“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
It’s an old song – written in 1887 – but it’s still true. If you look at this simple lyric, there are three components in play. There is faith (which the song calls trust), there is action (which the song calls obedience) and there are feelings (which the song refers to as happiness). These are three important components in our lives; but it’s vitally important for us to know a little something about how they are meant to relate to each other.
In an ideal situation, it works like this:
I am excited and joyful about obedience. This is because my faith is strong – I know my Father loves me and wants the best for me, and therefore I believe Him when He tells me in His Word that I should walk in a particular way. So I take action, I obey, and I’m happy the whole time I’m going it.
And it would certainly be nice if it worked like that, wouldn’t it? But both you and I know it doesn’t. At least some of the time, we are not excited about obedience. In fact, we are excited about disobedience. Our hearts lie to us and tell us that happiness and satisfaction will be found not in the way of purity, not in the way of holiness, not in the way of self-control, but instead in walking in the path of least resistance. In giving into the particular temptation we are facing at a given moment.
The problem here is within us. It’s that we might know the right thing to do, and we might know the right reason to do it, but we don’t feel it. Our hearts and our feelings often betray us by contradicting our faith and then lead us astray, and we are all too willing to follow them. It is as if our lives are a train and our feelings are the engine. The cars behind the train are all the other parts of our lives – our diets, our relationships, our exercise schedule, our reading, the movies we watch, and so on. The engine of feelings pulls along the cars behind it, tugging us along to whatever destination we feel like getting to at a given moment.
The locomotive keeps on moving, all led by our feelings.
But there is a better way. And the better way comes in changing the order of the cars on the train.
To keep with the train illustration, I would propose that we’ve got the wrong thing pulling us along. The engine of our lives shouldn’t be our feelings; it should be our faith. The driving force, then, in all these situations isn’t what you feel; it’s what you believe. You believe that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit; you believe that Jesus is patient with you and you should therefore be patient with others; you believe that your mind is actually formed by what you put inside it; you believe that the Bible is the Holy Word of God; and so on. You believe all these things, and those beliefs are what is pulling along the cars.
So if faith is the engine, the next car is action, for that’s when faith is truly validated. It does little good to claim you believe that God will meet with you over the pages of Scripture but never read it. Is that faith? Not really. Faith pulls along the necessary action behind it, whether that means saying “I’m sorry,” or saying no to the extra piece of cake.
Then, behind action, comes the car of feelings. It’s funny that it works that way – you often don’t feel like doing something in the moment, but you do it anyway. Your action is pulled by your faith, and then feelings come along behind it, eventually catching up with what your faith has known all along. Eventually you do feel it; you’re glad you made that choice, but it doesn’t happen right away.
You trust and obey. For there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.
Faith. Then action. Then feelings follow. And slowly, by God’s grace, the length of chain that connects all those things together gets shorter and shorter. As we grow with Him, we find that our feelings are actually coming closer and closer to faith.