Do You Have Devoted Faith or Mere Obedience?

Do You Have Devoted Faith or Mere Obedience? July 5, 2024

A Story of Devoted Faith

In this story of devoted faith, the woman with the jar approached Jesus. The woman with the jar approached Jesus. Walking past eyes unable to hide their disgust, walking past men whose hearts condemned her for her very presence, she moved forward with measured determination holding in her hands what amounted to her life’s savings. Counting the cost of each step, she put one step in front of the other until they stood face to face.

And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at a table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment….

Luke 7:37

She opened the jar, a fragrant smell filling every corner of the room, and slowly poured the anointing oil over Jesus’ head. The room was silent. But for the woman, the silence was deafening. She bent down, weeping openly now. Her tears covered the feet of Jesus and she hurried to wipe them clean with the hair of her head as she kissed his feet.

What do you need from God?

In my ministry journey, I’ve often felt down. Even after doing all I knew I could do to get people to respect me, to successfully complete a project, or to be included, I was no stranger to feeling like I got the short end of the stick. To feeling alone and drained. I would think,

“no one is reliable”

“no one really cares about me or wants me here.”

I knew this wasn’t entirely the truth. Yet, in the thick of things, I did not know how to counter that thought. So I resorted to mere obedience. Just move forward. All you have to do is recite scripture. Just do XYZ. And in all my religion, I never got around to wondering… “Where is God and what is He actually up to in the midst of this?” In my religion, I never truly met with God… but isn’t that the point of it all?

My need was to be secure. While it would have been great to be secure in ministry, what I ultimately needed was to be able to trust that what I hoped for and believed for would happen without the rug being pulled. Or that if the rug was pulled, I would not be left grasping for a place to find my footing and for someone to hold my hand. What I needed was God to instill in me a sense of security in Him. What I needed, like the woman with the jar, was to meet with my ever-present Lord.

Risky Business

The woman with the alabaster jar was so aware of her past when she made the decision to barge into this room and disrupt the dinner feast. She was aware of the rejection she faced. She was aware of the risk. But most of all, she was aware that the Lord of Lords was in the room and that she needed to meet with Him.

All around her shouts erupted!

“Why this waste?!”

“Who does this sinner think she is!?”

“If this man Jesus was really a prophet, He surely would have known who she was.”

“I can’t believe He let her touch Him.”

All around her scoffers judged, shamed and lavished her with their disdain. But her eyes were still locked with the one she came for. Her eyes were on Jesus, the one who came not to call the righteous but the sinner to repentance. The one who called her to repentance.  For she knew, if she could just walk across the room, He would be merciful and see the beauty of her devotion. 

Devotion is the Bedrock of Obedience

Often, we are faced with a similar crossroads in our own lives.  We want to know Jesus as the one who provides, or the one who is merciful, or as the one who sees us and knows us. But to experience Him in this way, we often have to risk. We must risk the fear of not being provided for, receiving judgment, or feeling lonely.

This is risky business and we aren’t always sure if the outcome is worth the risk. So, we settle for obedience. We settle for taking the safe path and following the formulas we know will give us just enough to settle our discomfort. Maybe it’s just enough money to not feel strain, or just enough put on our social calendar to be seen – but never fully known, or just enough church services to feel like we know God but never fully experience Him.

All the while we are hoping for God to intervene and reveal His true nature. And our faith and obedience, slowly but surely veer from one that leads to life to one that mirrors the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were more than willing to dine with the one who claimed he was King and Prophet, but when it came down to it they proclaimed, just like Satan, ‘if he was a prophet… he would have done…”. The Pharisee’s life of obedient faith stopped just short of true love and devotion.

So this begs the question: What sets devotional apart? It is the willingness to risk it all to meet the one whom your heart longs for. Devotion is the bedrock of unwavering obedience. Without devotion, obedience is like an hourglass dripping sand.

Mere Obedience

With the woman, her devotion proclaimed “I need to meet with God because I need to know He is who He says he is.” Devotion assures you that when you meet Him, you will be equipped with the grace to do what you need to do. Devotion allows you to withstand and face the pains of life for the hope and promise of something better. 

But mere obedience drops its gaze from the splendor of God to focus on action. A merely obedient heart whispers “I need to do this thing to prevent punishment, pain, or discomfort.” Obedience is not long-suffering. It does not have the power to keep you in the face of a dark night. 

Is it Worth It?

This woman who committed to risk it all, in the face of potential pain and rejection is a testament to the power of devoted faith. The woman with the jar experienced what she ultimately needed- to witness that Jesus is who He says He is.

Not only would her faith be strengthened but those around her would be strengthened too. After this scene, Jesus declares that this woman’s testimony would be known throughout all of the earth!

Despite experiencing rejection from the Pharisees, her faith in Jesus revealed Him as kind, redemptive, gracious, forgiving, and the true King and Lord.

We All Face Temptation

We all face a temptation similar to this woman: to not take God at his word. She could have chosen to not believe that He was the One He said He was. To give in to her valid fears and not show up to anoint Jesus with oil. Though Jesus declared He was the one who would bring redemption through His death, she could have succumbed to her fear of rejection, and her need to be protected, rather than meeting with the one who could offer her what she truly needed.

The woman with the jar was courageous. She approached Jesus not only out of obedience but also devotion. She was committed in the face of pain. Though she was uncertain of the outcome, she risked being rejected by those would knew her past.

What is really on the line?

Do we, like the woman with the alabaster jar, risk potential rejection to take Jesus at His word? Are we willing to let our faith save us? Such courage leads to the bones of our being rejoicing in the joy of salvation, experiencing joy instead of fear.

I’ve faced moments of doubt and fear in my faith journey, unsure of what lies ahead and scared to open my eyes to even see. However, it was in those moments that I discovered the depth of God’s love and grace. And as I risked to take God at His word, I experienced meeting Him as He is, despite navigating through pain. I saw that in the middle of this pain, He is still kind, gracious, and the source of everlasting joy.

Mere obedience won’t overcome fear or temptation but devotion fueled by faith will. The woman with the jar, although she experienced rejection, also experienced what she ultimately needed… To see that Jesus is who he says he is. What if that is really what is on the line in everything we face?

New here? Everyday Shalom is all about living in the shalom of God every day, to lead others to God’s shalom in every season, and has been particularly crafted to serve women who lead as ministry- whether at home, in their communities, in the marketplace, on platforms or in the pews! Check us out on Instagram or explore our blog for more enriching content on spiritual formation and leadership! You can also download our free resources to begin your journey towards leading from a place of rest, with power and deep delight, through every season and stage. 

About Lauren James
Lauren James is passionate about serving Christian women who lead as ministry—whether at home, in their communities, in the marketplace, on platforms or in pews—by providing practical hands-on leadership training and soul care through spiritual direction and coaching. She is on a mission to equip women to lead others to life from a place of rest, with power and deep delight, through every season and stage. You can read more about the author here.

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