Obedience and Sacrifice

In my last post I discussed the tendency for some people to get upset at the merest suggestion of a Christian world-view within a novel that is not obviously Christian from looking at the title and/or cover. In my enthusiasm for stories that contain Christian content (it’s what I feel called to write) I fear I may have offended those Christians who write stories that do not contain overtly Christian content. This was not my intention and I would like to address this, firstly, by apologizing to anyone I may have offended and, secondly, by expanding on and clarifying my thoughts.

To this end, I want you to imagine an ordinary office somewhere. Picture a stressed-out manager. She is stressed because she needs to post a thousand letters to customers but, unfortunately, the machine that normally does this is broken. So she asks two members of staff, Malcolm and Derek, to do some overtime on Saturday to get this done, with a reward of cheesecake if they finish the task on time*. She divides the letters and envelopes evenly between Malcolm and Derek and instructs them to fold each letter and place it in an envelope. She also tells them not to seal the envelopes or put stamps on them. She tells them to do as many as they can while she goes to the local printer to pick up some leaflets.

Malcolm does as instructed. He takes a letter, folds it into thirds, and places it inside an envelope. He puts the filled envelope to one side and repeats the process. After a while he figures it will be quicker if he folds ten letters at a time and then separates them before putting each in an envelope.

Derek, however, wants to impress his manager. He decides that he can save her a lot of time by sealing the envelope and placing a stamp on it. He works quickly to try to keep up with Malcolm, all the time smiling to himself at the thought of how happy his manager will be. He soon falls behind, however, because he does not adopt Malcolm’s method of folding ten letters at a time. He rushes to catch up, folding the letters untidily and creasing the envelopes.

By the time the manager returns five hours later, Malcolm has finished the task she set them. She inspects his tidy stack of neatly filled envelopes and nods approvingly. She then looks at Derek’s messy pile of filled, sealed and stamped envelopes. Derek stands there, looking very pleased with himself. His face is moist from the effort and he is a little out of breath.

“Why did you seal and stamp the envelopes?” she demands.

“I thought I would save you time,” he beams.

She holds out the pile of leaflets she has just purchased at the printer. “I needed you to put these inside the envelopes. That’s why I told you not to seal them.”

“But I saved you time by putting stamps on, didn’t I?”

She shakes her head. “They need to go out to many different countries. Some will have more postage than others. Didn’t you see the addresses?”

Derek’s smile has now slipped from his face. “I was trying to save you time. I wanted to help. I worked so hard. . . .”

Later that year a promotion opportunity comes up. Derek appeared to show more initiative during the envelope stuffing episode, but who do you think the manager is going to promote? And did Derek really show more initiative? Malcolm also showed initiative by folding ten letters at a time, but he did so while keeping within the limits of what he was instructed to do. Personally, I think Malcolm will get the promotion.

One scripture that stands out for me is 1 Samuel 15:22. Saul was ordered by God to destroy the Amalekites. Saul marched on Amalek and did just this, but he spared the king and kept the best of the sheep and cattle, supposedly to offer as a sacrifice to God. “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” As a result of Saul’s disobedience, God did not recognize him as the king of Israel.

In Matthew 7:21, Jesus says: Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

To me, these scriptures sum up how we should serve God. So often we run away with our own enthusiasm, we get so carried away with what we want to do, that we forget to stop and ask God what He wants us to do. I believe that if God has called us to write fiction with strong Christian content, then that is what we should be doing. However, if He has called us to write stories for the secular market with no obvious Christian content, then that is where we should be directing all our energy, initiative, and enthusiasm.

Obedience before sacrifice. That’s the key. We should be writing what God has called us to write, and doing it to the best of our abilities in order to serve Him.

*Notice how I subtly snuck a mention of cheesecake in there? I know, it’s a gift.

About P.A.Baines

P.A.Baines writes computer programs for a living but would much rather be writing Christian speculative fiction, which he does whenever he gets the opportunity. Educated in Africa, he is studying towards a degree in Creative Writing through Buckinghamshire New University in England. He enjoys asking "what if?" but is tired of how speculative fiction deals with religion in general and the God of the Bible in particular. His stories are for Christians who enjoy science fiction but who normally avoid the genre because of its tendency towards an atheistic world-view. His aim is to write entertaining and thought-provoking stories that stretch the imagination, but which keep God in His rightful place as Lord over all creation. P.A.Baines is British but currently lives in a small corner of the Netherlands with his wife and two children and various wildlife. He spends what little spare time he has keeping fit, watching films, and playing computer games with his children. He does most of his reading via audio books, which he listens to while commuting to and from work on his trusty bicycle. He speaks reasonable Dutch and is in the process of learning French.

9 comments on “Obedience and Sacrifice

  1. What a great and honest post P.A.

    Your last paragraph rings so very true. A simple, yet horribly underrated truth.

    Great job!

    • Hi Tymothy. Thanks for the comment. It’s only fairly recently that I have come to terms with just how important it is for us to do God’s will. Matthew 7:21 shook me up big time.

  2. My dearest Paul,

    I wrote a comment yesterday and for some unknown reason it didn’t go through! That being said I will try to recapture what I wrote yesterday. I think that you are a great writer and that the Lord is with you because of your consistency in your walk with God.I know that as long as you continue on that path He will not forsake you. I always say,”If in doubt,Ask the Lord!” He will answer in His time.

  3. Good post, Paul.

    I get tired of the “fight” between Christian writers–those who insist on overt messages vs those who go for subtlety. There is room for BOTH, and yes, we follow according to how God has called us to write.

    • Hi Kat. The reason I posted this message was because I felt my last post may have added fuel to the fire, I agree. We need to work together and each work diligently towards what God has called us to do.

  4. God doesn’t always lead us into the Temple, there’s a preacher there. He leads in many different directions. But He always leads us. We never know where He may lead us, we just have to follow.

  5. I’m coming to realize “Christian” books are books written by Christians. If I follow Christ with my whole heart, it will come out in my writing, one way or another. It has to. He’s all I’m thinking about.
    Excellent post, as always, Paul.

    • Hi Robynn. I was recently told that I should follow Christ, and everything else will follow. I see it as a fruit thing. If our hearts are in the right place, then the results of our labor will be pleasing to God.

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