In the pursuit of holiness Christians are often called on to perform duties that appear unreasonable and even absurd to an unbelieving world. A Christian farmer in Kansas is a case in point. When wheat is exactly ready to be harvested, it is important that the work be completed quickly lest bad weather arise and damage the crop or reduce its quality. Because of this, harvesting is often done on a seven-day-a-week schedule. But this particular farmer, believing Sunday should be observed as the Lord’s Day, would never work his harvest crew on Sunday, even when an impending storm threatened. To his neighboring farmers this action appeared strange and unreasonable. Interestingly enough, however, over the years this Christian farmer was the most prosperous in his area. Like Abraham, he obeyed by faith what he believed to be the will of God, even though such obedience must undoubtedly have been difficult at times.
Though we often think of holiness in a more narrow sense of separation from impurity and moral evil, in its broader sense holiness is obedience to the will of God in whatever God directs. It is saying with Jesus, “Here I am…I have come to do your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7). No one can pursue holiness who is not prepared to obey God in every area of his life. The holiness described in the Bible calls us to do more than separate ourselves from the moral pollution of the world around us. It calls us to obey God even when that obedience is costly, when it requires deliberate sacrifice and even exposure to danger.
During my service in the Navy, I was once in charge of an operation where a mishap occurred in which a valuable boat was lost and a dozen or more lives were endangered. It was a situation that could have seriously jeopardized my future naval service. Though the cause of the mishap was mechanical failure, it was also true that we were not conducting the operation exactly according to the rules. During the ensuing investigation, the temptation to protect myself by covering up this fact was extremely strong, but I knew I had to be completely truthful and trust God for the consequences. God blessed that obedience—the investigation focused totally on the mechanical failure, and my career was not harmed.
Obedience to the revealed will of God is often just as much a step of faith as claiming a promise from God. In fact, one of the more intriguing thoughts from the book of Hebrews is the way the writer appears to use obedience and faith interchangeably. For example, he speaks of the Old Testament Hebrews who would never enter God’s rest because they disobeyed (3:18). Yet they were not able to enter because of their unbelief (3:19). This interchange of unbelief and disobedience also occurs later in the book (4:2, 6).
These heroes of faith were said to be “still living by faith when they died” (Hebrews 11:13). But we will see that the element of obedience—responding to the will of God—was just as prominent in their lives as was claiming the promises of God. The important point, however, is that they obeyed by faith. And since obedience is the pathway to holiness—a holy life being essentially an obedient life—we may say that no one will become holy apart from a life of faith.
Faith is not only necessary to salvation, it is also necessary to live a life pleasing to God. Faith enables us to claim the promises of God—but it also enables us to obey the commands of God. Faith enables us to obey when obedience is costly or seems unreasonable to the natural mind.
Bridges, Jerry. 1978. The Pursuit of Holiness. Colorado Springs: Navpress.
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