Wake-Up Call: On the Essential Practice of Preemptive Obedience

Numbers 13:26–29 (NIV)

They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”


Let’s remember our big banner text flying over this entire series: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb. 3:13).

Reverse translation: If we do not encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “today,” we may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

The exploratory spy mission lasted for forty days, and then the spies returned to the wilderness camp. Imagine how eager everyone must have been to hear the report. They could not have imagined how consequential this report and their response would be.

They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.”

So far, so good. Then we come to conjunction junction. And we get the dreaded “but.”

  1. But the people who live there are powerful;
  2. The cities are fortified;
  3. The cities are very large;
  4. We even saw descendants of Anak there;
  5. The Amalekites live in the Negev;
  6. The Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country; and
  7. The Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.

Can you feel the oxygen slowly being sucked out of the room?

We have slipped from simple reporting to an analysis of pros and cons. We do it all the time. We go from “God will be faithful to fulfill his promise” to the Benjamin Franklin method with a “reasons why” column and a “reasons why not” column.

When God says go, it is appropriate to “count the cost,” but there is a vast difference in counting the cost and doing cost-benefit analysis. I want to be very clear about something at this point: when God gives a direction or an assignment, we don’t determine its legitimacy or veracity by running spreadsheets to see if it makes sense. God’s will and assignments rarely make sense in the world’s way of making sense of things. We must determine to obey first, before we even get the assignment. Then it’s not a question of if we will obey but how we will execute on our predetermined obedience.

There will be plenty of time to count the costs, and they must be counted. That said, we never count the cost to determine if we can afford it or if we have what it takes. Perhaps one of the biggest signs something is God’s will is we know that we can’t afford it and we are certain that we don’t have what it takes. (Or do we need to call Gideon back to the witness stand?)

Most of the effort and energy to do the will of God I’ve seen and been a part of in my life has been done in God’s name but in man’s calculus. It’s been governed more by accountants than apostles. It’s been run more by best practices than bold prophets. Good work can happen that way for sure. I’m just not sure we should be calling it “God’s work.” I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to be part of God’s work.


Father, we thank you for accountants and calculators and spreadsheets, but teach us where they fit in the sequence of your kingdom and your will. We believe that your vision done in your way always leads to your provision. Come, Holy Spirit, and deliver us from our easy assumption that our conventional ways and methodologies are your ways. Trumpets, Lord. Thank you for reminding us that you defeat armies and bring down walls with trumpets. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, Lord Jesus. Yours alone. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.


Do you tend to say yes before the Lord gives a vision or assignment, or do you tend to need more data before saying yes? What might preemptive obedience mean to you?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

8 Responses

  1. Today, I heard from the Lord through JD:
    Not if, but how!
    Humans, even devout Christ-followers, can only understand the
    “Benefit” of a Cost/Benefit Analysis in worldly terms.
    God measures the “Benefit” in terms of the eternal Kingdom.
    We must determine to obey first, before we even get the assignment.
    Then it’s not a question of if we will obey
    but how we will execute on our predetermined obedience.

  2. I believe that it’s the best practice to pray for assurance that what you’ve heard really is the voice of God. One way to prove that’s actually God’s voice is to see who’s going to receive the glory. I once had a preacher that was fond of saying, “ If God calls you to it, he’ll see you through it.” That seems like pretty good advice to me.

  3. As Christians, we must be willing to be interrupted. Not by a new stock market tip, a deal that sounds too good to be true, or by sultry temptation. But by the voice of God.
    A brief story, hopefully brief?
    Checking out at the Walmart self-serve cash register, I ask the attendant, “How are you doing today?”
    “Hanging in there,” was her reply.
    I gave my pat answer, “Hope you’re using both hands.”
    While walking to my car, God said to pray for her. Backing out of the parking space, I lifted her in prayer. But, my amen felt weak and incomplete.
    Then God remained me of two things,
    1. Safty prayers are not always fervent.
    2. Why did I hear “for her” instead of “with her.”
    Nervously, I parked the car and headed back inside Walmart. Now my mind is getting bombarded with the “what Ifs.”
    What if she is busy? What if she’s offended? What if she says no? What if other people are there?
    Lo and behold, she was alone at her station, and no one was checking out. Imagine that.
    I said, “God told me to come back and pray with you.” She confessed her struggles. I prayed, and she cried. Both of us were blessed.
    One day, I’d like to walk in a public place and automatically say to God, “Someone in here needs prayer, show me the one, Lord.”
    Maybe today is that day.
    Shouldn’t every day be that day?

  4. Soldiers promptly obey mere human beings they call officers. If they refuse, they’re kicked out, jailed, or in some countries shot. Christian soldiers, however, frequently ignore and/or disobey the commands of the living, resurrected Jesus yet remain in good standing with the institutions called churches. Perhaps that explains the different level of effectiveness between a well-trained army and a church.

  5. I struggle with a concern about recognizing when it is God’s will and when it is our own concoction.So much harm has been done by people that think they are doing God’s will but are actually doing the opposite. many good people are deceived by charismatic people who claim to represent God but in reality it is themselves

  6. I was insulted on first reading. Accountants are not all bad. As an accountant I am frequently frustrated by the idea that money will solve the problems of the church. If God calls us to something, we have or will have all we need. Pray for each creative step to be shown by The Creator as each step happens. He is faithful when we move in faith.

  7. I agree with Terry. We live in enemy territory, “seeing through a glass, darkly”. I long for the day I am mature enough to cut through all the noise of my emotions, desires, and selfishness to confidently know and act. Meanwhile, Lord, let me be willing to fail as I’m learning to hear your voice. Let me use the “cost/benefit” tools I have for reassurance but not an excuse.

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