Is it hypocritical to do something even if you don’t feel like it? Is it possible to overcome rebellious feelings and live obediently anyway?
SIMON PETER DIDN’T FEEL LIKE FISHING ANY more. He was weary from working all night. He was discouraged because he had caught nothing for all his work. He was skeptical that dropping the net again would be any more profitable than it had been in all the times before.
But Jesus told him, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” “Master,” Peter responded. “we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Lk. 5:4-5).
Despite his weariness and discouragement and skepticism, Simon obeyed.
Peter’s victory over his feelings provides important insights into our own struggles to live obediently even when we don’t feel like it.
LISTEN TO GOD
One question Christians seem to ask more than any other is, “How can I know the will of God?” It is a vital question. Before we can obey or disobey, we have to know what God has called us to do.
Be assured that God is ready and able to communicate His will clearly to each Christian no matter what our level of spiritual growth. The question is, are we listening?
Peter was a very weary fisherman when in verse three Jesus asked him to put out a little from shore so Jesus could speak from the boat to the people who were following Him. Having done what Jesus asked, Simon could easily have sat back in the boat and relaxed, with the warm sun beating down, the gentle sea breeze blowing in his hair, the boat rocking gently on the waves.
Many modern Christians frequently yield to that same temptation. We drift off into a restful state, “napping” until we feel refreshed, not expecting to hear our names called.
We are too tired to pray or not in the mood to share the gospel with the spiritually lost, or we don’t feel like reading our Bibles. Like children caught up in play, we disobey our Father because we do not feel like doing what He says.
But when Jesus was finished teaching, Peter was still paying attention. Jesus did not have to rouse him or call loudly to him. He only had to speak to him, and he heard.
AGREE WITH GOD
One of the surest ways for Christians to learn God’s will is to agree beforehand that regardless of what He commands we will do it.
All too often we try to reverse the process. We try to get God to tell us what He wants us to do, so that we can then decide whether we will do it.
Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). None of us would be so shameless as to say, “Lord, I will love You when it suits me. I will love You when I feel like it. I will love You when I have nothing else I would rather do.” But seeking to know God’s will so that we can decide then whether to obey Him is to say exactly that.
We must agree to obey God if we are to do His bidding.
Consider Abraham. When God called to him, “Abraham!,” he replied, “Here I am” (Gen. 22:1). He didn’t know God was testing him. He knew only that God was calling him. His reply indicates a willingness to obey. To say, “Here I am” in that culture was to say, “I am ready to do as you ask” or “Your wish is my command.”
“Then He (God) said, ‘Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you’” (Gen. 22:2).
Everything within Abraham probably rebelled against that command! To say that Abraham did not feel like obeying God’s call is probably the height of understatement. Sacrificing Isaac was absolutely the last thing he humanly would ever want to do. But he had agreed to obey. Despite his feelings, he was committed.
TRUST GOD TO WORK
In a world where we are told to read the fine print and know our maximum liability, the identity of the one who calls us has much to do with whether we agree to follow.
Our very nature as man urges us to control our own destinies, but our identity as Christians requires that we turn that responsibility over to God.
Who has our best interests at heart? Who knows our situations? Who has the knowledge, intelligence, and power to make everything work out for our good? Who truly loves us? God does.
Had someone other than God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham might have been tempted to sacrifice that person where he stood. Had someone else told Simon Peter to go fishing again, impulsive Peter could possibly have helped him off the wrong side of the boat.
Peter was tired, and he “knew” he was not going to catch anything, but because he trusted Jesus he was able to say, “Because You say so, I will let down the nets.”
Abraham held Isaac more dear than all else on earth. But because he trusted God, “Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey … and went to the place of which God had told him (Gen. 22:3).
God is silent in the lives of too many Christians today because of lack of trust.
It would be funny if it were not so sad that we can trust God for our eternal salvation, but we cannot trust Him with the individual decisions of our lives.
Paul says it clearly, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him (Col. 2:6). We may call Jesus “Lord,” but if we do not trust Him and stand willing – that is, in agreement – to obey Him, then He is not, in fact, our Lord.
How we feel about obeying God is a side issue. God calls us to action, not to feelings.
Jesus did not tell Peter to feel energetic and excited about going fishing. He told him to “put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.” Putting out and letting down were commands that Peter could obey no matter how he felt.
Paul gives us another command that must be obeyed whether we feel like it or not: “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26). God did not tell us not to feel anger. He told us not to sin (action) when we are angry. He told us to resolve our anger (action again) before the day is over.
Similarly, consider these words: “Devote yourselves to prayer…” (Col. 4:2); “…do the work of an evangelist” (Eph. 4:5); Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you… (Col. 3:16); Meditate in your heart…” (Psa. 4:4); “…long for the pure milk of the (God’s) word…” (1 Pet. 2:2); “…make disciples (converts) of all the nations…” (Matt. 28:19); “…fervently love one another from the heart…” (1 Pet. 1:22).
In the Bible, love is presented as the attitude and action of doing what is best for the one who is loved regardless of how the lover feels about it. (The measure of love is equal to the measure of cost to the one who loves. Jesus’ love for us was total and complete for that is how much of Himself our salvation cost.) Doing good, blessing, and praying are acts of love.
Jesus did not tell us to feel kindly toward our enemies. He did tell us to act lovingly toward them.
God does not call us to a particular state of emotional equilibrium; He calls us to action – action we can accomplish in the face of our feelings.
Saying you like doing something you don’t is hypocrisy. Doing something despite feelings is discipline. Peter didn’t feel like going fishing, but he still obeyed.
Visualize a spiritual railroad train. Fact is the steam engine, faith is the coal car, life’s decisions are the freight cars and feeling is the caboose.
The fact of God’s commands guides the train; faith fuels the train; obedience moves it; feelings follow. Letting feelings dictate our responses to God is letting the caboose pull the train.
With Peter and Abraham, we must allow the fact of God’s commands for our lives to guide us; we must trust God for the results; we must decide to obey, and do so. Then we, too, will know the emotional transformation they experienced, as we recognize and appreciate God’s ultimate purpose.
Obedience means doing what God asks of us. We will find that much easier if we concern ourselves with obedience and let God take care of our feelings.