“When we walk with the Lord

            In the light of His word

            What a glory He sheds on our way

            While we do His good will

            He abide with us still

            And with all who will trust and obey

            Trust and obey

            For there’s no other way

            To be happy in Jesus

            But to trust and obey.

                                                            John H. Sammis, 1887

The words of this hymn resonate in my mind as I meditate on the need for a life of discipline. I think of the joys of walking with God and I sigh at the need for man to walk in complete obedience. A question burns within me: what is at the crux of this supposed challenge people from every nation seem to have with diligent obedience? Why does it seem that we have spells of sustained obedience littered with spurts of wandering?

The song urges us to trust and obey.

To trust is likened to having faith in and believing in an ideal, a system or a power. The writer assumes that to be singing the hymn in the first place, there is a measure of faith in operation: you believe and so you sing. He then ties our trust to obedience, and therein lies our unending struggle: there seems to be the need to include another word in the phrase to facilitate our understanding of it. Trust as we all know, is built over time. The first verse of the song points out an apt response to our struggle: when we walk with the Lord, in the light of His word…… To walk with God implies being able to hear His voice, actively listen to Him and then diligently obey.

‘What sorrow awaits my rebellious children, says the Lord. You make plans that are contrary to mine, you make alliances not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins. For without consulting me, you have gone down to Egypt for help, you have put your trust in pharaoh’s protection, you have tried to hide in his shade.’ Isaiah 30:1-2.

We see the emphasis our Lord places on ‘consultation’. This implies a deliberate aspiration on our part to receive some form of direction, advice and insight which will show our trust in Him.

When we engage the services of a consultant, we do so on the basis of trust: we believe they have attained some level of mastery of their sphere of influence. We expect high quality responses because this person is seen as an expert in the field (of medicine, of banking, of education, of management and so on). What are our expectations when we engage the Spirit of God? Do we see Him as our Consultant in the field of life? Do we limit our view of the Lord as Consultant in the field of spiritual matters only? He is God omniscient!

With a pre-knowledge of God’s omniscience and omnipotence, why is it then that we find it challenging to transition from trust to obedience? Does this not point to the fact that we do not wholly trust? A father once walked into the kitchen and found his infant on the dining table. He smiled at her and said, ‘Common darling, jump!’  Without giving it a second thought, she jumped and he caught her. As an infant, experience had not tainted her belief in her father’s abilities. For some of us, it seems we have jumped and are now on crutches; we seem to have taken a step of faith to walk on water and were rescued by the lifeguards, just in the nick of time. Looking at the example of Peter in the scriptures, I see a man who first confirmed that it was the Lord who was ‘out there’ before asking to walk.

As the scripture in Isaiah showed us, we could go off without asking first. We get a whiff of an idea, a direction, a deal and without due consultation with the Lead Consultant, we go for it and end up caught between the devil and the deep blue sea! It seems imperative therefore, that we exercise our trust (faith in God) first by deliberately listening for His voice. We cannot hear His voice if we have no idea what He sounds like. God sounds like His word: His written word. When we deliberately fill our minds with the word of God, we will very readily discern His voice, regardless of the barrage of voices around us. Then our trust in Him will grow, leading us to actively listening for His direction and then diligently obeying Him.

So, it seems to me that the words of the song include the word ‘hear’. When we trust, hear and obey we will indeed experience deeper levels of understanding and fulfilment. This cycle has embedded in it the word ‘discipline’. It takes a lot of discipline to make the deliberate, consistent effort to build trust in God (by studying His word: learning about Him, learning to hear His voice) and to obey Him.

The next time you sing that song, you might want to sing it as a prayer!