My first exposure to celebrity was probably on the playground at my rural elementary school. I remember sitting, along with some of my classmates, against the fence behind home plate. I would push back hard against the wire as I felt the air from the baseball bat being swung back and forth in front of my face.
A couple of older kids ruled the playground at recess (I don't know where the teachers were). These boys were considerably bigger than the rest of us; I think both of them had also flunked at least one grade. Although they were nothing in the classroom, they were the celebrities on the playground. And one of their intimidation tactics was to swing a bat as close to our heads as they could without hitting us.
It was a different world around the corner, out of the sight of the adults in the school building. The bullies were in charge. They decided who was going to play on whose team. They picked the best players first, and I was usually very close to the last one picked.
I quickly learned the biggest and the most talented are always first in line. So it has been a very difficult struggle to realize God doesn't play by the same rules we do. It is very difficult to hear God say, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?” and understand He is looking for obedience rather than talent. Sure there has to be a level of obedience for anything to be accomplished. But I have always been hung up on the talent part.
When I look for someone to roof my house, I'm not just going to hire anybody. I'm not going to hire a tottery old man that can barely stand on flat earth, let alone on a roof. I'm looking for talent.
I'm not going to hire a blind painter. I'm not going to hire a mechanic who asks if he can borrow my tools. I'm not going to let a klutzy neighbor help me move my favorite piece of furniture. I'm looking for talent.
In the same way, I wouldn't expect anybody to ask me to plan a dinner party, or coach a swim team, or develop a business plan for a retail clothing operation. I don't have the talent for any of those things.
There is nothing in our human experience that tells us obedience is more important than talent. Yes, we all realize obedience is important… but we will not, under any circumstances, do without the talent. No amount of obedience can ever replace a lack of talent—from our human perspective.
When we study the Bible with a celebrity mindset, we simply will not consider that God can do without the talent, but He can't do without the obedience. So I ask you to study the following passages without those preconceptions, and consider just how little God values our talent (our human credentials), and how much He values our obedience:
Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. (Exodus 19:5 NLT)
This is what the LORD of Heaven's Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Take your burnt offerings and your other sacrifices and eat them yourselves! When I led your ancestors out of Egypt, it was not burnt offerings and sacrifices I wanted from them. This is what I told them: 'Obey me, and I will be your God, and you will be my people. Do everything as I say, and all will be well!'” (Jeremiah 7:21–23 NLT)
Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal. But Samuel replied, "What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:21–22 NLT)
Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night. And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity]. (Psalm 1:1–3 Amp Bible)
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:27b–28 NIV)
I am here to encourage anyone who already calls on the name of Jesus or anyone who is being drawn to Him. I don't care about the religious label you wear, but I do care about you. So please guard against offence as we discuss this last passage (Luke 11:27b–28 NIV).
The angel Gabriel called Mary “highly favored” (see Luke 1:28). The phrase means “to pursue with grace, compass with favor, honor with blessings.” This same phrase is translated “accepted” in Ephesians 1:6. Because of Mary's obedience all of us have the opportunity to be “accepted in the beloved.” Because Mary was “highly favored” I can also be “highly favored.”
Mary never asked for celebrity status. When you study Luke 1:46–55, Mary never once focuses on herself. Even in verse 48, she is speaking from a position of humility. It is us who has given Mary celebrity status (whether we are the ones giving her all the attention, or the ones reacting against that attention).
I honor Mary for her obedience. I don't want to take anything away from Mary. But I also honor Joseph for his obedience. And I also honor John the Baptist for his obedience. Didn't Jesus honor John by saying no other human being to that point was greater than John (see Luke 7:28)? Wouldn't that include both Mary and Joseph?
While it's very natural to get caught up in celebrity, it is also very wrong. When Cornelius fell down at Peter's feet, Peter said, “Stand up: I myself also am a man (see Acts 10:25–26).”
When the woman in the crowd wanted to assign celebrity status to Mary, Jesus reminded her, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
You and I can't be as famous as Mary, or Joseph, or John the Baptist, or Peter; but we can be as obedient. And Jesus is telling us the obedience part is what He wants.
Have a good day,