There was a time in my life when I would have told you I feared God—but my actions told a different story.

A number of years ago I was looking for a publisher for my first book and was approached by a nationally known publishing house. When the publisher gave us their proposal, the deal seemed too good to be true. I couldn’t believe that such a major publishing house was interested in my book! But as Lisa and I prayed about it, we both felt uneasy and knew that we did not have God’s peace to move forward.

Nevertheless, after weeks of continuing to hear them out, they won me over. Over time, I had suppressed the lack of peace and against the Holy Spirit’s leading and my wife’s caution, I signed the deal.

It was disastrous. Immediately after signing the deal, all kinds of trouble broke out.

For a string of three months, I was continually battling sickness and injury. I went from the flu to a viral infection to a fever that lasted for weeks to a knee injury that put me on crutches. Making matters worse, nothing seemed to be working out with the publisher—we couldn’t agree on anything, and our relationship was breaking down. Could this be why David wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word”? (Psalm 119:67)

God was quite merciful to me in this situation, and He allowed me to see my folly. I’d put ministry success before obedience to Him. I admitted my error to God and my wife, Lisa. I was forgiven and cleansed. His mercy is so amazing!

However, I was still trapped. We needed a miracle to get out of the contract with this publisher. Lisa and I joined hands and pleaded for God’s intervention. Within a couple of weeks, the publisher wrote and said they were canceling the contract. I was relieved, but it came with a hefty price tag—the ordeal had cost us over $4,000, an enormous loss for our fledgling ministry to absorb.

But why did I make this mistake in the first place? The honest answer is that my focus was on abundance rather than the fear of the Lord. This opened the door for logic and apparent success to override and silence what God was making clear to my heart.

The truth is that obedience is the outward evidence of the fear of the Lord. When we fear God, we will obey Him instantly—even if it hurts, even if we don’t understand, even if we can’t see the benefit, and to completion.

If we look at the story of when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham fulfilled each of these criteria. Let’s relive his great test.

One night God instructs him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Is he hearing correctly? Is this a bad dream? No way, he thinks. How can this be?! I love my son. I can’t put Isaac to death. Kings and nations are promised to come through him. How can this promise be fulfilled if I kill him?

But despite his lack of understanding, we read, “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey” (Genesis 22:3 NIV). He obeys instantly, though it surely hurt him. Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s promise in his life. He waited patiently and believed God for more than twenty-five years to see God’s promise come to pass—and now he was being asked to lay it all down, and God doesn’t give him an explanation. Nevertheless, without understanding, he obeys.

We all know the end of the story, but Abraham didn’t. All he knew was that he feared God and trusted Him completely, even when it didn’t make sense to his natural mind.

Because he fears God, he doesn’t hesitate in obeying Him to completion. He climbs the mountain, builds the altar, ties Isaac up, and is ready to thrust the knife into his beloved son’s heart. He obeys to completion.

While the knife looms over Isaac, an angel suddenly appears and cries out, “Do not lay a hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God” (Genesis 22:12 NIV).

How does the angel know that Abraham fears God? Because he obeyed instantly, when it didn’t make sense, when it was painful, and with no promise of benefit, he went the distance. His priority over everything else was obedience to God. If you fear God, you will wholeheartedly obey what He asks you to do.

I encourage you not make the same mistake I did. I prioritized my own desires over fearing and obeying God, and it cost me dearly. After I repented, God restored that situation and eventually connected me with the right publisher, but all the trouble I went through could have been avoided had I only followed His prompting in the first place. Delayed or partial obedience is disobedience in God’s eyes and can only lead you away from His blessing in your life.

What is God asking you to do? Do it, and do it completely. Your obedience to God will open the doors to His blessing and position you to step into all He has for you.