Delayed Obedience


If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
- James 4:17

Thomas à Kempis once wrote: “Instant obedience is the only obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience.” We think James would agree with that sentiment.

We hold back on doing the good we ought to do for a variety of reasons. Maybe we’re still making up our mind about whether to do it or not. Maybe we’re waiting for a more convenient time. Maybe we’re afraid.

Doing good isn’t easy. The obedient life is good but difficult. It’s costly but worth it. We shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves dragging our feet; but we shouldn’t accept our feet-dragging ways either.

Don’t delay the good you know you need to do today because you’re caught up scheming for tomorrow. You may not be able to draw a straight line from today’s obedience to tomorrow’s success or comfort or joy; but that’s not a reason to delay. Do it anyway.

Is there some good you know you ought to do but have been delaying? What’s holding you back? Confess your sin to a trusted friend and ask them to either give you advice or hold you accountable. There’s tremendous joy in doing the good you know you should do.


Definitely, Greg!

Maybe Kempis agreed with James...

Maybe Kempis agreed with James...

Preach it, Lana! So often there's a gulf between what we feel we ought to do and what God actually wants us to do. We act like slaves when we're actually beloved sons and daughters. Great insight into today's conversation. Thanks for sharing it.

I'm going to walk around to another side of this verse if I may; not to propose the "right" take, but another take.
Is there anyone else out there who wants to be a "good little girl" (or boy) but gets worn out by the effort? (Which is proof that self-effort is not a good or effective or safe way to proceed.)
Recently I read that Jesus came to make all the commandments into promises. Read Mt.22:36-39 as commandments and try to "do" them. Now read them as promises of what Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col.1:27b) will do. Right there is the difference between law and grace. (Note that the question put to Jesus was "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?) There is the difference between the heavy yoke and Jesus' easy yoke (Mt.11:28-30).
So if I know to do good and don't do it, I'm thinking the sin in that is that I have left Jesus out of the picture (which seems to be the point of this James passage). "for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure"
(Phil.2:13). The remedy, therefore, is to be honest with Him, to rest in Him and trust Him and ask Him to show me what I'm not getting straight about His love for me. And then let Him well up the "want to" in me.
Sometimes, for good little boys and girls, what we "know" we should, must, ought to do is what we've learned by living under law. We don't easily let that go and depend instead on Jesus to walk us through the day delighting in Him and experiencing Him putting the desires to do this or that in our hearts (Ps.37:4). When we desire to do something, obedience is a delight.
(Can you tell I'm talking to myself here?!)

Leave a Comment

Comments for this post have been disabled.