Oswald Chambers – Christian author, teacher and minister – was born in Scotland in 1874. He wrote extensively with clarity and precision on discipleship and obedience to God in the Christian faith. Even though his teachings are directed to followers of Jesus, the essence of his teachings is universal. He does not mince words. And he does not compartmentalize religion or make it into something that fits into a personal agenda. True discipleship eventually becomes a state of being, not of doing, and it can be a long and arduous path filled with what we call the storms of life to attain to that state of being. Obedience to God is not for the faint-hearted, as is demonstrated in the following passage from the gospel of Mark. It is accompanied by Chambers’ commentary.
The following is an excerpt from the book God’s Workmanship by Oswald Chambers. For more on the life and teachings of this brilliant writer and devoted Christian, please visit https://utmost.org.
All Scripture is quoted from the New King James Version
After Obedience — What?
“Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side… Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by… Then He went into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.” Mark 6:45 – 52
I. Constrained by Christ
“Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side…“
“We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success, but He does not. We would have thought these men would have had a most successful time, but their obedience led them into a great disaster. If our Lord has ever constrained you, and you obeyed Him, what was your dream of His purpose? Never put your dream of success as God’s purpose for you; His purpose may be exactly the opposite.”
2. Consternation by Obedience
“… Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.“
“The obedience of the disciples led them into the greatest trouble they had known. Jesus did not go with them, a storm came, and they were at their wits’ end: “the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land” (verse 47). They thought they were going straight to the other side; Jesus knew they would face a storm in the center of the lake.
Each one of us has had similar experiences —“I did obey God’s voice; I am sure He led me to do this and that,” yet these very things have led to consternation in our lives. Beware of saying the Devil deceived you. It is as true for saints as for anyone else that “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). We have nothing whatever to do with what society calls success or failure. If God’s command is clear and the constraint of His Spirit is clear, we have nothing to do with the result of our obedience. The purpose of God in calling us is not something in the future but this very minute: Now is the accepted time (2 Corinthians 6:2), always now; God’s training is for now, not presently.The ultimate issue will be manifested presently, but we have nothing to do with the afterwards of obedience. We get wrong when we think of the afterwards; the purpose of God is our obedience. Never have a material end in your mind and imagine that God is working toward that by means of your obedience; that is the human way of looking at things. What people call training and preparation, God calls the end. The end God has in mind is to enable us to see that He can walk on the chaos of our lives just now. “He is there!” The first time we saw Him we were terrified; the “other side” was covered with clouds, the surroundings became wild and the wind contrary. With how many is the wind contrary these days!
There was no point of rest for the natural minds of the disciples as to what Jesus was after — it was the deep, the dark, and dreadful: our Lord’s purpose was that they would see Him walking on the sea. We have an idea that God is leading us to a certain goal; He is not. The question of getting to a particular end is a mere incident. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). What humans call the process God calls the end. If you can stay in the midst of the turmoil unperplexed and calm because you see Jesus, that is God’s purpose in your life, not that you may be able to say, “I have done this and that and now it’s all right.” God’s purpose for you is that you depend on Him and His power now, that you see Him walking on the waves — no shore in sight, no success, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because you see Him.”
3. Confused by Calm
“…Then He went up into the boat to them, and wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled.“
“After we have obeyed there is a sudden calm, and unless we are well taught by the Spirit of God, we are afraid of this calm and imagine it is a preparation for some tremendous strain.”
“…For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.“
“The way our hearts are hardened is by sticking to our convictions instead of to Christ. Look back at your life with God, and you will find that He has made havoc of your convictions, and now the one thing that looms larger and larger is Jesus Christ and Him only, God and God only. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God” (John 17:3). Convictions and creeds are always about God; eternal life is to know Him.
“Let not your heart be troubled: (John 14:1). When we dream of ourselves in God’s service, our hearts do get troubled “I think this is what God is preparing me for.” God is not preparing you for anything — obedience is its own end in the purpose of God; be faithful to Him. Never say, “I wonder what God is doing with me just now.” That is no business of yours, and the Spirit of God will never give you an answer. If you are spiritual, I defy you to tell anyone what God is preparing you for; the preparation is His end.
Can I see Jesus in my present circumstances? Is it an obscure farther shore, with wild waves between? — can I see Him walking on the waves? Is it a fiery furnace? —can I see Him walking in the midst of the fire? Is it a placid, commonplace day — can I see Him there? If so, that is the perpetual mystery of the guidance of God; that is eternal life. We have to be transformed by the renewing of our minds that we may prove what is the will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect (see Romans 12:2) — not the thing that is going to be acceptable but that which is good and acceptable and perfect now. If we have a further end in view we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate minute; when we know that obedience is the end, then every moment is the most precious.”
Oswald Chambers. God’s Workmanship and He Shall Glorify Me. Oswald Chambers Publications Associations Limited. 1997. pp50-53