Text: Acts 5:12-42, Isaiah 40:6-8, 1 John 2:15-17, John 6:66-69
I have always been enchanted by the glamour, music, and energy of the Roaring Twenties. Naturally, The Great Gatsby is a favorite book of mine. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, the plot centers on Jay Gatsby, a man with one goal: to win the heart of the charming Daisy Buchanan.
Mr. Gatsby doesn’t consult God about his grand plans to win over Daisy. Rather, he sets out to make himself a new man worthy of her pedigree—a man of fame and fortune. But despite Gatsby’s best efforts, (spoiler alert) he does not ultimately end up with his lady love. And while hundreds—maybe thousands—once attended his infamous parties, Gatsby’s funeral is a lonely affair, and he’s quickly forgotten by most.
How could someone who worked so hard with such a singular purpose, fail and be forgotten?
When we look at the book of Acts, we see the apostles giving everything they have to accomplish a goal. Unlike Gatsby, these men are driven by God’s purpose rather than their own desires. And the outcome couldn’t be more different.
Even with God leading them, the apostles’ journey wasn’t without difficulties. When the apostles started to gain a following for the Lord, the jealous Sadducees imprisoned them. But the plans God had set in motion could not be stopped, and the men were miraculously freed to continue preaching. When dragged before the Sanhedrin, they remained committed to the mission the Lord had called them to, bravely proclaiming:
“We must obey God rather than men.”
Honest though the apostles’ explanation was, it didn’t sit well with the Sanhedrin, who’d become intent on killing them (Acts 5:33). But Gamaliel, a wise and respected Pharisee among the council, persuaded the others to leave the men alone. “For if this plan or this work is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even be found fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39).
Jay Gatsby was a man with plans to make his own name great, but his plans failed and his legacy was forgotten. The apostles, on the other hand, were not working in their own power or crafting their own strategy for success—they were listening to the Lord and joining in His plans as “fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3:9). Even when the apostles faced imprisonment, beatings, and the threat of death, they were strengthened in the Spirit to endure such trials and to spread the gospel, a teaching with eternal value.
It’s tempting to follow our own desires apart from God, striving for recognition and trying to make a name for ourselves. We can easily become confused by our own motivations. Are we pursuing this job or relationship to bring glory to God, or to build our own kingdom? Are we walking in our own strength, or by the guidance of the Spirit?
Jesus promised that apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Instead, we will struggle to build false kingdoms of our own that won’t last and will never fulfill. But thanks be to God, whose plans can never be thwarted! Like the apostles, may we seek to obey Him, rather than man.
Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. Jesus dramatically changed her life in high school, giving her a heart for those who don’t yet know the love of Christ. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.