#14 Obedience: Rest or Labor…The Guest or The Waiter?

Last month we stopped winking at Jesus from across the room with concerns about our schedule, and committed instead to rest in His labor, and become a guest at His table. Yes, December remembered how to listen like Mary at the feet of the Word made flesh. But more like Martha came January, as we asked Jesus to have a seat and again be our guest.

Cleverly Obedient: Merit or Misunderstood?

One recent evening, my wife and I returned home from celebrating our anniversary and were presented with a sweet surprise. Our oldest daughter (age 13) had created from scratch (no recipe) a gluten free, peanut buttery, chocolate cake. It was not only delicious but thoughtfully labor intensive. My wife doesn’t eat wheat so my daughter had to do more than empty a box – she took initiative and really persevered to please us. She’s a great kid.

The real surprise came when our younger daughter (age 12), who is jealously competitive, made no effort to grab the gusto for herself. Like most kids, she lives for mom and dad’s spotlight – especially when her sister has taken the stage. And she can masterfully attain equal billing with one stroll through the kitchen. “Found the cocoa for you -they’ll love our surprise -I’ll be reading in the other room if you need more help”. But this time was different. We cut the cake, praised the chef and nothing was said. She’s up to something…

A couple of hugs later we discovered that our in-house baker had still not cleaned her room, walked the dog, or taken a bath, as we requested. On the other hand, the one who wouldn’t lift a finger to help with our surprise, had indeed cleaned her room, walked the dog, and taken a bath (as requested). We understand that siblings come in different kinds of gift wrap, and those gifts require a little freedom of expression while being unwrapped. But at the end of the day, every dog needs a walk and every kid needs a bath. So in spite of our sweet distraction, it was obvious that only one of our children had been obedient, but not necessarily for the obvious reason.

Obedience Begins With Rest Not Labor

The perception may be that we consider it better to be uncaringly obedient than warm-heartedly disobedient. But what I’m really suggesting is that obedience begins with rest not labor – by being the guest, not the waiter.

This may sound a little strange at first, but that’s because we’re used to following our own standards. In the flesh (by default not textbook) we measure obedience by looking at the end results of our labor. Our obedience equals what we’ve produced. But Jesus measures obedience by looking at our willingness to rest in His labor, and submitting to His authority. So it’s not about our work but about willingness to rest in His work. The difference is subtle but it matters; just as a one degree difference will eventually take parallel paths in opposite directions. It matters because one magnifies us, the other magnifies Him.

The other obstacle we face is the nature of our flesh. We just plain old think we’re God and so we act like it. Whether it’s from arrogance or ignorance, we believe we know best and subsequently take matters into our own hands. We get hooked on the controlled substance of controlling substances and live for starting fires that we can’t put out. We love directing traffic, laboring, earning, leading, hosting – plug in whatever you want. And again… we believe we’ve been obedient if we’ve produced the intended result or made a good effort – labor, labor and more labor is the focus of fleshly minded obedience.

Peter Resisted Becoming His Guest

Why did Peter resist Jesus’ initial effort to wash his feet? Same idea…because in his un-renewed mind he couldn’t allow his respected teacher to be the server. And even after Jesus rebuked him, he still tried to take charge by suggesting a better way. Have a look… John 13: 8-9

Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

But Jesus wanted Peter to be the guest, not the server, waiter or host. He wants us to begin each moment by resting in, listening to, and learning from Him (He is our portion). We have to be willing to be served by Him before we can serve anyone (Him included). It may sound a bit selfish, but this is an inescapable truth and the enemy vehemently hates it. He twists the truth so an un-renewed mind sees rest as pride and labor as humility.

Mary’s Rest Is Martha’s Stress

When I look at my personal example above, it reminds me of the Mary and Martha story Luke 10:38-42. And as I make application, the depth of that passage really changes the focal point of my daughters’ obedience and disobedience.

I now understand that my younger daughter was obedient, not because she walked the dog, but because she rested in our authority. She listened like Mary who made knowing God’s word her highest priority. My older daughter was disobedient, not because she failed to walk the dog, but because she rejected our authority. She resisted it just as Peter did and because of that she worked in vain like Martha by assuming it was best. The younger rested in our authority by listening, the older labored against it by assuming – make sense?

Regarding obedience and how it works: Our ability to recognize these hairlike differences between what we believe and actuallly do, can make the difference between a wasted life and a productive one. I believe this subject is that important as God has laid it on my heart!

Later this week: Why This Really Matters To Each Of Us

The subject is easy to ignore because it seems like we’re just toying with sematics. But if we take time to make it personal, it will cut to the heart of whether or not we are bible-literate believers. And that is the key for real intimacy with God. Next post we’ll dig in with a close look at Mary & Martha and try to provide more practical application to these ideas.

Just a personal note: (if you have an extra minute…)

For many of us, last year was the toughest year of our lives, filled with painful trials. For all of you who have shared your struggles and testimonies, we continue to lift up your concerns to the Lord, as you have lifted ours.

Our 2010 began by having a sheriff’s deputy knock on our door to deliver a court summons for debts we couldn’t pay. We had to send our 18 year old son out of our house without warning as a dose of tough love – he didnt return for 11 months. We lost family relationships and suffered harsh judgments. We went through two foreclosures and the stress of being forced out. Our phones never stopped ringing with collection calls and our marriage came under heavy fire to the point of becoming tired and sometimes bitter, roommates.

In the late summer we fell to our lowest place having no means of paying our expenses or even buying food. It was a dark and lonely year for us. Our faith was shaken to the core. In the end, we held on to nothing (not even each other), nothing but God’s word. In the process he held on to us. At the darkest moment I could do nothing but write down my thoughts which eventually became this blog. I had no idea anyone would actually read it but God has used it to bring us new friends and a wealth of prayers and encouragement. He has also used it to teach me who I am.

In the closing months of 2010 God radically restored our lives – our son returned home, our finances were stabilized, toxic relationships were replaced by Godly ones, and our marriage has been rebuilt on a new foundation. God is more than good, He is God! There is much further yet to travel so please continue to pray for us as we aim to draw near to God and serve the way he intended. My hope this year is that God would be pleased to develop “Wake Up My Faith” into a humble teaching ministry that will revive in people a hunger for His word and the courage to walk in true faith.

Blessings to you friends – we love you!

Please contact me for prayer, encouragement or otherwise by emailing: wakeupmyfaith@att.net or connecting with me on facebook.

Your brother in Christ,



About Kevin Adams

Kevin Adams is a fresh voice among today’s best Christian writers. What he’s not, however, is a pastor, theologian or pulpit preacher; he doesn’t have a church, a fan club, or a flock. He’s just a regular guy with a powerful story, and a God given gift for sharing it that will challenge the faith of even the most seasoned, veteran believers. His transparency and intentional, elevated writing style has earned him a trusted reputation across the online Christian community. His work escorts readers through his own challenging experiences of loss, betrayal and impossible odds, to just beyond the comfort level of most Christians–the place where absolute faith is required. Kevin takes a genuine approach to modern Christianity that would rather tear away empty pockets than fill them with empty promises. Yet, his story is filled with indisputable proof of our Heavenly Father’s better-than-we-can-imagine desire for each of us, and the delight He takes in our learning to rest in His arms like happy children. Kevin is the author of The Extravagant Fool: A Faith Journey That Begins Where Common Sense Ends, due for release May 6th 2014, and founding partner in a new discipleship ministry being developed around the book. He is also the founder of the Wake up My Faith blog, which has garnered a social media following of over 80,000, reflecting varied backgrounds and locales. Kevin’s life verse is Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you”. (NKJV) And his philosophy on life can be summed up in a single thought: “Only when God becomes all that we want do we truly see that He is all we need.” –Kevin Adams 2012 Kevin is husband to Holly, his beautiful partner in faith, father to three wonderful children, and a compelling new author for Zondervan.
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42 Responses to #14 Obedience: Rest or Labor…The Guest or The Waiter?

  1. I have been praying through my plans for 2011 (most people do this, don’t they have at the beginning… of every year?). Thank you for your post, it confirms how God is speaking to me through His word. I do seek ‘intimacy’ with God – and Oh, how I want to allow Him to serve me – I want to be His guest more than anything! Thank you for the insights ! God bless you – as you ‘wake up [my] faith.

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Hi Salome, thanks for not giving up me during the Holidays. You are always a wonderful friend to drop by and share. Just posted part two – let me know what you think. Blessings.

  2. wendiwrites says:

    I am sitting here trying to wrap my mind around this thought: Jesus serving me. Me. Messed up me. Muddy-shoed me. But reading this reminds me that as long as I refuse to be served by Him, I will be forever muddy. Thank you for giving me something to receive with my whole spirit.

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Hey Muddy! So great to hear from you. I’m parying for you and the things God has placed on your heart. Will definitely be in touch to encourage and support your efforts. God has His mighty hand on you in your writing. talk soon

  3. Kevin, I think it will take me a few days to digest this! Wow…and using your daughters as a “visual” is quite brilliant if I may say so. Hmmm, as one who tends to be a Martha (though I’m much better than I used to be) this is challenging. Thank you so very much for that. 🙂

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Thnaks Dineen – you are always such an encouragement. I think about you guys often and pray! You are a bright light my friend! PS: i just posted part 2 – it may take a few days as well – its kinda long – sorry…. 🙂

  4. Sam says:

    I think that we Christians often struggle with the idea of obedience. Many will never become Christians because they do not want to obey anyone, especially a God that expects their obedience. We rationalize about obedience and make false assumptions about it and often we blur the true meaning of obedience in our lives as children of God. Just as mentioned in this story of the daughter she was trying to please her parents and she came up with a wonderful project and carried it out, taking lots of time and effort- however, she, in trying to do something special for her parents , forgot a key ingredient- to listen and do what they asked her to do. We all do this, we come up with assumed ways of obedience, and ways that we think will please God, and in so doing we overlook how God talks about obedience. In 1 John 5:3— In fact, this is love for God: to OBEY his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, —Kevin makes a great point about listening to God and thus obeying. God states it clearly in this passage if we love God we will obey His commands. Wow, I recently discussed this with some brothers in Christ, and we had never really put together that obedience was not just doing the right thing and coming up with good things to use our time and energy on, but it is a way that we as God’s children show Him that we do listen to His word and we love Him enough to actually obey His commands. So, and I am still working on this, and thanks Kevin for this post, but now I think of obedience as an oppurtunity to express to my Father that I love Him and that I know how much He loves me. Thus, I will sit at His feet and listen and learn more of His love and Hi9s word so God can teach me what obedience is really all about. I definitely have some learning to do here, but as God reveals what obedience is really about, hopefully I can begin to follow God with a heart that says, Wow, look how much you love me. Lastly, I think we all have had at sometime a difficulty in being obedient, and thus have made it into a chore or a labor. Yes obedience involves doing, but we have been doing, forgetting why we are doing, if that makes sense. I obeyed out of a sense of duty, not love, is what I am trying to say, and thus got it all messed up. God can teach us if we will only listen to what obedience is all about, and as we learn that we can once again focus on His love and not our actions. Hopefully learning to obey out of a deep and sincere love for our Daddy, and a desire to please Him in all areas of our lives. Then we can make the cake, but we will also walk the dog and clean our rooms!!

  5. Jeannette says:

    Yesterday during my prayer time, God told me He enjoys the time we minister to Him. But there are times He wants us to be still so He minister to us! Thank you for sharing this post! It has encouraged me! I’m still praying for you all! I’m happy to see how God is restoring your lives.

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Thanks Jeannette for continued prayers and encouragement. I’m so grateful knowing you will faithfully share your thoughts and make this blog more of a converstation. that is critical! Bless you my sister. Just posted part two – hope it finds you and blesses you. Thanks my friend!

  6. Angie Battle says:

    Oh my. Like Holly said on her Facebook page, this was indeed worth the wait. I am stunned at how laser accurate the message of this post is…

    For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~ Hebrews 4:12

    Certainly not a matter of semantics, but something far more important and endearing to our Father. He’s constantly about going to the heart…the motives, plans, and desires. By cleansing our hearts, the rest of us is clean (Ps. 51:10). Oh, that we (I) would put complete trust in His gentle, merciful hands to continue to do just that.

    Thank you, Kevin, yet again, for your heart obedience. I pray that our Father grant you complete freedom to minister in the way that He’s gifted you to do so…For doors of opportunity and the glorious favor that rests on those whose hearts are toward Him.

    Blessings, my dear friend!

    • Kevin Adams says:

      What can i say to you? You are my sister – the one that Jesus just picked up and said here kevin – here is your sister! You are one of my favorite people on this blue marble. Thanks Angie for your wonderful heart to encourage. God continues to use your annointed words to help keep me writing – thank you !!! We love you and your family!

  7. Toni Nelson says:

    Asking prayer for employment, continued provision and discernment. I was drawn to your blog immediately when I read your bio, Kevin. My husband and I have been unemployed for 10 months now. When friends and family ask how we are doing, my current response is, “I’m learning the true meaning of daily living.” God continues to provide for us, not in a manner of which we are accustomed to, but according to his plan. Most recently my husband was asked if he would be willing to clean a house in which an elderly gentleman had passed away, as the house would soon be placed up for auction. My husband held a V.P. position in Fire Protection. He graciously accepted the work and upon completion received $40.00 and was told to please take the food from the deceased man’s pantry. The canned goods and pasta filled seven boxes to overflowing!
    I have felt anger, hurt, and loss – Jesus has comprehended my pain and translated my helplessness into certain strength. I don’t know how. I don’t know much about such grace. I did not intend for this to be a plug for my book but a comment from a close friend, meaning well, just came to my mind. Last July my book, “A Beggars Purse” was released. It is a memoir that will take you on a journey from hobos to homelessness. No, I have never been homeless but I am an advocate for the homeless. My friend, Laura asked me, “What if part of God’s plan is for you to be homeless?” Deep down inside the question cut to my very core. “Am I willing to accept God’s plan for my life regardless of what He asks from me?”
    I’m looking forward to your next post, Kevin.

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Toni, i am praying for you guys and deeply appreciate you!!! We have a walk in common and a love duty to pray and encourage one another. thanks for that! PS: just posted part 2 – look forward to your next visit. Blessings!

  8. anewcreation says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Thank you for illustrating an important lesson in the Bible with personal examples. It makes the lesson all the more real, transparent and accessible.

    It seems we also have this in common. I have a daughter who will be 13 in April, and I can so easily relate to the example you give.

    The fact that you have been through such extreme circumstances and have come through stronger in the Lord, in your marriage and in your faith tells me it was an important trial you had to go through in order to be ready and equipped for what God has in store for you. Don’t know what that is, but it will have a great impact, at least spiritually speaking! There are too many Christian teachers out there today who are full of eloquence and wisdom, but when you look closer there is no evidence of the cross they have carried to support their statements or to grant them the authority which they or others claim has been given to them from above.

    I have no doubt that through this blog and your personal life many will come to know Christ and in the end, when all is said and done, that is all that matters in one’s life, to hear those precious words: “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.

    God bless you and all your family.


    • Kevin Adams says:

      Hello my dear friend – you are in my prayers. I love your thoughts and heart for God as you comment here and also write on your blog. Thanks for your friendship Mercedes! I just posted part 2 – let me know what you think when you have time. I look forward to reading more of your challenging thoughts as well. Blessings.

  9. Heather says:

    Kevin, what a beautiful story of your sweet daughters. And I love how you describe them as gifts with very different gift wrap. The Mary and Martha is one of my favorite stories because Mary teaches me so well in that story. I tend to be more like Martha and sometimes forget to rest and find peace in the ways I can be obedient. Thank you for this reminder!

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Heather – I am very very appreciative that you took time to read and share your thoughts. you are and encouragement to me. PS: Just posted part 2 – hope to see you again as you have a moment. Bless you my sister! and Thanks so much!!

  10. Hi Kevin:
    I came by to offer you some words of encouragement but instead you offered words of confirmation to me…which resulted in me being encouraged. Imagine that. God’s timing is so perfect. Had I read this post any other day it would have meant something to me but TODAY it is the final “word” that I needed to hear from God. I’ve been seeking Him for 27 days now specifically.
    Your obedience is a blessing. Your testimony is amazing. God is up to something BIG and He often begins with something seemingly small. It is my prayer that He’ll use all that you & your family have been through to bring many to Christ & also the banished ones home.
    I’ll be following the story and continuing to pray!

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Thanks Melinda – i’m so very late responding but it doesnt reduce my appreciation one ounce for your kind words. Each of us wants to know that we can provide something meaningful to others. You have encouraged me greatly! Please come back often or i will miss you!! FYI: just posted part 2 – hope you get a chance to check it out. Bless you Melinda!

  11. Nan Jones says:

    Kevin!! Welcome back! I have missed your posts! I loved this one and especially loved your testimony at the end.

    “Our faith was shaken to the core. In the end we held on to nothing, nothing but God’s Word. In the process He held on to us.” Now that is an obedient heart in action!

    Give Holly my love and keep some for yourself,

    • Kevin Adams says:

      I have given that love to Holly and we both send it back to you. You are an a distant but close to our heart friend. I hope all is going well with you – still love your daily devo’s – you are definitrely one who sits at the feet of our Lord. I’m grateful for your time and comments Nan. FYI: Just posted part 2 – take your time its long 🙂 Blessings sister!

  12. You are at your best when you become the first partaker of whatever you teach and preach. Not every teacher teaches great truth, but you, my brother, have poured out from a heart of worship, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Thank you for this sincere, delicately transparant, beautifully inspiring, and thought-provoking message. I can see that you have left imprints on the hearts of many. This is what I’m talking about!!! =) . . . making marks that cannot be erased! Thanks for reaching out!

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Wow! Narda you are so very kind! Thanks you my new friend. I just posted part 2- would love to hear your thoughts. Bless you and thank you for being so encouraging to me.

  13. Wow! Sometimes it takes such a blow to not only realize God but also life. We tend to get wrapped up in such trivial nonsense that we forget that at any second it can all be taken away. I thank you for your honest perspective on this struggle and I look forward to hearing and reading more.

    I am praying for you but it seems like you all have a grasp on what’s important. It’s the simple things…really.

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Thank you , thank you and thank you again Robin for your prayers. I also appreciate the comments. It is very encouraging to have you visit and share. I just posted part 2 – let me know your thoughts. Blessings

  14. kristinherdy says:

    as a Martha, I can really appreciate that all my doting, all my preparation, all my busy running about is nothing, if I’m not willing to listen to Jesus. I’m often temped to “do” before I’m really certain of what I’m supposed to “do” just to be doing.

    great story.

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Thanks kristin – i’ll just bet you are quite the “mary” instead. Thanks for taking time to visit and comment. Just posted part 2 – look forward to your thoughts. Blessings

  15. David Rails says:

    You caught my “Tweet”, and added your self as a follower, thank you. Now I have dropped in to read your journal in your faith-walk. I am drawn into your journey and will be following you walk of faith, as you lean on HIm and learn at His feet.
    It’s not by chance, it’s by His leading and grace. Thank you for sharing your heart!
    ~David Rails

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Thanks David – I can learn much from brothers like you. I’m excited to have you reading my posts as well. Just posted today – look forward to hearing your thoughts. Blessings.

  16. DrKaria says:

    Our God is faithful, isn’t He? He himself becomes our light when there is little other than darkness. Thank you for your transparency. You are such an encouragement.


  17. JoDee Luna says:

    You have an inspiring story and the courage to share it with others.

  18. Tradina says:

    Hi Adam,

    I finally got around to reading this blog. The title caught my attention. My goal for 2011 is to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen more for I know there I will find peace, direction, understanding and insight. Thanks for encouraging me in my decision.

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Thank you Tradina for continuing to take some of your time to visit and share with me and others. You are an encouragement to me always – blessing in your time with Jesus each day my friend!

  19. KellySinging says:

    Hi, Kevin. Thanks for following me on Twitter. I checked out your blog and am blessed to see the testimony of God’s work in you unfolding. You and your family are in my prayers. 🙂

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Thank you Kelly for taking time to share and encourage – I honestly cannot express how much it means. We covet your prayers and offer them to you and your family in return – thank you sister! Bless you!

  20. Grateful to come across your blog. I know I will be blessed to read about your journey. I too, lost my great corporate job (February 2010) due to a buyout and no fault of my own. Without a degree and single, trying to hold onto my modest town home, I started a business I felt called to start, will work any job someone is willing to offer me. And yet, I am still searching for full time work, drained my entire 401 K savings, while remaining faithful that God has a plan for me. I claimed Jeremiah 29:11 three years ago and though I still cannot see my way through this storm, I remain standing and know my faith has grown stronger with many life’s lessons learned along the way!

    Prayers for you and your family as you soldier on!

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Thank you Susan for taking time to share your story. Be encouraged my friend as we both learn that walking by faith is the only way to rest from anxiety and the only way to please God. We must keep sitting at Jesus feet through the storm, casting every care upon Him so that others can see His faithfulness in due season. We are both blessed along with many others to be learning to rely utterly on Him now. I believe the bride is going to have to learn to live by faith in the days ahead because we’ll be unable to rely on anything but God…as it should be. Blessings to you – praying for you today.

    • Grateful and blessed by your response – could not have been more timely. A tough day for me so I watched “The Passion of The Christ” to let go of my pity party. I am grateful for my Savior and choose to trust Him today and every day in front of me regardless of how difficult. No cross can compare to the “One” He was asked to bear for us. Thanks for the prayer made on my behalf. Please know I will lift you and your family up today too! God Bless.

  21. Kevin, I love your blog and journey. Your writing subjects and style reflect a deep inner spiritual life. I love your statement, “I’m not a pastor, theologian or teacher. I don’t have a church, a fan club or a flock. I’m just a regular guy with a testimony.” I have been a pastor and military chaplain but we are all just plain people with a testimony. Elijah was a man just like us and we are people just like Elijah. We do not want a following or a fan club. We just want to follow and glorify Christ. When you say I want to, “Avoid the entire charade and risk offending God’s Spirit or move forward obediently and risk offending the minds of men” I am cheering you on! I am joining you. What may be foolishness to God is wisdom to God. You are right. It is impossible to please God without faith. Hebrews 11:6. When you write about faith I know you are talking about being a little child that cries Abba, Father. You are not a grown up mentally saying that he is dependent on God when in fact he has faith in his own control. Your spiritual depth is what moved me to sign up for each new blog post.

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