The Link Between Faith and Obedience

By: Abbie Hoekstra

Earlier in this issue Greg shared that the key to faith is focusing on God and His word. When we do this, our faith grows, and God accomplishes much of His mission to advance the gospel through us. In this article I want to zoom in a little closer on what happens between the having faith in God and seeing Him show up: our obedience.

We know from the great writers of the Bible like John and Paul that God calls us to a whole life of faith – not just a moment. As followers of Jesus, we live and walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). The momentary, daily actions of faith are called obedience. But obedience for followers of Jesus arises from our living union with Him. His death made obedience possible because only Jesus has the power to deliver us from the power of sin. And we know from Paul in Philippians 1:6 that Christ’s work in us will come to completion, and we will see full deliverance from sin and brokenness in heaven one day. But, as the beginning of the verse says, the completed work of heaven starts now. The obedience of faith is choosing to trust God – it’s the “walking the walk” part.

This obedience of faith can look like letting go of something we are holding on too tightly to, or choosing to believe God has a good plan even when everything around you seems very bad. For Carla, a member of our Bay Area family in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the obedience of faith looked like offering to pray for people she was prepping for surgery.

Carla works in pre-op getting patients ready for surgery. Up until about a year ago, patients couldn’t have people back with them for any kind of surgery. During COVID they had taken a break from elective surgeries and so anyone who came back for her to prep was having emergency surgery, and they were all alone. In her own words, she “started to develop compassion for these people.”

In early 2020 one woman came in for a port placement (the entry point for chemo treatment and other medication related to cancer treatment) and Carla realized the two had a connection through Bay Area. After she left pre-op, Carla thought to herself, “gosh, we should have prayed for her!”

She shared with her Missional Community (MC) that she felt prompted to do something but didn’t know how to get started. Someone said, “why don’t you just say you will pray for them during their surgery?” Then another thing happened when she was feeling the nudge. A friend posted on social media that she had an emergency eye surgery and the ER nurse offered to pray with her. That was it, she knew she had to be obedient.

So, she had this guy come in for brain surgery and was determined to let him know she would be praying for him but every time she would go in the room to do so, someone else would come in. She offered to take him to his MRI, and finally told him there in the elevator that she would pray for him during his surgery.

Later in the day, she is walking down the hall and hears a voice call out that says, “Hey Carla, your prayer worked! I’m still here!” She felt in that moment that God was saying, “I’m with you – you can do this!”

So Carla started asking more people if she could pray for them as they entered surgery alone. One of the first days on this new mission, she asked this woman who grabbed her hand and started crying in gratitude, and some fear of the unknown. No one said no, everyone said yes. Soon, friends would start texting her saying things like, “my 80-year-old mom is alone in the emergency room; can you go pray with her?”

Thinking back to her decision to be obedient to God’s nudging, Carla said she is so glad she took that little step. She shared that it never stopped feeling awkward, but continued anyway with confidence that she was supposed to be doing this. Another time, she was prepping her friend’s sister- in-law (this patient was not a believer) who was super anxious. Carla offered to pray for her, and the patient grabbed her hand and got teary eyed, and said, “do you do this for all of your patients?” Carla said it was kind of a convicting question!

What Carla is showing here is Great Faith. The kind of faith that listens to what God is calling you to and chooses to act despite little information on how it will turn out. Anyone could have come in and been offended by Carla’s question, said “absolutely not, don’t do that,” or went so far as asking for another nurse. And maybe someday that might happen! But that shouldn't determine whether or not it’s worth obeying God when he calls. Plus, what if God does the opposite of what you expect?

Check this out. During Covid, someone in Carla’s MC texted her and said her friend was in the hospital and would love to have someone pray with her. So Carla went by her room after she finished working, the two chatted a little, and then she prayed with her before leaving. As she was about to leave, the woman’s nurse (who Carla knew through the hospital’s new grad mentorship program) came in and heard the patient say, “Thanks for coming by and thank you so much for the prayer!” The nurse smiled and said something like, “I’m so glad our paths crossed...”

Fast forward about a year, and the nurse came in for surgery and was Carla’s patient. As she was admitting her, they realized they shared the same birthday and decided they should get together for coffee on their birthday. “We had a lot to talk about,” Carla said, “and the second time we got together, I was able to share my testimony and the gospel with her.” And they have plans to get together again! “But that was all God,” she said, “and it started because ItoldmyMCthatIfeltlikeI should pray with my patients, and they prayed for me and even prompted me to do it. That’s how God works!”

What I’m getting at here is this: Genuine faith can only be demonstrated by obedient action. Anyone can say they have faith, but you will only know that they live by faith when they act in obedience to God no matter where He leads them. As Greg says, the key to faith is focus. Focus is learned through steps of obedience. You can’t trust in God’s promises if you don’t know what they are, so you need to read God’s word so your faith is focused on the right thing.

Another way we can make sure we are focusing on the right thing and being obedient is in God’s confirmation through our community. We see this in Carla’s story, where she gained the courage to step out in obedience from her MC. The piece of advice she gave when I asked was literally that. She said, “if you’re feeling nervous about doing something, share with your MC or your friends and see what they say.” (We are Better Together, you know)

This is the kind of faith that the writer of Hebrews meant when he said, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Whether it’s taking small steps or big steps, any step of faith is a step toward the life God wants for us – the life He has promised for us. The key to faith is focusing on God’s word and promises. But the key to obedience is trusting that God will make good on His promises. Every single one.