Lessons to Learn

When Obedience IS the Sacrifice

Picture of a clock with the words "Redeem the time" to represent the time sacrificed to do what my job required.

As Christians, we are held to higher standards than the world. We are expected to follow the requirements of those in authority over us as long as what they are asking us to do does not conflict with what the Bible commands. We do it because we are representatives of Christ, and our behavior reflects on Him. And, we do everything as to the Lord and not to men. But what happens when those requirements aren’t wrong but just annoying? Not only that, but others around you refuse to comply. This very situation happened to me this week at work. I learned a lesson about obedience that reminded me exactly who my Boss really is.

The Mandate

I’m a high school English teacher. I get to school around 7:00 AM and leave around 3:45 each day. So when the email came through instructing English teachers to sign up to attend a meeting scheduled from 4:45 to 6:45 PM the next day, I was already not happy. To make matters worse, the purpose of the meeting was so that the teachers from the two high schools in the district could get together to share ideas and plan for the next quarter. But the other high school teachers don’t do the same things we do at my level of English. They don’t even do the same things as each other. The whole thing would be a pointless waste of time, and it would add three extra hours to the end of my day.

I mentioned what a bummer it was to my two my teammates on my level. “It’s three hours after school,” said one. “I’m not going.” “What’s the worst they can do? Slap our hands? Not going,” said the other. Well, I decided. Then I’m not going either. But no sooner had I hit “delete” on the online sign-up sheet, the nagging feeling of guilt started in my head. 

Indecision

“I’m supposed to be representing Christ. Everybody knows I’m a Christian. If I just do whatever I want, what does that say about my integrity?” I thought. Wasn’t there a Bible verse about that? I looked it up: 1 Timothy 6:1, “Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.” Then Colossians 3:23 popped in. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” “Besides,” that voice in my head continued, “I don’t work for people. I work for the Lord. He called me to teach. He put His fingerprints all over my job when I got hired at my school over ten years ago. I’m supposed to do my best at work to please Him.”

“But I don’t waaaaant to!” I whined back to the voice. Plus, if nobody showed up, maybe the person in charge would get the idea that the online version we have been doing to this point was fine. I was just being a conscientious objector. It was like chaining myself to a tree or refusing to leave a sidewalk. I was protesting really. I’m sure that’s allowed, right?

A Choice to Obey

But the nagging feeling just would not go away. I sat at my desk for over an hour after school going back and forth in my head. I decided I wasn’t going, and that was final. Then the nagging feeling stopped. Wait. A small shiver of fear shot through me. Did it stop because I had finally convinced myself that it was the right thing to do, or did it stop because the Holy Spirit was tired of dealing with me? THAT scared me. If it was the Holy Spirit who had been behind that feeling of guilt the whole time, this was a game changer. I never want to get to a place in which I ignore God’s voice so that He stops speaking.

Plus, just a few weeks ago, I had been in a similar position. I had a strong feeling that I was supposed to share Jesus with a certain someone, but I didn’t do it. I was in a place and at a time when it wouldn’t have been exactly convenient, so I “straight-armed” the Holy Spirit. As soon as my split-second decision was made not to comply with what He was asking, I felt the sting of regret. I had made a promise to myself at that time to always look at things from the standpoint of hindsight. So now here was my chance to do things right. Which would I regret more? Losing three hours of my time or the opportunity to show obedience to God? I decided to go after all.

It Was a Good Night

Long story short, it wasn’t a bad meeting. Only one other lady at my level showed up from the other high school, and we actually had a good conversation. I found out that we have similar backgrounds and were hired the exact same year at our respective schools. She told me some stories from her years teaching at her school, a lower-income version of my school. I shared some lesson plans and talked about my love for my kids . I also told her how I believed God had sent me to my school. On the way home, I prayed for three accidents I saw. And, when I stopped for gas, I felt led to give out a Spanish tract I had in my purse to a guy pumping gas next to me.

Looking back at the evening, I had the very strong feeling that I had done the will of the Lord. I believe that I was in the place He wanted me to be at the time He wanted me to be there. I think I had made the difference I was supposed to make – whatever that difference actually was (only God knows). The whole thing was annoying and pointless in theory, but the reality was that God put me in my position for a reason. I am not my own. I was bought with a price. He gave me the exact advantages, skills, and background I needed to do the job He sent me to do. Submission to my employer is submission to God, and obedience is the only option.

When Obedience IS the Sacrifice

The idea for the title of this article came from 1 Samuel 15:22: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” While I was meditating on it this week, I believe that the Lord showed me something about this verse I had never heard mentioned in any commentary before. Since no sacrifice is needed unless there is sin, this verse means that It’s better to do what is right the first time than to have to repent for doing what’s wrong/sinful (which would require a sacrifice). And even when obedience has a cost attached – our time, our effort, our submission when we don’t understand the point – that sacrifice IS the obedience that God desires. Then, when we look back on the situation, instead of regret, we will have the amazing feeling that we have done the will of the Lord.

Interested in more articles about workplace encounters? Check out Check out God Knows Even When You Don’t, So Pray!  It’s about a time when I prayed for the graffiti to stop, and it did. Or, try Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray. It’s a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want. Or, see God Answered the Prayer I Did Not Pray. In it, God teaches me a lesson about leaning on Him for strength.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

4 thoughts on “When Obedience IS the Sacrifice”

  1. Great that you regrouped and turned the situation around.

    Haven’t we all been there? Years ago I felt to give a track to the Operations
    Manager as he passed by me in the hall (I had already been prompted in the
    Spirit beforehand to put a tract in my pocket for some reason). Okay, it’s only
    the top man running the factory. I balked as he passed by. Why would this man
    want to read a tract?

    I learned only a few hours later that that was his last day at the company. He
    was transferring to Georgia. To this day I still cringe whenever I think about it.

    As you stated, it is good to learn from experience and try not to be a repeat
    offender. Well, just this past week someone in authority above me was in my
    office talking. During the conversation they used the Lord’s name in vain. As you,
    my spirit was simultaneously both piqued and pricked that I had to say something
    about that. I could just not let it slide.

    So I waited. The individual put his hand on the door knob and kept lingering. It was
    the Lord’s mercy:

    “You know, that name you mentioned, Jesus Christ, do you know that he loves you?
    He really loves you _________ (their name).”

    ” Oh, it slipped. I’m sorry. I forgot.”

    Thanks for the post Good reading!

    1. Thank you for commenting! Actually, I love how you handled it when your coworker used God’s name in vain. Kids do that in my class, and usually all I have time to manage across the room is “Don’t blaspheme in my classroom.” (Somebody explains if they say “Huh?”) I want to make sure everybody knows it is not okay, but the personal conversation seems more effective one on one. I will definitely try to work that in with my repeat offenders. Loved/hated your story about the top man. I felt your pain. The girl I was supposed to speak to was a college girl in the bathroom at my daughter’s band concert. The command came in quick, “Tell her about Jesus.” I didn’t want to be the creepy lady in the bathroom. Pride. God forgive me. Anyway, God is still working on us (Praise His name!!). God bless you!

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