The most successful blog. Ever.

Posted on August 21, 2012 by Jeff

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Panama with my wife and oldest daughter, Lucy, along with a team of about 130 people from around the country, to put on a conference for teenaged girls.

The culture in Panama is pretty rough for girls – neglect and abuse is the norm for so many. If they choose to stay in the home, they remain the path of physical and sexual abuse. If they choose to run, they quickly become targets of the human sex trafficking trade in Panama. With the Panama Canal running right through that city, it is known by many as ‘ground zero’ in the world of human trafficking.

As a side note, this trip was an all too common reminder of the mistreatment of women and girls all over the world. Certainly we could rid a lot of evil in the world if the men would stop trying to make themselves feel more powerful by bullying the women. It takes on many forms — from slavery, abuse and neglect, to simply mistreatment in a marriage, on a church staff, or in an office workplace. But however it looks, it’s bullying, it sucks and you’re a small fraction of a man if you have to do it to feel better about yourself.

Anyway, that’s a whole other blog.

Our week in Panama was spent doing some assemblies in the public schools as well as hosting the conference on the weekend. We had a wonderful team of people there to help and we were hosted by our fabulous missionary friends, Gerrit and Tara Kenyon.

The team had the opportunity to share the gospel with thousands of students at schools during the week and we had about 1500 girls attend the weekend conference – where they were loved, entertained, given prizes and gifts, but most importantly, they were told about a God who loves them, who created them, who died for them and who has an abundant, hope-filled destiny for each of them.

But, the highlight for me was when my good friend Micah MacDonald took the stage.

Micah was one of three guys part of a panel discussion where some questions and issues facing girls were discussed from their perspective. Gerrit (the missionary) Alan Pastian (the fabulous Alan Pastian, best friend of mine and a pastor in DC) and Micah were the guys on stage to answer questions.

Each of those guys spoke so much life into those young ladies that day. I was proud to know all of them. I was in tears as I listened to each of them speak, knowing that for many girls in the crowd that day, this was the very FIRST time they’ve every had a man say ANYTHING life-giving to them.

At one point the question was asked, “what if you’re boyfriend hits you?” – and my man Micah stood up, and emphatically stated (with the help of the translator) “IF YOUR BOYFRIEND HITS YOU, YOU BITE HIM!”

(Cheering crowd of girls)

Micah continued: “AND IF HE HITS YOU AGAIN, YOU CALL ME AND I’LL FLY DOWN HERE AND JACK HIM!”

(Ballistic cheering crowd of girls)

But the highlight I mentioned was when Micah pulled his lovely young wife Stephanie on the stage. Micah used Stephanie as an illustration of what it meant, as a young girl, to give your heart to God, and to live in a way that honors Him. “Then,” Micah said, “when I wanted to have Stephanie’s heart, I had to ask God first — I had to have MY heart right with God before He’d give me Stephanie’s heart.”

Boom. It was a powerful moment — Just like that, future changed for many young lives.

Here’s what I loved about that moment…

Months before this trip took place, months before the sessions for the conference had been planned out, months before a panel discussion was even thought up, Micah felt that God was leading him to go on this trip to Panama. He and Steph made it a priority, worked out the schedules and raised the money not knowing what to expect in Panama, but simply knowing that God was asking them to go.

They obeyed.

That day in Panama, I made sure to thank Micah for being obedient. He didn’t know how God would use him in Panama, but he simply chose to be where God asked him to be.

In today’s church world, there are a lot of ways to define whether you’re being successful. Many churches will gauge success on weekend attendance, giving, or the number of downloads of their weekly sermons. Ministers are considered successful if they are well known and prosperous.

But in God’s Kingdom, there’s only one way to define whether or not you are successful — and that is if you’re obedient.

God may have a plan for your life that involves riches and fame. God’s plan for your life may involve service to him in a part of the world nobody knows about. There are well known evangelists, small town pastors, faithful stay at home moms, missionaries, people who shine the light of Jesus in their corporate work place, inner city school teachers and countless other examples of people who are simply following God’s call on their life, as glamorous or as thankless as it may be.

So, what made our trip to Panama a success? Was it the number of people on the team? Was it the thousands of public school students who heard the gospel message? Was the 1500 girls who attended the conference? Was it the ground-work that was laid for future ministry in that city?

What I loved about this trip, and what made it a success was that it was a group of people from all over the country who simply were obedient to God — choosing to be where God wanted them to be.

When we’re obedient, God puts us where we need to be. When we’re obedient, God uses us how He wants to. When we’re obedient, God does awesome stuff in us and through us.

God sees the whole picture. Isaiah 55:8-9 says it like this:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways,  and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

So don’t be discouraged today if what you’re doing doesn’t measure up to some fancy man-made standard of success. Don’t lose sight of what God is asking you to do because you’re focused on what God is doing with other people. Simply strive to hear God and obey — no matter what.

The Bible is full of stories of amazing things God did through the simple obedience of simple people.

When you’re obedient, you’re successful.