“ACT FIRST and apologize later” is a phrase I hear quite often. In fact, I even heard it at work today.
We have been studying the book of Jonah in our Thursday night Bible study class. Priscilla Shirer, the author of the study, talks about this phrase in relation to Jonah and being obedient to God. Jonah decided to do things his way instead of God’s way and ended up in the belly of a big fish.
Until I read her words in the workbook, I had never given the phrase much thought. See if you look at things differently after reading Priscilla’s insights.
“Act first and apologize later.” That’s a motto I’ve heard some people live by. They believe getting their actions approved ahead of time is overrated. They don’t ask permission before doing something for fear that they might be told not to do it. So, to get and do what they want, they just move forward and hope for the best. In the end, if they find they have done something wrong, then they just spend time apologizing and making amends.
Priscilla had us look at two people in the Bible, Jonah and Saul, who chose to do things their way instead of listening to God. In the end, each one experienced some type of hardship prior to asking God to forgive his sins. Each one had a problem with obedience. They wanted to do it their way.
To obey, he (Saul) had to deny his own desires and yield to God. Denying the flesh always requires effort (emphasis mine).
Likewise, for us it is far easier to repent later than to initially submit. Obedience necessitates self-denial. Subjecting our will to the Lord’s is often more difficult than kneeling at an altar and asking for His mercy. He is willing to extend mercy, but His heart is gladdened and His name glorified when His people desire to obey Him in the first place.
I have to admit, that when I read this, I realized that I have done this very same thing. On several occasions. There have been times I wanted to do something, but preferably needed input or advice from someone before I did it. I am not a very patient person, so when I can’t or don’t get an answer quickly, then I decide on my own to do it anyway and hope for the best. What I never realized was that this is an act of disobedience, especially if God has told me to do something different.
Let me give you an example: I am out shopping and I see a fabulous outfit. I have just lost some weight, so am in need of some clothes that fit better. I really love the outfit. It fits my new size perfectly, but it cost $50. I don’t know what to do. I really like it, but we don’t have the extra money to spend at this time.
As I am contemplating what to do, I hear a little voice inside my head say, “You know, Sheryl, you really should ask your husband before you spend $50 for a new outfit.” I ignore the voice and make the purchase any way. I have to come up with an excuse, so I decide I will tell my husband that I did not have any clothes that fit since I lost weight and that I NEEDED to buy the outfit.
Have you been there? Please don’t tell me I am the only one that has ever done something like this.
Let’s go back to the little voice. The little voice inside my head was my conscience; God. I knew right from wrong. Even though God did not tell me I couldn’t buy the outfit, He reminded me that my husband and I need to agree on financial decisions. My making a decision to spend the $50 without discussing it with my husband was an act of disobedience to God.
I am so thankful that God is a loving and merciful God, because I make a lot of mistakes. Yet, even though God is full of mercy and grace, I should not live my life falling back on His goodness to get me out of the messes I find myself in. I should “walk out a lifestyle of obedience that prioritizes submission to His will over all else.”
“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17, NIV)
Prayer: Dear Father, Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you for forgiving me when I mess up. I am blessed by this lesson and its revelation of how a simple act of making a selfish decision is an act of disobedience in Your eyes. Help me to be ever mindful of my actions. I want to obey you in all that I do. In Your son’s name, Amen.
Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer (Lifeway Press, 2010),pg 98 & 99. Photo courtesy of www.morguefile.com and eduardoruiz