Obedience or Happiness?

The Spirit immediately drove him [Jesus] out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him (Mark 1:12–13 ESV).

How do you know what God’s will is?  When you think about some of the big life decisions you’ve made like where to go to college, who to marry, when to have your kids, what career path to pursue, how do you know which decision to make according to God’s will?  To go a step further, how do you know that the decision you made was or wasn’t in God’s will?

If you’re like me, you find yourself thinking something like, “Well, I made that decision and it was just one trial after another, one struggle after the next.  I wasn’t happy at all and there was no fulfillment in it for me.  It must not have been God’s will for my life.”

That mindset is extremely common in our cultural context where personal happiness is the highest ideal of life.  We think that following God’s will brings us happiness, fulfillment, achievement and success.  The problem is we measure happiness, fulfillment, achievement and success according to the world’s standards, not God’s.

Just pause a moment and consider the life of Jesus, the One who we worship as our God and Savior.  We see from the two verses above that God the Holy Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness, where He stayed 40 days and was tempted by Satan himself.  We know from Matthew 4 and Luke 4, who give us more details about this event, that Jesus didn’t eat anything the entire time He was out in the wilderness.

So picture this, here is Jesus, the Son of God.  He’s grown up, ready to start His preaching ministry.  He gets baptized by the greatest of all the prophets, John the Baptizer.  During His baptism, the Holy Spirit descends from Heaven and the voice of God the Father is audibly heard, endorsing Jesus as the true Son of God.  Wow!  Talk about a jumpstart to your life’s calling!

Immediately, the Spirit drives Jesus with urgency out into the wilderness where there is no food, where He has no friends other than wild animals, and where He is tempted by the same evil being who led 1/3 of the angels of Heaven in a rebellion against God before humanity existed.  Do you think Jesus’ obedience to the Holy Spirit brought Him happiness, fulfillment, achievement, success and comfort?

The point I’m trying to make is this: sometimes obedience to God leads us into places where we wouldn’t normally go, places that may be dangerous, places where we may face many trials and temptations.  We can’t always evaluate our success at finding God’s will by whether or not we end up with happiness and comfort.  Ultimately, Jesus’ obedience to His Father led Him to the cross, where He was brutally tortured to death for sins that He was innocent of!

I’m not trying to depress you.  I just want to encourage you to fearless obedience.  Sometimes we are called to face trials of all kinds.  The Christian can go into any circumstance with boldness and courage, knowing that no matter where you go, Jesus is with you.  He will never leave or forsake you.  You go into the wilderness filled with the Holy Spirit and if God is with you, who can ever stand against you?

I would challenge you with the same challenge these verses gave me: resolve to be obedient to God and follow His call even if it leads to places of discomfort and trial.  Trust His will and live not for your own personal happiness, but for His glory and Kingdom.  And remember, one day Jesus will return to fully establish His Kingdom and bring Heaven to earth.