Always One Step Ahead
Today’s Reading: Matthew 2
Obedience to God is such a powerful tool. Obedience to God will always keep you one step ahead of the enemy. Obedience to God brings you blessing. And it brings protection and puts you in the right place at the right time—exactly where God wants you to be.
When we don’t obey God, we withhold from ourselves all that God has in store for us. An old friend, Joy Dawson, said this: “Disobeying God is the same as telling Him to hold back all of the blessings that come with obedience. That is not only stupidity, it’s insanity.”
We find this idea of being obedient to God in today’s Scripture reading. Jesus has been born, which is epic. But what happens after the Christmas story is epic as well. The magi were heading to the place where Jesus was. They’d come to worship Him and to bring Him gifts. One of my favorite descriptions of their arrival is in verse 10 in the Message paraphrase: “They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!”
Think about that. “They were in the right place. They had arrived at the right time.” I want a life like that. I want to be in the right place—at the right time. We only get there one way: by being obedient to God.
Too many of us, though, believe we can handle things on their own. As John Maxwell said, “Most Christians are educated way beyond their level of obedience.”
I know many people who are (education) smart but not (obedient) wise. Education smart is good and helpful, but it isn’t the same as obedient wise. You can’t become obedient wise through education. When you are wise, you will be at the right place at the right time. And wisdom comes from obedience.
Joseph shows us this truth. After the magi leave, Joseph has a dream:
After the scholars [the magi] were gone, God’s angel showed up again in Joseph’s dream and commanded, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. . . . Joseph obeyed (Matthew 2:13, MSG).
What happens next is monumental!
King Herod, who learned about the Messiah through the magi, when they initially arrived in the area, commanded that every little boy two years old and younger who lived in Bethlehem was to be murdered.
Here is the reality: Obedience to God keeps us one step ahead of the enemy. Think about it. Herod wanted to kill Jesus. Before that happened—first God gave Joseph a dream that told him to leave. And then—second—Herod sends his men on a killing spree. Because God called Joseph to obedience before Herod’s plan was enacted, and because Joseph obeyed, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were able to flee Bethlehem and find safety in Egypt.
It was a forty-mile journey for the new family. So they were forty miles ahead of death and destruction, because God is always a first responder. But we have to obey to reap the benefits.
As Brother Andrew said, “Whenever, wherever, however You want me, I’ll go. And I’ll begin this very minute. Lord, as I stand up from this place, and as I take my first step forward, will You consider this is a step toward complete obedience to You? I’ll call it the Step of Yes.”
I have experienced this truth in my own life. I have watched it happen with a simple apology. I said something I should not have and the Holy Spirit convicted me and called me to go to that person and apologize. Conviction was my dream. And that apology kept that relationship forty miles ahead of the enemy’s narratives to harm it and kill it. Obedience keeps you and me forty miles ahead of death.
Jesus said this about our enemy, the devil: “The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy” every child of God (John 10:10, msg). That’s his mission and his Herod-like plan every day. Obedience to God keeps us ahead of any steal-kill-and-destroy agenda. And when we are one step ahead, we are always in the right place at the right time.