Conflicting Orders

Author: Brendon O'Dowd, U.S. Air Force Chaplain, Lt Col (RET)

Photo by US Air Force is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It’s frustrating to receive command directives and policies that contradict each other because the lack of communication and planning at higher levels negatively impacts day to day operations.  As military members, we know that when we receive conflicting guidance, we are supposed to follow the published higher-level guidance because it takes precedence.

Clarity & Direction

Sorting this out is sometimes a painstaking process that can take months.  So, we go with what’s easiest or what we were doing in the first place.  We buy into short term thinking that that the mission must go on and HQ just gets in the way.

Trying to figure out conflicting advice and direction is not just a military issue.  Commercials, peer groups, and Facebook will all tell us what to do.  Our own ideas and premonitions can influence our decisions too.

We need to test and examine everything according to the Ultimate Standard, the Word of God.  It takes precedence.

This was Paul’s commendation to the believers in the city of Berea because they received the word (Paul’s preaching and direction) “with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).  They took the time to study and meet with others, so they could compare what Paul said to what God said.

Still, we tend to listen to anyone or anything else but God’s Word.  We convince ourselves that this ancient book doesn’t seem to apply to our day to day lives.

Selective Listening

I think there are two reasons for this way of thinking.


We isolate ourselves and have no ability to examine God’s Word with other believers.  Also, we cut ourselves off from real life-giving fellowship and instead spend our time watching TV or scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and other apps and websites.  Thus, we are like a military unit cut off from a supply chain.  We won’t last long.


We believe we know what’s best.  When I examine my heart, I find disturbing motivations for this kind of rationalizing, starting with my ability to convince myself that I deserve more than what I currently have.  In other words, I don’t have what I need to be happy.

I am also naïve at times.  My gullibility can lead to blindly following a personality over God and His Word.  Finally, my identity is shaped by my need to help and serve other people that is out of balance with my other responsibilities.  I give more to others because I enjoy the payoff of compliments and public recognition.  These motivations are painful to admit, but there is something God can do despite them.

When God was speaking to Moses (directives from HQ), He revealed something about His character and why His commands take precedence.  He told Moses that He is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth” (Exodus 34:6).  Our tendencies to go after that which benefits us most is forgiven based on God’s promise to be gracious and loving.  This grace then allows us to pursue a right relationship with Him that creates in us a desire to follow His higher commands.

Obedience then leads us to be effective for His service.

Do you trust God and His Word to lead you in the right direction?  Examine your motivations and then come to the One who will transform those motivations for your good and His glory.

You do not need to face this challenge alone. Jesus has conquered this challenge so that you can move from your present situation to a life of overcoming. Invite him to lead you in your journey. He will forgive, comfort, and heal you.

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