WHEN OBEDIENCE HURTS. THE STORY OF MARY.
Day 1: “Why me?! It’s not fair! I’ve done everything God has asked me to do, yet I’m in this awful place - What did I do wrong? Is God even in this at all? Why God?!” These are all sentiments probably all of us have felt at one time or another. Where do those thoughts and attitudes come from? Think back to the last time you had one of these thoughts. Was it out of a time of discomfort? A time of grief or loss? A time of things not going your way? What is the root of those feelings? Do you think Mary had these thoughts as she was told of the plans God had for her? How do you feel when God asks you to follow Him in ways that don’t make sense? Take some time before God today to identify the root of the attitudes and feelings behind the statements in italics above. Let God speak loving truth over you in the pain associated with those moments.
Day 2: Jesus wants us to follow Him in all we do. As we lean in closer and closer to hear what Jesus is asking us to do, we begin to realize that following Him comes at a cost. Sometimes that cost may be swallowing our pride, losing a promotion, appearing foolish, submitting ourselves fully to the One who has the best in mind for us. It will cost changing and letting go as God reveals attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and thoughts that are in us that are not consistent with Jesus. What is the cost of your obedience? Have you experienced a time when you felt the burden of obedience? Were you able to obey out of love and trust? Or did you obey from an attitude of frustration and grumbling? Hear what scripture says: In this world you will have troubles, but take heart…I have overcome the world! John 16:33 Obedience is costly. You WILL have troubles. But you have a savior who walks through them with you. Take time today to thank Him for being with you in all circumstances. Thank Him that every place He leads us He is with us. Thank Him that with every act of obedience we are taking steps to becoming like Jesus. Ask Him how he wants you to be obedient to Him today.
Day 3: In last week’s devotional, we spent several days on the story of the lost son, particularly focused on the older son. He spent much of his days being faithfully obedient, but then became frustrated and angry when his disobedient brother returned home and received forgiveness and a celebration. There is something called entitlement that can creep into our hearts when we perform acts of obedience and expect good or easy things in return. (And become frustrated when that order is messed up when others receive their reward without obedience.) This becomes more of a transactional Christianity – if I work hard and do what I’m supposed to in following Jesus, then I will get what I ask/want/need and life will be easy. But then when life gets hard (and it will), we begin to go back to the fairness ideas and the trade agreement we make in our head with Jesus about what we will do for Him and how WE think that should turn out. In what ways have you been acting out of an attitude of transactional Christianity? Pray for God to reveal any seeds of entitlement that may be creeping into your heart. How can you take steps today to serve Jesus in obedience without expectations of what you will get in return?
Day 4: Read James 1:2-4. Can you say this is how you typically respond to hard times? Now read it again as if you were in Mary’s shoes and going through what she went through. Do you think you would have responded the way she did? Why or why not? What is keeping you from having the pure joy James talks about in this passage? How would trusting God in the midst of difficulties produce joy?
Day 5: On the night of Jesus’ birth, the angels filled the whole sky singing ‘Glory to God in the highest!’ This makes for beautiful Christmas songs and fun Christmas readings, but do we consider these words for our everyday actions? In everything we do, as we are becoming more and more like Jesus, our actions and interactions can bring glory to God. In every circumstance. In every trial. In every let down. In every joy. Just like Mary in her obedience to following God. Read I Peter 1:6-8. Let God bring you joy in every circumstance as you follow Him in obedience. Let your actions today – every one of them – bring glory to God: simple acts of kindness, a warm smile, extra time spent with a stranger (even when you don’t seem to have it). Allow God to change every part of you until you are more and more like Jesus. And let it bring joy to you today.