When Jesus was born, it was epic. The magi were heading to the place where Jesus was. They’d come to worship him and bring him gifts. One of my favorite descriptions of their arrival is in verse 10 of the Message paraphrase: “They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!” I want a life like that. I want to be in the right place at the right time. We only get there one way, though: by being obedient to God.

What happens after the Christmas story is epic as well. King Herod learned about the Messiah through the magi when they initially arrived in the area, and he commanded that every little boy two years old and younger who lived in Bethlehem be murdered. That’s not the epic part, trust me. That part is horrifying.

Here is the reality, though: Obedience to God keeps us one step ahead of the enemy. Think about it. Herod wanted to kill Jesus. Before that happened, God gave Joseph a dream that told him to leave before Herod sent his men on a killing spree. Joseph, Mary and Jesus were able to flee Bethlehem and find safety in Egypt because God called Joseph to obedience before Herod’s plan was enacted and because Joseph obeyed.

It was a forty-mile journey for the new family, so they were forty miles ahead of death and destruction. God is always a first responder, but we have to obey to reap the benefits.

I have experienced this truth in my own life. I have watched it happen with a simple apology. I said something I should not have, and the Holy Spirit convicted me and called me to go to that person and apologize. Conviction was my dream, and that apology kept this relationship forty miles ahead of the enemy’s narratives to harm and kill it. Obedience keeps you and me forty miles ahead of death.

Jesus said this about our enemy the devil: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, ESV). That’s Satan’s mission and Herod-like plan every day. Obedience to God keeps us ahead of any steal-kill-and-destroy agenda. When we are one step ahead following God, we are always in the right place at the right time.