Obedience means obeying right away, all the way, and with a cheerful heart.

Wow. That was pretty good, wasn’t it. Well, I didn’t think of that definition. I heard it from a man named Rush. Brilliant, I thought.

Right away.

Simply put, this means to obey immediately, without delay.

I heard, in my adult years, a tip that I  believe would have helped me confront my own stubborn heart much earlier in life. Don’t just obey, but in addition verbally acknowledge that you have heard the request, command, question, or statement.  For example, if you say to your daughter, “Karen, set the table.”  Teach her to actually reply, “Yes, Ma’am,” “Yes,” or “Okay, Mom. I’m on my way,” so that you know she heard you and know to do what is expected right away.

In training ahead,  I gathered the children together  and explained this concept of obeying right away and verbally acknowledging the request. We practiced me calling their names and them responding. Then I had them go to different parts of the house. “John,” I’d call from the kitchen. “Yes Ma’am,” I’d hear him respond from his upstairs bedroom.  “Daniel…” I’d call and “Yes, Ma’am” I’d hear from him in the office. I did this so that each knew when I called, even if out of my sight, there was to be a verbal response loud enough for me to hear. This was good training…one reason, is that it enabled me not to have to go all the way upstairs to wake them up or to ensure that they heard me. This is how they were taught to let me know they heard me.

Obedience doesn’t demand counting to three (or ten). “Ashley, I told you to come to the table. I’m going to count to three and you’d better be here.”  Did you realize this teaches your child to determine a different time frame for obedience? Your child should obey right away.

If they are in the midst of a board game, for example, I would let them know that it is completely fine to say, “Yes, Ma’am” (letting me know they heard me) followed by a respectful appeal such as “Mom, may we come after Sarah completes her turn?” Teach them that your reply to this appeal is the final answer. You are being respectful of them, allowing a reasonable offer that they are respectfully asking of you. If you say, “No, I need for you to come right now” then they need to obey this.

I believe it is respectful in many situations for us as parents to give the children a few minutes notice before expecting them to immediately obey. “Dinner is in five minutes” allows them time to bring to a close what they’re doing. Another example could be when you are at a friend’s house visiting. Give the kids a few minutes notice. Here’s an example.  “Kids, we’ll be leaving in about ten minutes. Clean up all the toys now and then pick just one thing to play with so you’ll be ready to go when I call you next.”  You wouldn’t want to be in the middle of reading a great book and then your husband say, “Let’s go right now.” Wouldn’t you appreciate a few minutes notice. “Okay everybody, we’ll be leaving in five minutes. Finish up what you’re doing now so you’ll be ready to go then.”

Obedience shouldn’t include you making threats. “If you don’t do that, I’m going to beat you to a pulp” or “If you don’t mow the yard, I’m going to take away your phone for three years.” Let your yay be yay and your no be no. You should mean what you say. People should simply be able to trust what comes out of your mouth. Don’t tell them to do something if you don’t fully expect them to do it. Don’t make threats that you know are ridiculous.

Brace yourselves… if you are a threat-maker or a “counter” this may be a sign that you, in fact, do not have obedient children. Seek to turn this around. This can be done. Train ahead. Be calm in your delivery, clear in your expectation, and consistent in being on top of seeing through the obedience.

All the way.

Obeying means to do the job completely, not partially, not most of the way…but all the way.

One way I’ve communicated this concept to my kids is “Do the job in such a way that no one else needs to come behind you and do one more thing in order to make the job complete.”

In our family “wash the dishes” means to load the dishwasher, hand wash the rest of the dishes that didn’t fit in the dishwasher, dry the hand washed dishes, and put them away. If they left the pots to “soak,” but they really didn’t need soaking, then they did not complete the job. They would then have to go back and finish it. It’s easy for us as parents to just finish it, isn’t it, letting a life-lesson on obedience pass them by. However, let’s teach them to be thorough, diligent, to do a job well, and to be obedient.  (Of course, if the pot really did need soaking, they can complete the task in the morning.)

“Take the trash out” said on the night before our garbage pickup means, at least in our family, to empty the trash cans in the home, take the trash to the larger garbage cans outside, and then roll the garbage cans down our long driveway to the street.  For our children to do this job without the final step of getting the trash cans to curbside, means massive garbage pile up for an additional week – until the next scheduled garbage pick up day.  (This has indeed happened on several occasions.)  For the kids to empty the trash cans upstairs, but not downstairs is only part of the job. That’s disobedience. If this happens, I will quote, “Obedience means obeying right away, all the way, and with a cheerful heart.”

With a cheerful heart.

The attitude in which obedience takes place needs to be sweet. When you tell your 15 year old to watch Amber, his little sister, and he stomps his foot, his angry actions reveal a heart that is not compliant. His actions were obedient, but his heart was not. Obedience means doing the job with a cheerful heart. Looks like your son is going to need a good talkin’-to about this third and important component of the definition of obedience. You might ask him how he would feel  if he asked you to wash his football uniform and you did it right away, all the way- even cleaning the stains on it, but you complained and moaned and groaned the whole time.  Then ask if he understands the difference of you doing all of the same things with a cheerful attitude.

Let’s paint a pretend scenario to go with this sweet picture below of my daughters who are now 22 and 18.  “Alexis, while I’m cooking, could you read to Kelsey?”  “Why do I have to do that?” would reveal a selfish heart.  If this was to happen…where she immediately went to her sister to read, but complaining and with a bad attitude, I would stop her in her apparent “obedient” response and place importance on the attitude of the heart, dealing with her  self-centered heart. I would talk with her about what to put off/put on (see previous post) -put off of the selfish heart and put on of the serving heart. Then, her one command would be “Go read to your sister. Thank you for being such a selfless sister.”

Let’s check our own hearts. When your husband asks you to “take the car to the shop” or asks you to “make his favorite meal which happens to involve grease, like country fried steak.” Do you respond in love? Would your kids say you respond, “Sure, honey,” or would they see that you do the task with grumbling? Or would they see that you don’t like to be inconvenienced therefore you most likely wouldn’t even do what he asked?

Is your heart cheerful when inconvenienced? This same definition of obedience applies to us. Obey right away, all the way, and with a cheerful heart.

I ask of us one more thing. How do we respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit? As you hear someone share a situation in which he has need for a car and instantly hear that still small voice of the Holy Spirit say, “Let him borrow your car.” Do you immediately, without question say, “Dan, would you like to borrow our car?” Or do you delay with questioning, reasoning in your mind, “but he..but what, .but..”?  How do you respond when the Holy Spirit says, “Give that person that $100 bill in your wallet.” I know you may have been saving it for a very long time. It’s so nice and new and crisp. But when He speaks, do you listen? Our response needs to be full obedience: right away, all the way, and with a cheerful heart. “Yes, Lord. Here I am. Send me. Use me. All that I have is yours. Show me how and when to use it. I will immediately obey.”

Train Ahead.

I know. I know. I’ve mentioned this concept in so many of my blog posts…with good reason. It works. You can’t expect your kids to react a certain way or simply to know something without being properly taught. So, gather together your wonderful family and explain this new definition that your family will now be adopting. “Obedience is obeying right away, all the way, and with a cheerful heart.” Be sure to give an example of each of these points applied wrongly and done rightly.

When my children were elementary age and younger, I walked them through understanding obedience so that they would be prepared to obey leaving when our time was up when playing at friends’ homes. I prepared them so that they would know the big picture – which was that we will always make sure we clean up what we’ve played with. We will receive “Time to go” with immediate obedience, including a good attitude. I explained that I would give them notice ahead of time so that when I called them to leave, they would simply need to clean up the one toy or activity they were engaged in at that time.  Typically, they knew with the first notice that they should clean up all the toys and then just pick (or stay with) the one that they wanted to play until it was time to go. I would then give them the final notice , “We’re going in five minutes, so clean up now and be ready to go.” They were to obey at that point with no resistance. I also went over with them ways they were and were not to respond when it was time to go. I addressed potential problems like meltdowns, screaming, whining, (whatever potential responses that may be patterns in the different children you have. Anticipate the problem. Train to that.)  Role playing really helped make departing friends’ houses easy.

I heard this new definition later – the part about a cheerful heart. Wow! I explained this to the kids and began expecting the cheerful heart to be a part of complete obedience.

I know there might be some reading this, thinking, “Oh no! I’ve already blown it. My kids don’t even listen to me.” The good news is it’s not too late. Start now. This train ahead concept works. Your children should obey. If they don’t, you have work to do at the most basic of levels. Stop the world.  With love and firmness, let them know you have allowed them to disobey, apologize, give them the big picture of their obedience to parents being the training ground for obedience to our God so that we immediately trust His promptings and obey with a happy heart. Tell them you are going to change. Role play. Train ahead. Be in great prayer about this. Your family needs to learn obedience.

If you missed any in this series on “stiff necks and rebellious hearts,” you can click here.


Rhonda spenttimeprayingwithKelseyovercolleges.askingfora$$miracle ellis

  1. Mel

    “How do WE respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit?” Ooh, I needed this tonight…. convicted.

  2. Marie

    Wow! I too was very convicted about obeying the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Thanks Rhonda!

  3. Amelia Davis

    Wow! I so needed this refresher course. I have heard this message before and had begun implementing this with Mia. It has been a huge help with her understanding the meaning of obedience and encouraged my own heart to model it. Although we fall short of it, I continue to just try to be real with her and with God and receive His grace and mercy and extend that with her.
    Thank you Rhonda!

  4. Adonna

    In our home schooling days using Bob Jones Curriculum our kids learned that “obedience is doing what you should, when you should with the right attitude.” 🙂

  5. A beautiful reminder of all the steps we need to take to truly instruct our little ones. – Fawn

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