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ONWARD: Obedience is Better


I remember my dad teaching me a card game when I was a kid.

I think it was "Hearts".

He dealt the cards and explained the basic goal and rules of the game. A few turns in I played a card and he said, “nope – can’t do that; that’s against the rules,” and he explained a new rule. Then a few moves later he played a card and I yelled, “you can’t do that!” but he said, “sure I can!” and explained another new rule. This went on for the whole game (always to my dad’s advantage!). Eventually, I understood how to play the game but not before I had been beaten several rounds in a row.  

I grew up going to church, and I always had a feeling that God’s rules for me were about him wanting to be in charge and limit how much fun I could have. The ones about turning the other cheek, treating others as better than yourself, and giving away your stuff were the opposite of what I wanted to do. That was especially true when I was in college.

I had been a Christian for a while, but when I looked at what college life had to offer, that looked a lot more fun than how I thought Jesus was telling me to live. I remember having a conversation with Jesus where I said, “I know you are God and I want to be with you forever… but for college I’m going to do my own thing. I’ll check back with you later.” 

As college was ending and I was transitioning to full-time working, God grabbed a hold of me directly and through a group of gifted teachers. He showed me how doing my own thing was leading to broken relationships and anxiety. He convinced me that his rules are about giving him the credit he deserves and following his plan for humanity, which leads to my joy and freedom. I learned that being obedient to his rules leads to more life, more joy, more peace, more of him. Not always more fun, but I knew the fun I had been chasing was fleeting.

It was like playing cards with my dad – learning and following the rules is what makes the game enjoyable. This is now how I feel about God’s plan for my life – I can follow his plan, which leads to joy, peace, and fulfilment, or I can play my own game, which leads to frustration, fleeting fun, and anxiety.  

Alison and I are trying to bring that attitude to our decision around how to support the Onward campaign. As much as I love spreadsheets and calculations, God is not giving me a percent – he is asking me to be obedient. Alison and I talked about it and arrived at an amount that stretched us but was still doable. We prayed and asked God what he wanted us to do, and God put a different number on our hearts that was higher than either of us were comfortable with. But we have been down this path before – we have been obedient to God’s call before and felt the joy on the other side. We have seen God multiply our generosity and draw us closer to himself in the process.

God is not trying to take our money to limit our freedom. He is promising us more joy, more freedom, more of his presence – by being obedient to what he’s asking us to do. Obedience is always better.

Brian Martin

Brian has been a non-staff pastor and gospel shepherd at Doxa since 2019. By day he works on AI and machine learning projects at Microsoft. He loves doing pre-marital counseling and baptizing new believers. He and his wife enjoy boating and chasing their three kids around.