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vs. Willfulness
Eagerly yielding to God’s Word rather than following my own will

Key Verse

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
II Corinthians 10:5

The operational definition of obedience is “eagerly yielding to God’s Word rather than following my own will.” God is our ultimate Authority, and He reveals His will to us through His Word. His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30), so why would we choose any other way? We are mistaken when we think that our joy is found in getting what pleases us rather than in pursuing what pleases God.

We naturally think that our way is best, but our hearts can lead us astray. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” When we find that God’s Word differs from what we want, we demonstrate faith by choosing God’s way, not ours. What God leads us to do is better than anything we would naturally choose! “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6).

Good soldiers honor their leaders by obeying their orders swiftly and thoroughly. In II Timothy 2:3, a Christian is to be a “good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
Much time, energy, and productivity is lost over a stubborn donkey’s refusal to yield to the direction of its owner.

The opposite of obedience is willfulness. A willful person stubbornly insists on having his way. He may pout or delay or do a job half-heartedly. He may offer excuses or “better” suggestions rather than simply obeying. He feels he has a right to be his own boss because he “knows best.” The Bible says that rejecting God’s Word is foolish and continuing to resist leads to a disastrous end. (See Matthew 7:26–27, Romans 13:1–2.) Disobedience is sin. The most severe consequence of rebelling against the Lord is the broken fellowship that results. When this occurs, confession and repentance (a return to obedience) are the keys to restoring the relationship.

Evaluation Questions

  • Am I reading and studying God’s Word so that I can know and understand His will for me?
  • Would my parents describe me as willing to yield to their instructions or stubbornly wanting my way?
  • Do I ever ask permission of one parent after the other one has said “No”?
  • Do I know my parents’ goals for our family? How am I helping them to achieve those goals?
  • When I am asked to do a task, do I respond cheerfully and quickly?
  • Do I carefully and thoroughly complete my tasks, or do I only do the minimum required of me?
  • Do my responses show that I believe that God is working in my life through my authorities?
  • Do I pay full attention when my authorities speak to me so that I can correctly fulfill their instructions?
  • If I am asked to compromise my convictions, do I know how to make a wise appeal?

More About Obedience

“Obedience to God’s will is the secret of spiritual knowledge and insight. It is not willingness to know, but willingness to do God’s will that brings certainty.”
Eric Liddell
Transformation results as we behold the Lord and yield to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18). As we see God’s character through testimonies in Scripture, we grow in our understanding and obedience to His Word. Here are ten aspects of Obedience with supporting verses found in God’s Word.

God enables me to:


Yield my will.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God.” JAMES 4:7

Trust Him to work.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” ROMANS 8:28 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” proverbs 21:1

Submit to authority.

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” ROMANS 13:1–2

Obey my authorities immediately.

“I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” PSALM 119:60 “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.” Luke 19:5–6

Make my authorities successful.

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” HEBREWS 13:17

Work with a cheerful attitude.

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” PHILIPPIANS 2:14

Complete all that I am expected to do.

“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” JOHN 17:4

Go “the extra mile.”

“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” MATTHEW 5:41 “Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.” PHILEMON 1:21

Refuse to violate my conscience.

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” ACTS 5:29

Make wise appeals.

“Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request: For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage.” ESTHER 7:3–4

Obedience in Scripture

The Immediate Response of the Fishermen

“And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.”
Luke 5:5–6
As Jesus began His earthly ministry, He traveled throughout Galilee preaching the Gospel. After being rejected in His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus journeyed north to Capernaum. There Jesus preached with power and authority, casting out unclean spirits and healing the sick. His fame grew and, although people implored Jesus not to depart, He continued traveling from city to city. One morning as Jesus taught near the Sea of Galilee, large crowds gathered, pushing in closer and closer to hear His words. Jesus noticed two fishing vessels which were anchored near the shore. Simon Peter and the other men had been fishing all night in the two boats. Since Simon and the others were fishermen by trade, their livelihood depended on a successful night’s catch. Sadly, the empty nets indicated that the long night’s toil had yielded no fish. As the fishermen were cleaning their fishing nets and preparing to go home, Jesus stepped into Simon’s boat and surprised the men with a strange request! Would Simon do as he was asked, or would he argue why Jesus’ instructions made no sense? Would the fishermen act immediately or offer to come back later, after they had rested? What would happen if the weary men responded by promptly obeying Jesus’ unusual instructions?

Revealed in Nature

Wood Duck

The eggs of a wood duck all hatch at the same time in response to their mother’s call. The next day, the mother stands at the base of the tree and calls for the ducklings to jump. Though the tree may be as high as 290 feet, those ducklings that obey find safety. Those that disobey perish in the abandoned nest.

For Kids

Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum

The Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum uses examples from the lives of men and women in the Bible whose walk with God resulted in good character or whose lack of faith produced poor character. Through this study, children are motivated to develop a heart that desires to hear God and trusts His loving leadership.

View the Obedience booklet sample:

Get the complete Obedience booklet with all four lessons & activities:

Free Resources for Obedience

Enjoy these selections from the Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum that are fun and memorable!

Bible Story Coloring Page
Verse & Definition Word Search
Related Hymn Sheet Music
“Obedience is the fruit of faith; patience, the bloom on the fruit.”
Christina Rossetti