Obedience: The 99 And The 1
On a trip to Central Asia, I encountered the most incredible man of faith I’ve ever met. He changed my life and the faith of many others.
And I'd love to share his story with you.
"What does it mean to be wise as a serpent?"
This was the question Ozod* asked me as we stood outside a bustling cotton market in Central Asia – a part of the world where the violence of Islamic extremism and the pressure of communism collide.
Image: Mike in Central Asia.
I remember, I didn’t have an adequate answer, so I chose to remain silent.
"Well tell me, can the serpent hear God?" Ozod said.
Again, inadequacy and fear of getting it wrong rendered me silent.
"The serpent can hear God but doesn’t obey God,”
Ozod paused and with a warm, genuine smile, he said, "Sounds a lot like you, right?"
He said the scriptures talk about the sheep and the shepherd. The sheep hear and obey his voice for they are His most valuable possession, the scriptures also talk about the 99 and the 1.
Ozod said, "Have you ever thought that you might be the one? Because when I look at people in your country I see people who claim to know God, but when He asks them to do something, rarely obey."
To be honest, I’ve never thought I’m the one but for the first time in my Christian walk I realised… I am the one.
Image: Mountains in Central Asia.
I’m a sheep treasured and valued by the shepherd, I hear his voice but unless what I’m asked is safe, comfortable and guaranteed to work, I rarely obey.
Looking back, I realise that in those moments of obedience I often mask my evangelism with kindness and generosity but without mentioning “Jesus.”
It’s as though in those moments I sell Jesus out for the hope a receiving a "Yes" or to protect me from the fear and embarrassment of a "No".
Ozod told me, "There may be nothing more cruel than to leave Jesus out of our language. Because in those moments all we’re doing is paving the wide road to hell with generosity and good deeds."
The persecuted church tell me, despite what their obedience costs them, the simplicity of the gospel is to articulate who Jesus is and what He has done in your life.
They believe their greatest reward is to one day see Him face to face, and that Jesus is the most serious thing in their life.
They tell me that in those moments of obedience they’ve become used to water being their pavement;
Can you imagine being so used to stepping out of the boat that the water felt like solid ground?
Unless there is a Jesus distinctive to our language, then I fear that we are no better than the serpent who hears the voice of God but doesn’t obey.
We shouldn’t be trying to avoid persecution. We should be running towards it with courageous obedience – knowing that wherever the gospel is being shared, persecution exists.
Every Christian is trying to figure out how to follow Jesus in today’s world.
The 99 and the 1. The question is which one are you?
*Name changed for security purposes.