Singed Hair and God’s Grace to Obey

A bright, breezy morning a couple of months ago found me in the kitchen surrounded by the chatter of kiddos as I sliced up freshly baked banana bread for hungry tummies. As I slathered butter on the third piece, a sickening odor filled my nostrils. Alarmed, I whipped toward the smell. I could see smoke rising behind my daughter’s head, and I quickly realized her hair had gotten too near the gas burner I’d switched on for my breakfast. Panicked, I snatched her away from the stove, blindly swatting at the back of her head to squelch any potential flames. 

Once I realized her head wasn’t on fire—just a small handful of hair had been singed—my nerves began to calm down. Thankfully she was unharmed in body (though “considerably rumpled in spirit,” as Anne Shirley once stated). As spirited processing of the situation ensued, our oldest said, “Mom, if her hair had been on fire how would you have put it out?” I thought for a moment, then said, “I guess I would’ve done it with my hands, like I did just then when I thought it was on fire.” 

For someone who has a fairly high pain tolerance, I’ve always had a disproportionate fear of experiencing physical pain—the expectation being far worse than the pain itself. So I was rather surprised at my involuntary reaction to begin swatting at the possible fire on my daughter’s hair. As I pondered this, my thoughts wandered back to my early childhood years. I remember feeling extremely unsettled whenever I heard accounts of those who’d been martyred in awful ways for their faith. I’d genuinely loved Jesus since He saved me as a four-year-old, and I wanted with all my heart to follow Him no matter what the cost. But with the fear of such severe pain looming in my mind, my little heart was tormented by the thought that if I was ever put in a similar situation I would succumb to the fear of torture or death rather than overcome the fear and do what was right. This thought is one that I’ve continued to wrestle with as I’ve grown into my adult years—not just the fear of physical pain, but the fear of losing relationships or experiencing any kind of emotional hurt as a result of siding with Jesus. 

In the Heat of the Moment

A wave of realization washed over my heart right there in my kitchen. The decision to put out a fire with my bare hands wasn’t something that had happened in a moment but was a reaction readied by thousands of cumulative choices to love my daughter and put her needs ahead of my own (albeit very imperfectly). Years of daily decisions, small and large, to love and serve this precious girl had unknowingly trained me to be willing to put myself in harm’s way for her sake. And in that epiphany I caught a glimpse into how many of those martyrs had been prepared to live—and die—for Jesus. 

We’re told in Scripture that when we become followers of Christ we have to be willing to embrace all that being His disciple means, both good and hard. Jesus proclaimed to the crowd in Luke 14:27–28,

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

“For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?”

The imagery of crucifixion was something the hearers would’ve keenly understood. Even if they didn’t fully grasp the depth of what Jesus was declaring right then, due to what they’d seen at the hands of the Romans there would’ve been a shiver of terror at the mere mention of a cross. They would have understood that becoming His disciple was no light decision.

Counting the Cost

Most of those who have followed Jesus in the millenia since then haven’t literally ended up on a cross. But every person who’s truly surrendered their lives to Him has done so understanding that it’s no flippant choice. They’ve grasped the reality that it changes everything, from large decisions to the very smallest. They’ve forgiven rather than harbor bitterness. They’ve loved in the face of hate. They’ve chosen humility over pride. They’ve repented of sin rather than hold onto it. They’ve served rather than put themselves first. They’ve held to truth instead of giving in to seemingly small compromises. And every decision to “take up their cross” in the seemingly inconsequential moments has readied some to lay down their lives for Him when they were called to do so. 

Are there some who have been called to die for Christ very shortly after being saved? Absolutely. His Spirit enables every believer to do what is right regardless of the years they’ve spent as a Christian. But many lived in a time and place when they knew what might be required of them. They saw the rampant persecution of Christians. They understood the gravitas of what they were saying yes to the moment they chose to follow Jesus. Many around the world are living this reality right now.

For those of us in the western world, though, the road will likely look different. At the moment we don’t face the same kind of intense persecution that many have faced (and do face) around the world for standing for their faith. But we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Like me, you might notice the subtle and not-so-subtle pressures mounting in our culture to compromise on the “little” things. You sense the push to muddy God’s definitions of love and truth so as not to ruffle feathers, hurt feelings, and be labeled as hateful. You feel your flesh being tempted to cave to the loud call of self-service over self-sacrifice. You fight the enticement of pursuing the world’s standard of success, forsaking the path God has called you to. And every one of these decisions matter. If we compromise in “small” ways today, what makes us think we won’t do so tomorrow when the repercussions are far more dire? We’re called to obedience right this moment, no matter how seemingly inconsequential. By God’s grace, our hearts are being prepared for whatever the future holds through submission to His Word in every decision we make.

How to Cultivate an Attitude of Obedience in the Small Stuff

Here are some ways we can begin, here and now, to cultivate an attitude of love and obedience to Christ in the “small” things. 

1. Fill Your Heart with His Word

I have treasured your word in my heart
so that I may not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11).

The Bible is a precious gift to us, inspired by God Himself, to teach us who He is and what obedience to Him looks like. It’s not enough to go back to God’s Word every once in a while for some helpful advice. We’re in a dangerous place if we find ourselves growing callous toward Scripture, thinking we can rely on our own reasoning or intuition to know what loving and obeying Him looks like. This is prime soil for compromise and eventually deception. Our heart posture should be one of reverence and gratitude to the Lord for giving us the priceless treasure of His Word. We should be faithfully, regularly hiding it in our hearts, allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us to live in greater surrender to and love for Christ with every day that passes.

2. Obey Readily

“If you love me, you will keep my commands.” (John 14:15)

For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden. (1 John 5:3)

Loving God and obeying Him go hand in hand. We must determine, by God’s grace, to live in Spirit-empowered obedience to Him every moment of every day. Key moments of obedience often come when no one is watching. Do we take the wrong thought captive? Do we reject laziness? Do we choose forgiveness? Do we hold our tongue? Choose not to grumble? God sees every one of these decisions. He knows who has first place, who we fear, who we are choosing to love. Every decision lays the foundation for either spiritual strength or spiritual weakness. 

None of us will obey perfectly. How I praise God that as believers we’re clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and our eternal destiny is safe in Him and His finished work on the cross. And I praise Him that when we do sin that the Spirit convicts us, enables us to repent, and to walk yet again in obedience. It should fill us with immense joy that He equips us for what He calls us to, whether it’s making another meal or surrendering our very life. 

3. Pray and Pray Again 

“Pray constantly.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

We should be in constant communication with the Lord, declaring His goodness, bringing every care and desire to Him, asking for wisdom, thanking Him, and humbly yet boldly petitioning Him on behalf of others and for our own needs. When we make prayer a moment-by-moment part of our day, the awareness of His constant presence is ever on our minds. Think about it: it’s much easier to neglect loving or honoring someone when we don’t acknowledge their presence. 

Have you ever noticed this in a toddler? They look a little suspicious, so you call their name. They give you the side-eye, but pretend they don’t hear you—the classic sign that they’re about to do something they know isn’t right. They know if they look at you they’ll have to listen to you, and they’ll have no excuse to disobey. As adults we can fall prey to the same thought process toward God. But when we’re used to living in the continual acknowledgement of His near presence through prayer, it makes the temptation to disobey much less appealing. It grows our love for Him and diminishes our desire to do anything that isn’t pleasing to Him. It keeps our hearts soft to truth and strengthened against lies and fear. 

God alone knows the path He’s set for us. All we have to do is be faithful with what He calls us to today, with our hearts set to love Him, and our eyes fixed on eternity.

As we consider models of faithfulness and obedience, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s life was deeply impacted by her father, Arthur DeMoss, who left a rich legacy of both to Nancy and her siblings.Listen as she shares many of the principles her dad passed down in the series “The Instruction of a Father,” streaming now on the Revive Our Hearts podcast. 

About the Author

Heather Cofer

Heather Cofer

Heather Cofer is a wife and mother of six living in northern Colorado with a passion for encouraging women to love Jesus. She is the author of Expectant: Cultivating a Vision for Christ-Centered Pregnancy, and has also written for Set … read more …

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