When given a direct command, I want to do the opposite. When the sign says “Don’t touch the glass!” I want to leave my mark. I’m not sure what my problem is, but I know I don’t like being told what to do. Even when I agree or know it is for the best; I still don’t like being bossed around.

Indian Hills is a Christian Camp in southeast San Diego. The camp has a cool little petting zoo and just outside that zoo is a corral that houses some small donkeys and ponies. Years ago, the corral had signs around the outside that read, “Don’t pet the donkeys!” I was fascinated last week to discover that the signs now read, “Donkeys bite fingers!” Notice the communication change, one is a command without information and the other is information without a command. Which message would be more effective at protecting you?

A lot of the Bible’s wisdom comes to us as instructions, orders, or commands that do not give a good reason why; including this little gem from 1 Thess 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The explanation for giving thanks in all circumstances is that it is God’s will for us. Imagine if the signs around the donkey corral read, “Don’t pet the donkeys! Because I don’t want you to!” The instruction tells us God’s hope or plan for us, but it does not tell us how that helps us or protects us.

For some believers, that is good enough. “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!” is their mindset. God blesses believers who faithfully obey. But some of us take time to move from knowing something, like knowing that God wants us to be thankful in every situation, to actually putting that into practice. Maybe stubbornness makes us push back against being told what to do, or maybe it is because we don’t see what is in it for us.

No one is justified in disobeying God because God didn’t make his instructions or precepts clearer. I’m just pointing out that some believers don’t obey and don’t like being told what to do, even by God. There is a battle of wills, and it is helpful for believers to be aware of that battle. It is helpful to recognize if, and when, believers are pushing against God’s instructions intentionally or out of a pattern of lifelong, natural, human resistance (we usually call this sin). Is God trustable? Will you submit to God and let him boss you around? If so, be thankful!

P.S. Everything modern researchers learn about thankfulness shows that God was right and that gratitude really helps the hearts, minds, and bodies of those who express it regularly.

Pastor John Riley
Jr. High Pastor

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