When our kids were little, we used to have a simple phrase that reminded them of our expectation, “first time obedience.” We’d say it when they seemed to be delaying their response to us. For example, if Linda said, “Kids, turn the video off and come to the table for supper,” and they did not move, I’d say, “First time obedience,” and they’d remember that there were consequences to not listening right away.
We were never proponents of the “1-2-3” method of counting while the child considers whether or not to obey. We wanted them to learn the habit of automatic obedience. We weren’t too big on giving warnings. It was important to us to establish authority at a young age, and for them to know that they were obligated to obey right away. That led to peace in the home, no fighting between kids and parents, and a foundation to build on for learning, teaching, mentoring and in later years, even friendship. I think we enjoyed the teen years so much because the authority issue had been taken care of when they were very young.
But there was another reason that first time obedience was important to us. As a pastor, I’ve seen the heartache in people’s lives that came because of delayed response to God. And we’ve all heard or experienced the stories from many who knew what God wanted them to do but did not follow through. Then after paying the price, and after the resulting pain and heartache, eventually deciding to do what God wanted after all. Delayed obedience to God is better than no obedience at all, but how much better to just do what God wants right away? They could have skipped the heartache part altogether, had they just practiced first time obedience with God.
What does God want you to do that you are putting off? Maybe it’s baptism. Maybe you are living with your partner and you know you need to get married. Maybe you are in a spiritually unhealthy relationship and you know you need to end it. Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there something you need to confess?
Don’t put it off. Delaying obedience to God only brings heartache. His will for you is good, and the sooner you do what he wants, the sooner you enjoy the blessing that comes from it. But the longer you delay, the more painful the consequences.
That’s why the Psalmist proclaimed, “I will hurry, without delay, to obey your commands” (Psalms 119:60 NLT).