But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17–18—NKJV)

Simple obedience seems to be not so simple anymore. By simple, I do not mean anything akin to being a simpleton or simple-minded. Do not confuse simple obedience with an unengaged mind or a Pollyanna worldview. What I do mean by simple obedience is coming to a settled conviction that a direction pursued and a plan put into action is the fullest expression of an obedient heart to the will of the Master. Simple obedience is a clear-eyed course of action uncomplicated with misgivings, confusion, or fear.

Is simple obedience a blessed privilege of the saints from a bygone era—an era that was unencumbered with the fast pace of deadlines, associational expectations, muddied morals, and insistent distractions clamoring for our attention? After all, we are mere mortals, living in desperate times, albeit saved through God’s good grace and assured that “All things work out for good.” Surely God knows our limitations.

Are we not living proof that “every man has his price?” We all know that even in an exceptionally good man there is a finite capacity to obey. There is a limit to a man’s endurance of temptation before he breaks. That limit is unknown to the believer, yet it is a point to be probed and discovered by the enemy of your soul. Another way of putting it is that “every man has his breaking point,” like the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

For the purpose of our study, allow me to add the thought that “every man has his complication overload.” Complications may be in the form of a knotty situation overladen with variegated levels of interpersonal intrigue, overhanging consequences, personal reservations, low-information talebearers, and the fear of the unknown. In most situations that really matter, complications find a way of multiplying. I have found they will not stop compounding, if they are not attended to regularly, until they reach a level of “critical mass.” You know you have arrived at that awful point when you find yourself paralyzed and unable to see your next move clearly. Like Spurgeon once said, “We have been brought to a complicated ruin.” It is the way of things.

A believer cannot live a lifetime without being acquainted with a few of those times where complications overload and overwhelm his desire to obey. Sooner or later it will happen, but there are some steps that a believer can take in order to minimize the recurrence of confusion, and live a life of simple obedience. The Greek word translated “obey” literally means “to hear under.” It is illustrative of a child being instructed by a parent or a soldier being given orders. I learned early on in my parenting days that if I gave several instructions to one of my children, I was fortunate if they remembered to do just one of the things I told them to do. I had to learn to streamline and simplify my instructions if I was to have any hope of obedience. One thing at a time was the name of the game. Our text holds the key daily practices to live in simple obedience.

First, consciously reaffirm your faith every day. Remember, we are saved in obedience to the Gospel (Romans 1:5, 16:26). Faith is in your heart, it is invisible to the world, and only by your obedience do you display your faith. Second, consciously remember you are under orders. Remember you are now a slave to the Lord. Slaves do not rationalize, they follow the “letter and the spirit” of the law of the master. Slaves do not evaluate their options, they have no options. You do not control your life or life’s outcome. A slave does not worry about the consequences of his obedience. The slave is rarely privileged to know the bigger picture. He acts knowing that his actions are a reflection on his Master. Third, consciously work to keep short accounts. A slave has one primary task—to obey immediately—and he must not dilly-dally. Some of our complicated situations are because of a failure to act when things are small and the way to obey is clear. Disobedience and refusal to honor the boundaries of the Master will always lead to complicated circumstances. Finally, consciously seek clear directives from your Lord so that you may clearly obey with a happy heart (Matthew 6:25–34).

Every Christian will readily admit that being able to live a life of simple obedience is a gift from God. God could have made spiritual success complicated, but He did not. Our complications are not complicated to Him. James 1:2–8 includes these words, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach and it will be given to him.” Act in simple obedience. Trust and obey.