Love God and Obey Him

Sometimes we spend so much time trying to think of amazing or imaginative ways to demonstrate love to the people in our lives. We conceive of special gifts, trips, words of affirmation, amazing acts of service, or special experiences. Have you ever considered that the best way to show love to your children, your spouse, your co-workers, your neighbor, your city, and the world is to love God and obey him? It’s that simple and that difficult all at the same time. However, it’s what we were made to do: walk as Jesus walked. That’s how we love others. And we have the promise that his commands are not burdensome. With the help of the Spirit, we can joyfully walk in the freedom of obedience.

As we think about our relationship with God, it’s important to remember that our obedience displays our love for God, but it doesn’t earn God’s love for us. As the apostle Paul wrote, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s love for us is independent of our performance and based on Christ’s work done on our behalf. Therefore, we can claim the promise, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end” (Lamentations 3:22). Fully cleansed by Christ, we have no fear of losing God’s favor.

Loving our teen begins by loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. If our affections are misplaced or out of order, we’ll find ourselves mired in fearfulness, anxiety, and idolatry in our parenting. Instead, we want to parent with hope that flows from love. Our faithful example matters to our teens. Handing Down the Faith explains:

Some readers might be surprised to know that the single, most powerful causal influence on the religious lives of American teenagers and young adults is the religious lives of their parents. Not their peers, not the media, not their youth group leaders or clergy, not their religious school teachers. Myriad studies show that, beyond a doubt, the parents of American youth play the leading role in shaping the character of their religious and spiritual lives, even well after they leave the home.

That’s pretty surprising, isn’t it? And perhaps somewhat sobering—parents play the leading role in shaping their children’s spiritual lives. Rather than fear the culture or fret about the latest social media app, we’re called to be parents who put all our efforts into loving God and walking by faith. That’s where we begin. Our hope in God, our love for God, and our obedience to God makes a profound impact on our teens. Too often, we put aside our relationship with God and think that we are loving our children by putting them first. However, when we prioritize our teens over God, we are actually failing to love them as we should. Our hope in God, our love for God, and our obedience to God makes a profound impact on our teens.

One sobering example of misplaced priorities is found in the book of 1 Samuel. We are told the tales of two parents, with two very different outcomes. In the first two chapters, we read of the story of Hannah, a woman disheartened and discouraged. Year after year she prayed for a child, desperately hoping to have a baby. Year after year she remained barren. Out of anguish, Hannah prayed, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11).

Seeing her deep distress (and mistaking it for drunkenness), Eli the priest approached her. Upon hearing her story, Eli promised, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him” (1 Samuel 1:17). Hannah dried her tears and returned home. Soon she found out that she was pregnant, and when she gave birth to a son, she named him Samuel. After he was weaned, she took Samuel to Eli and offered him to the Lord to fulfill her vow. Her tears gave way to praise as she dedicated her son to God. Hannah’s love for the Lord overflowed in sacrificial obedience. She gave her son back to him, honoring the vow she had made.

In contrast to Hannah’s wholehearted obedience, we read the story of Eli and his sons. We’re told, “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12). They disobeyed God’s regulations in worship and committed sexual immorality with women who came to the temple. Even though Eli warned them, they did not listen, but continued to sin before the Lord. Eventually a man of God came to Eli, confronting him with his wrongdoing: “Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?” (1 Samuel 2:29, emphasis added).

Notice that God confronted Eli about his affections toward his sons. Eli wrongly honored his sons above God. His misguided priorities led to all sorts of sin and immorality. Eventually Eli and his sons were killed in judgment for their actions. Who, then, was left as priest for Israel?

Samuel. The boy whose mother entrusted him to God.

He would grow to be the priest who would faithfully lead Israel and speak the Word of God to the people. Hannah gave up her son in obedience to God, and he was a blessing for Israel. Eli honored his sons above God, and they did evil in the sight of God and harm to their neighbors. While it may seem like a good thing to love our children more than anything else, we want to make sure we honor God above all else. We love others best when we love God first. All our other loves will flow from rightly ordered affections.

Excerpted from Parenting With Hope by Melissa Kruger. Copyright 2024. Published by Harvest House Publishers. Used by permission.

Melissa B. Kruger
Melissa B. Kruger

Melissa Kruger serves as the director of women’s content for The Gospel Coalition. She regularly teaches women in her community and speaks at women’s conferences around the country.