This is a time of year for planning, when we look with expectancy and hope to be victorious. We make resolutions because we want to accomplish things: getting in shape, losing weight, having success in business, earning a degree, etc. But our earthly pursuits do not last; no matter what things you accomplished or didn’t accomplish in 2016, that year - along with all its accomplishments and failures - is gone.
In contrast, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah that His Word is forever:
“All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:6b-8
People judge victory by achievements, points, money, and numbers - and there’s nothing wrong with that - but God judges victory very differently. He judges not by results, but by obedience.
Because the only things that last are the things of God’s kingdom, the one true way we can experience success is by obeying God. People judge victory by achievements, points, money, and numbers - and there’s nothing wrong with that - but God judges victory very differently. He judges not by results, but by obedience.
Jesus lived 33 years, but of the four books that chronicle His life, we only have two brief accounts of His birth, and one story of his life beyond birth and before his ministry began. The whole theme of this story from Luke 2 is Jesus’ obedience to the Father.
Beginning in verse 41, Jesus’ family travels to Jerusalem with a very large crowd to celebrate the feast of the Passover. Somewhere along the journey home, again traveling in a large crowd, Jesus’ parents realize that He is not among them. Worried and anxious, they walk back to Jerusalem to search for Him.
Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke 2:46-52
Let’s look at the success of obedience in the gospels through three characters:
John the Baptist
According to human standards, John the Baptist would have been a loser. He had crazy outfits, a weird diet, strange habits, and no home, he was considered to be mad, and he ended up in prison after rebuking the king, and eventually he was beheaded in his 30’s. Yet he was highly revered by God and is a prominent figure in the gospels who helped pave the way for Jesus’ ministry.
Consider Jesus’ disciples. He did not choose the most educated men or the most influential leaders in society to be His followers; He chose fishermen and tax collectors - humble and lowly men whom the world might consider to be losers. And yet these “losers” actually changed the world because of their obedience to God in spreading the Good News.
Among His own contemporaries, Jesus the man was nothing special, either. He was born in a lowly manger in a stable. It was likely that the circumstances regarding His conception would have tainted His family’s reputation. The town where He grew up was not highly regarded (John 1:46) His own brother, James, didn’t believe in His deity until the resurrection. He was betrayed, arrested, and died an excruciating death at a young age. His life was not a picture of earthly victory.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth. Philippians 2:8-10
God sent Jesus to die for us and to be an example of obedience. The Lord desires us to obey, not because of a power trip, but because He loves us. As human parents, we want our children to obey because we want them to avoid the scars and pains that we have endured. We want to see them reap blessings and to spare them from the consequences of sin. This is the same thing that God wants for us.
This year, you can become a millionaire, get in shape, spend more time with family, finish your studies, or publish a book, but at the end of 2017, if you haven’t been obedient to God, your year will have been a failure. Yet you could be betrayed, arrested, mocked, beheaded and the whole world could crumble around you, but if you were obedient to God, you would be a success by His standards.
Pastor Marcus shared that as a young man, he was doing pretty well by the world’s standards. He had attended SDSU on a football scholarship, he had a degree in business, and he had grown up in the church. He had never touched alcohol, never smoked, and never cussed, but he had started to focus on those things and to become judgmental toward sinners. After listening to a message given by Pastor Miles in 1995, he took inventory of his life. On paper his life looked really good, and yet he felt empty because all his focus was on himself. He needed more of God in his life. He needed to acknowledge his own sin and to give it all away to the Lord to follow the calling that God had on his life, rather than his own.
Regardless of what your girlfriend or boyfriend, boss, friends, or parents think, and regardless of what it looks like on paper, obedience to God is a victory. We may not all have the capacity to play professional sports, be rich, or achieve political success, but we all have the capacity to be obedient to the Lord, which is all He asks of us.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Mark 8:36
There will always be stress between His calling for you and your own desires, so if you want to achieve real success in the kingdom of God, you need to give your life away! We become great by becoming nothing - giving all we have for God’s use and His purposes.
Make the best resolution you can make this year - obey God!