F R E E D O M    T H R O U G H   O B E D I E N C E

In this article I have been asked to write about being “determined to succeed.” As I think about that, I wonder, “to succeed at what?” An even better question to ask might be, “to succeed for whom?” The Bible says that many will call out his name at judgement. They will say, “Lord, Lord!”, and they will tell him that they did many miracles in his name. Jesus’s answer to them might surprise many of us. He will say to them, “I do not know you.”

This verse always confused me until I started to train Labs. As a trainer I do not take all of my labs to the championships and many, when I leave them behind, will bark and cry out for wanting me to include them. They will even remind me that they have gathered many fallen objects in my name and laid them at my feet. However, both of us know that they did not gather them for me but for their own glory. If they had been championship dogs that used their skills to glorify me, I would be taking them to compete.

Imagine being with me during a hunting dog test. May dog and I walk to the line. Another trainer and his dog walk to the same line at the same time. As we reach the line we hear a gunshot and a duck falls a few paces from the dogs. At that moment the masters of these dogs are only permitted to give a single command, “sit”. When done correctly both dogs freeze and lock their eyes on the bird and wait eagerly for their command. This becomes the moment of truth for the dogs. They are magnificent powerhouses of intellect, muscle, and determination; both poised and waiting for the command to charge.

As simple as this may seem, can you imagine what must being going through their minds? They believe that every bird that falls belongs to them. They also believe that no other dog has the right to beat them to the bird, ever. These dogs have been bred to retrieve and to retrieve fast. They are dominant and controlling, their muscles tight and their energy is raging. Their egos are roaring and their internal release triggers are cocked. However, it is in these intense moments that champions are both made and lost. For if either dog’s definition of success is to show the world how good and dominant they are, they have missed the point.

If he believes that life is all about his happiness of if his attitude says, “Watch me run. Watch me retrieve. Look at my bank account, my new car, my professional title”, they have missed the point. If they act upon their feelings and move for any reason they are disqualified. I am then told to remove him from the competition and the dog has failed. There is no curve and their is no alternate scale for him to be judge by. He is gone.

You see, the dog was asked to sit. He was not asked to take charge and show the other dog how good he was. He was to lean not on his own understanding but on mine. He was not to covet that which was not his, and he was to glorify his master; not himself. Perhaps it seems unfair to disqualify him when so much temptation was thrown his way. Why do we think that? We teach our children and our dogs what to do when temptation does come, not merely try to keep them from it. Temptation, according to the book of Matthew, is even a necessary thing. Without temptation my dog does not have a choice and without a choice he cannot show me how much he loves me. When you think about it, the greater the temptation, the greater the glory for the master.

Think about yourself for a moment. What temptations are in your life and whose reputation are you trying to increase? Before I close I think it’s important to point out that I do allow my dogs to be determined to succeed. I even need that characteristic in them. They should have no fear of anything except of dishonoring me. I also allow the to succeed. They just have to change their definition of success. They have gone beyond the need to magnify themselves to other dogs and now focus on living for their master. What a humbling realization it was to me when I evaluate the relationship I have with my own master, Jesus Christ. I would ask you to re-evaluate not what but who you are determined to succeed for. Whose reputation are you trying to make more significant? Yes, many will cry out, “Lord, Lord,” yet he will say, “I do not know you.” Please do not let that happen to you.

Keep your own eyes on the master. Seek ye first the kingdom of God. Why? So that when you come face to face with Jesus, he will know your name.

P.S. Monk says to remind you again that the more he learned to stay, the more he got to go. There really is freedom in obedience. Try it.

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