To see and know, first obey

To see and know, first obey

(William Warby, Flickr)

In C.S. Lewis’s Narnia novel, Prince Caspian, the four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are lost. Walking through the woods, they cannot make their way safely and are uncertain about the right course.

Lucy catches a glimpse of the great lion Aslan and knows that they should walk toward where she spotted him. The others disbelieve, however, and think they have a better idea. They don’t and after going their own way nearly get killed. Aslan appears again and directs Lucy to follow him even if the others will not.

Lucy tells her siblings about Aslan’s direction, and again they’re in doubt. They cannot see Aslan, but Lucy is insistent and so they follow her lead. Lucy keeps her eyes on Aslan, and everyone else keeps their eye on Lucy. Aslan leads through dangerous regions, down steep and narrow paths, but Lucy fixes her eyes and follows the lion. The others bound along in the dark, unable to see Aslan at all or even hear him.

Finally, after traveling a long distance, Edmund’s eyes open. He sees Aslan, at first just his shadow. But he keeps moving and then sees him fully. At last the others do as well, but not after traveling still farther.

For the Pevensies, seeing and knowing came by obeying. It’s the same for us: First we follow, then we see.

As Fionn and Felicity and I read this passage Saturday I was reminded of one of the lines that close Psalm 111: “A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.” Understanding comes after obedience. Knowledge follows action. This is roughly the inverse of how we want it to work. We want the argument, the rationale, the plan all laid out before we move. If I say I want the kids to do this or that, they want to know why.

I’m no different. If God tells me to do one thing or another, I want to know why. But understanding follows obedience. I can see and know Christ only if I turn and follow him.

About Joel J. Miller

I'm the author of Lifted by Angels, a look at angels through the eyes of the early church. Click here for more about me or subscribe to my RSS here.

  • Andrew

    Consider this: Lucy did not see until Aslan revealed himself to her. She did not believe until she could see, and the seeing is made possible only in the revelation. Christ makes Himself known to us, drawing us to Him. Until He does that, whether through the Word directly, or through the Word shared with us by others, we cannot see. It is the conundrum of faith.

    • http://joeljmiller.com Joel J. Miller

      Agreed. Helpful point to keep in mind. God comes first to Abraham, Jacob, Ezekiel, Paul, us. Expressing faith is acting on that initiating revelation of God.

      But there’s a partial nature to the initial revelation — like the glimpse and shadow of Aslan. We progress in understanding, deepen our knowledge, as we follow.

  • Andrew

    Well said.

  • http://www.thewateringhole.org Steve

    This definition of obedience challenged the extent of my faith:

    Obedience is following instructions
    without enough information (especially about why), and
    without regard to my own opinion.

    Understanding comes by His grace … after obedience.

    • http://joeljmiller.com Joel J. Miller

      I think that’s about right. Thanks for sharing it.

    • http://www.nancyjcommunications.blogspot.com Nancy

      As I read through the comments this one was exactly what I was getting ready to write. I am exactly in this place in my daily life. I am obeying what God has/is given me to do, but it is tough. My friends are in the midst of physical activity and travel in ministry this summer and my work requires me to stay put. I am looking forward to travel later in the year, but it is still tough to obey. My head knows and understands this, but my heart desires to be with my friend. His grace….

  • Wendy

    Reminds me of the old familiar hymn…”trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy with Jesus…but to trust and obey.” Thanks for a great post!:-)

  • Andrew

    Working with Steve’s definition:

    Obedience = Naked/Blind Trust

  • http://www.timthurmansblog.blogspot.com Tim Thurman

    The famous definition of faith in Hebrews is, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I think this is exactly the principle that you wrote about. Too often I have thought of “see” in this verse as being literal, i.e. I do not see God, but I must still believe in Him. I think, however, the deeper meaning is being certain even when we do not understand completely, e.g. I do not see how this situation is going to be used for good, but I am going to trust God’s word when He says it will be. I hope I am not rambling. I just thought this was a great post.

    • http://joeljmiller.com Joel J. Miller

      I think that’s right. We can’t see how God works all things for our good, but he does. Trusting in that fact is faith. Acting on that faith is, day by day, what the Christian walk looks like.

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