His name is Shadrach. No, not a Bible character in a fiery furnace. He’s a dog; a black poodle, to be specific. A while back, we were provided some great live entertainment in an otherwise intense day of ministry. My wife and I were staying with friends in St. Louis rather than the conference hotel there, and Shadrach belongs to our friends. I was ready to run out the door one day, our friend said, “Wait! You need to take two minutes for my dog tricks.” Then she started to show off what she had taught Shadrach. She started with the basics, “Sit” and the poodle did. “Stay”…”roll over”…”lie down.” Shadrach responded immediately. Then “go look out the window.” The poodle darted over to the window. “Jump” and Shadrach leaped about three feet in the air. Then she pulled out a hoop and just said, “Hoop.” Sure enough, black poodle flying through hoop. I was amazed!

I asked her how she got him to obey all those commands without any treats. She said, “Well, when I was first teaching him to obey, I had to give him treats all the time. But now he just seems to enjoy being able to understand what his master’s saying, and doing what his master wants.”

I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “The Greatest Treat Of All.”

Our Word for today from the Word of God is from Psalm 119:32. David says to God, “I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” David says, “I’m obeying what God says and I’m really enjoying it. He’s like Shadrach, my poodle friend. He’s experiencing the joy of obeying his Master, just for the joy of pleasing Him. He obeys eagerly. He runs when God commands him to do something.

Sitting there watching this eager obedience of this little dog, I couldn’t help but see a picture of the ways of God with His children. We’re essentially “my way” people. If I feel like saying it, I’ll say it. If I feel like doing it, I’ll do it. If I think I need it, I’ll go after it. Then along comes Jesus and captures our heart with His love. We have a new Master. Now we have the potential of really doing something, really being something if we can learn to do what Jesus says.

And Jesus knows that at first we need a lot of incentive to do what He wants in each situation. So, in the life of a new child of God, the Lord often seems to give instant rewards for your obeying Him: quick and dramatic answers to prayer, instant payoffs for doing the right thing, obvious gifts and interventions from Him. Like our poodle friend, at first we need quick rewards, we need treats from our Master so we can learn obedience. It’s a good way to get started in Jesus, but it’s also spiritual immaturity. “I’ll do what You say, Lord, if you’ll give me a treat.”

But as you start doing it Jesus’ way, you learn that His commands lead to results that you don’t have to regret, and to a wonderful inner peace, to outcomes that range from satisfying to even amazing! And after a while, you begin to understand what Jesus meant when He said to His disciples, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Or as it says in the KJV, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).

Our friend says her dog just seems to enjoy understanding what’s in his master’s heart. And that is the unparalleled joy of someone who has learned to obey the Master. Through obeying, you begin to really feel what’s in your Master’s heart. And obedience becomes its own reward.

Maybe there are some of your Master’s commands you’ve been running from lately; things where you thought your way was going to be better than His way. That’s not true, is it? The joy is in obeying the One who made you His at the cost of His life. And the treats are nice, but don’t do it for the treats. Understanding your Master’s heart – enjoying your Master’s pleasure – that’s the greatest treat of all.