, how to follow the dictates of a parent instead of his inner urges.  “Forget about teaching self-esteem; teach self-control,” says a prominent child psychologist who has come to grips with our culture today and where it is heading.

Long ago this issue of obscuring the issue of right and wrong was confronted by Samuel the prophet of Israel.  You can read about it in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, chapter 15.  God had given instruction to Saul to wage battle with the Amalekites, settling an issue of some 400 years.  “Take no prisoners” was God’s instructions because of the conduct of the Amalekites who fell upon the sick and the weak, indiscriminately murdering the Israelites who fell behind as Moses and his followers were in the Negev as they came from Egypt.

Saul didn’t agree.  “Why not keep the best of the cattle and sheep?” he reasoned.   “We can even dedicate them to God’s service” he justified.  It didn’t work.  God sent Samuel with a scathing message.  It was this: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Question (and please give me a simple yes-or-no answer): Do you struggle with obedience to what you know God wants of you?  Justifying disobedience never brings the peace and blessing of God.   And, pleasing God in this regard is not in degrees.  Either you obey or you disobey.

When Saul learned that partial obedience wasn’t satisfactory, he replied, “I have sinned” and then wanted to get on with his life as though nothing had happened.   His disobedience resulted in God’s rejection.

The pastor, who justified leaving his wife and family, said that he would pray about the situation.  Did he really?  Who knows?  But, I do know there is a time to pray, and there is a time to obey.  And when you know what needs to be obeyed, it is time for action and moral courage.  It’s just that simple.


Resource reading: 1 Samuel 15:1-35