God’s plan is rarely the straightest or easiest. Following it doesn’t guarantee immediate success the way we look at it. If you look at the story of Joseph in Genesis, you’ll see a young man who was given a pair of dreams. In one dream, eleven stalks of corn, representing his brothers, bowed down to his. In his next dream, eleven stars and the sun and moon, representing his parents, bowed down to his star. He shared his dreams and was ridiculed. His brothers threw him in a pit, sold him into slavery, he was falsely accused and sent to prison where he was forgotten. It was around fourteen years before the dreams came true. Fourteen years of hardship before God’s plan came to fruition.
In Judges 20, the tribe of Benjamin had done an evil thing. The other eleven tribes joined forces to attack Benjamin. They asked God which tribe should attack first. God told them Judah. They went out to war and 22,000 died. They fasted and prayed, then asked God again if they were to go to battle. God told them yes again. They took positions the next day again. They were beaten again. This time losing 18,000. They cried and prayed to God again. A third time He told them to fight. This time they won. They routed Benjamin and nearly wiped out the entire tribe. Even though they followed God’s orders, they were defeated twice losing around 40,000 men.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 reminds us, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (NLT). Following God’s plan will not always yield instant success, nor will it make your life easy. You may be pressed on every side, feel perplexed by what’s happening and get knocked down or back. However, we do have God’s promise that we will not be forsaken or abandoned in these times. We will not be crushed, driven to despair or destroyed. Keep going back to God seeking His will through the hardship. Keep making sure you’re following His orders and what He promised will come true. Don’t give up in the struggle. Victory is near.
Ten years ago today, I wrote and posted to this site for the first time. In those years I have written around 2,600 devotions and over 1,000,000 words. I didn’t start out thinking I’d be writing 10 years later. In fact, I had (incorrectly) assumed that my site would be overwhelmed with clicks and that a publishing agent would be contacting me to write a book simply because I felt God tell me to start writing. In my mind, obedience to God equaled success by the world’s definition. I thought it meant that I would be known for writing and changing lives. Instead, the success in my life has been a closer walk with God and greater understanding of His Word as I’ve spent more time in prayer and contemplation through this process.
Years ago I heard Andy Stanley speak to a room full of ministers at a Catalyst conference. He told us, “Do for one what you wish you could do for many.” We all want to help lots of people, but when they don’t come flocking to us, we get discouraged and give up. That’s where I found myself in the early days of writing. I was obsessing over the number of clicks, subscribers and comments. I wasn’t getting very many. My wife would ask, “But did one person say it spoke to them? If it did, then today’s post was a success.” I had to quit looking at the statistics for my site and focus on that in order to change my mentality. It wasn’t easy because we are a numbers driven society with numbers being the primary indicator of success.
In Matthew 18:12, Jesus asked, “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?” (NLT) Jesus placed the value and success on the one. Most of the time being obedient to God isn’t going to bring success by the world’s standards. It’s about saving the one. Finding the one. Redirecting the one. Don’t fret if your obedience to God isn’t noticed by the masses. It’s noticed by the One who matters. We need to redefine our idea of success to match God’s. If we don’t do that, we may get discouraged and give up losing the opportunity to rescue the one we were sent after.