Working Hard Can Never Replace Obedience

Often people talk about how hard they work FOR the Lord.Immense sacrifice and proclamations of devotion will only get us the admiration of people.

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He hath showed thee O man, what is good; and what doeth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6: 7-8.

Often people talk about how hard they work FOR the Lord.  Yet, the full impact of the above scripture will only be seen in our lives when we understand what God is trying to tell us here.  These words were written by Micah, a contemporary of a more well-known prophet named Isaiah.  Simultaneously these men, from two completely different walks of life (Isaiah was an aristocrat and Micah a peasant farmer), proclaimed God’s judgments against the leaders of backslidden Judah.   Although these men may not have met, God put the same burden on their heart, for the same people, in the same time period, for the same purpose. God wanted the people, and especially the religious leaders, to humble themselves and repent of their failure to obey God. The prophet Samuel said it best:

to-obeyAnd 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. I Samuel 15:22

If we really want to make God happy with us, we must obey his voice.  It is hurtful to see Christians make the mistake of putting works above obedience to the voice of God. You always know them because they tend to brag about how much they sacrifice and their religious track record as if this will demonstrate their spirituality.  Oh, you’ve met them. They are known for their perfect Sunday School attendance but are also known as mean, conniving and hurtful to others. Our good works must be accompanied by good Christian character if we want to go to heaven.

When we serve others from a heartfelt concern to do so, that’s great, but when we serve and perform simply because we want titles, position, credibility or something to do, then we become a hindrance to the kingdom.   Service will become a duty, a religious practice and not what it was meant to be–an outpouring of devotion to God.

While we cannot escape some forms of practice in religion,  Israel had gotten so off track with performance and works that they could neither perceive nor accept their backslidden state.  The people were still performing religion how could they go off course? The answer lay in the fact that they had allowed their works to overshadow obedience to God himself.

What Micah is trying to tell us is that sacrificing money and time to attend church, evangelize, create spiritual events, sing in choirs and the like, do not move God.  Unless such actions are preceded by an obedient life and motivated by his will and anointing, they do not excite God one bit.  Immense sacrifice and proclamations of devotion will only get us the admiration of people.   God is more concerned with obedience, period.


A holiness preacher, once said that “too many people are working FOR God and not enough WITH God”.  Dr. Jerry Pipes, speaker, and writer on evangelism and families, echoed this sentiment when he said we should “Find out what God is doing and join Him”¹

When God moves, we should move with Him.  Discovering God’s leading takes prayer and patience to wait for His direction. Unfortunately, we often get lost in activities and tend to lose sight of God.  As a result, our labors become self –centered, self- proclaimed and oriented toward personal accomplishments and self-promotion.  We make our legacy in this world by finding out what direction God is going and moving in the same direction.  That way, no one can take credit and certainly, no one can point blame. God will be all, in all.

                                                –partially excerpted from What is the Old Path blog

(1) Jerry Pipes and Victor Lee. Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy. USA: North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1999, p.71.



  1. If no one would miss you at church, would you go?
  2. Has performing religious duties become boring to you or are you happy just to help build the kingdom of God?
  3. Do you find yourself focused more on people’s business at church and less and less on how to reaching souls for Christ?
  4. Have you ever taken inventory on your obedience to the things God has shown you? If not, today would be a good day to ask God “Have I obeyed you in all things?”
  5. If God stripped you of your works, would people know how devoted you are to God by your character?


Author: Renee

I am an author and a retired minister. My passion is helping others find their sense of self and identity after so many years of losing my own. So often we go to church and are still not aware of our disconnection with our true selves. The person inside that God deeply values. My husband and I have been married for over 30 years and have 3 children. I love gourmet cooking, swimming, all kinds of music, and political and religious discussion- the two things my mom said never to talk about at the dinner table.