Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
–Matthew 20:26-27

One of my favorite television programs is the classic sitcom “Seinfeld.” A key character on the show is a middle-aged guy named George who is a loser in every sense of the word. He can’t hold a job. He lives with his parents. He is always striking out with women. In one episode, George is tired of his mediocre existence, so he decides to start doing exactly the opposite of everything he has done up to that point. After all, his life has not been going well, so why not start doing the opposite? That’s what he does. When he goes to the delicatessen, instead of ordering tuna on wheat, he orders chicken salad on white. When a girl flirts with him, instead of being timid and embarrassed, he flirts back. When he is in a meeting, instead of being quiet, he speaks out. Amazingly, by doing what is opposite, George starts experiencing success in his work, with women, and in other parts of his life. Now there is no evidence in the show that George is a Christian, but George certainly exhibits a Christian principle in his actions, which is this: the key to success and significance in life is doing the opposite of what comes naturally.

Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). He also said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Perhaps the greatest example of doing what is opposite our natural inclination is Matthew 20:26-27, in which Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” Isn’t it interesting that Jesus doesn’t condemn those who want success and significance in life? Jesus says there’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, God is the one who placed that desire in our hearts to be successful and significant. But if you really want success and significance, you need to go against the grain of your natural inclination. For example, do you want material success in life? The world says, “Hold on to what you have.” God says, “Let go of what you have.” Do you fear what your opposition might do to you? The world says, “Crush your opposition.” Jesus says, “Love your opposition.” Do you want to climb to the top of the organization where you work? The world says, “Rule over other people.” Jesus says, “Serve other people.” Do you desire to have eternal life? The world says, “You have to work for your salvation.” Jesus says, “You receive salvation as a gift.” The surest way to fail in life is to follow your natural inclination. The way to succeed in your life is to do what is opposite of what comes naturally.

This week, as we look forward to celebrating Christmas, we are going to see an illustration of that truth as we look at a portrait of two very different kings. One king embraced the world’s philosophy for success, and he experienced humiliation. The other King embraced God’s formula for success, and He experienced exaltation.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Portrait of Two Kings” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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