It’s been said that a person must spend 10,000 hours working on a particular skill before he or she is considered an “expert” in that skill. Think about this:
That’s 10,000 hours of playing the violin before the music world calls you an expert violinist.
That’s 10,000 hours of horseback riding before the equestrian society calls you an expert rider.
That’s 10,000 hours of creating recipes before the culinary world calls you an expert chef.
In any of these cases, we would say, “That person is devoted to what they do.”
I started figured skating around the age of five and continued until I had “passed” all the initial skill levels (a total of two or three years). The obvious next-step was to hire a private coach and pursue competitions. Only the hardcore, committed athletes would make the decision to give up a portion of their childhood in favor of spending hours upon hours at the ice rink, training with their coaches.
At that point, I decided that I simply was not devoted enough to figure skating to pursue it with blood, sweat, and tears.
Anna, the prophetess from Luke 2:36-38, was a devoted woman. Devoted to what, or to whom exactly? Read along with me:
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Now, we need to back up in the story a little bit to get the full grasp of what Anna is saying and doing here. At this time in history, Jesus Christ — God in human flesh — has been born to Joseph and Mary. His earthly parents were Jewish, as were many people of that day, and the Jewish Law said that every male baby had to be dedicated to God through circumcision at the temple.
The temple was located in Jerusalem, and it was the place where God’s people would go to meet with him, offer up sacrifices for their sins, and be forgiven and cleansed. The temple symbolized Gods presence.
Nowadays, believers in Jesus Christ don’t go to a temple to meet with God because Jesus is the way we meet with God. He sacrificed himself on the cross, taking the punishment for all our sins, so that we could be forgiven and cleansed forever in God’s sight.
So Joseph and Mary have taken Jesus to the temple, and they are met by a man named Simeon, who was also a man deeply devoted to God. Simeon makes a proclamation about this divine baby saying, in effect, “This Jesus is the promised Savior of the world! He is the Christ!”
This is where Anna’s story begins.
There are three specific characteristics we can learn from Anna about what it looks like to be people devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ:
Godly people cling to Christ
Verse 37 says, “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” Remember that the temple was where God’s people would go to meet with him and be cleansed from their sins. The temple was a picture of what Jesus would eventually become for his people: the way into the presence of God (John 14:6).
Anna was committed to worshiping the Lord! She did not leave the temple, which is another way of saying that she was committed to spending her life with knowing God and serving him.
Anna knew that her whole life was dependent on God: that he created her, that nothing within her was hidden from his searching gaze (not even sin), that he was her only hope of salvation from sin, and that a life of joy and peace was found only in him.
Anna’s thoughts and actions were focused on worshiping God. She was laser-focused on clinging to God for her salvation and not to worldly things, like her possessions, her marital status, her accomplishments, her relationships, or her social ranking.
We also can grow into godly people by asking Jesus to help us depend on him, day and night, for all we need and for our salvation. We can pray, “Help me, Jesus, to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength!” He delights to provide life and righteousness to those who seek his face.
Godly people are all ages
We can assume that Anna got married when she was very young, so she had many decades of living alone as a widow. But did Anna complain or grumble about her situation? No! She clung to the Lord from her early years until the time of our story, when she was a wise 84 years old!
Whether we are old or young, we can be godly people who depend on Jesus Christ for our hope and salvation, for godliness (devotion to Christ) has no age limits.
It is never too early or too late to spend our lives for Christ’s sake and his purposes. You can start depending on Jesus today, asking him to reveal his purposes, that you might walk in them for his glory.
Godly people share their faith
Finally, we learn from Anna’s example that godly people are excited to share their faith with others. Godly people grasp that the gospel is called Good News for a reason: We don’t keep news to ourselves — we share it! When Anna learns that Jesus Christ has come into the world, she first thanks God and then she begins to “speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Israel.”
There are people whom God has placed around you purposefully. Your friends, classmates, neighbors, co-workers, and family members are not in your life by accident. God reigns sovereign over all your relationships.
What is one way you can share the gospel of Jesus with them this week? May our thanksgiving to God for what he has done in sending his Son be like a bubbling fountain that overflows onto those who are missing out on the best news they could ever encounter and believe.
Only one Expert
We talked earlier about being experts, and you may be thinking, “Because Anna was a devoted woman who walked with God constantly, she must have been an expert in godliness!” If you’re anything like me, this can be temptation for discouragement: “Why aren’t I that godly?!”
But no one is an expert when it comes to devotion to Jesus Christ. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Even after you have put your faith in Jesus, you will still fall short. You will still struggle to follow God.
The good news is that he knows about your struggle, and he knows that you will never be perfectly devoted to Christ. And that is why God provided his Son, who was the only person who could be perfectly devoted to his Father and who was perfectly devoted, all the way to his death.
Jesus was the only expert in godliness, so that we would not have to be!
And when Jesus became sin for us on the cross, he was saying to his Father, “Punish me for all the times when your children were not devoted to you. Put all of their sins and failings on me, and in exchange, give them my perfect, spotless devotion. See them as your godly, pure, devoted children.”
Be encouraged: We can pursue godly lives because Jesus was godly on our behalf!
Let’s ask God for a desire to be devoted to him today. Let’s ask his help in becoming people who cling to Christ, who spend ourselves for the gospel in all seasons of life, who share our faith with others, and who ultimately trust in the grace of God when we fail, knowing that Christ is our righteousness!