Alright, so it’s been a while, I know- but schoolwork kept me pretty busy during the semester and didn’t leave much time for “recreational” writing. I know you all have felt a huge hole in your hearts due to my absence, so to make it up to you I’m hoping to get one or two more posts in before I head back to school next Sunday. My hope was to write this post right after Christmas but I got slammed with a week of 8 hour shifts at work and just didn’t have the energy to do anything but watch Netflix. (If you work full time, I give you permission to laugh and even scoff. I’m a wimp for sure.)
Having recently exited the advent season and now entering the new year, I thought an appropriate topic would be Mary (the mother of Jesus) and how she responded to the news that the angel gave her. Our culture doesn’t usually find relevance in the nativity story unless it’s read in December, but I think if we look a little closer we can find some relevance for the entire year and gain some new perspective on 2015.
This post is a bit lengthy, but I haven’t written in a while so- sorrynotsorry 🙂
**For this post I’ll be looking at the NIV translation of Luke 1:28-38. This section is about the angel appearing to Mary to tell her about the birth of Jesus. I’ll assume that you’re familiar with the story. If not, you might wanna read through it before reading the rest of this.
So what can we learn from Mary and her encounter with the angel? How does it relate to what lies ahead in 2015?
Here’s a little outline for ya.
God’s favor (God’s response) —> human fear (our unfaithful response) —> God is with us (God’s response) —> surrender and submission (our faithful response)
1. God’s favor.
I think it’s easy to view challenges in our life as God’s response to our sinfulness. It’s true that this is sometimes the case. God brought defeat on the Israelites at different times to punish them and to show them that he disapproved of their unfaithfulness. However, sometimes God allows challenges and pain in our lives because of his favor.
Look at Luke 1:28. The angel began his announcement by saying, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! ” After seeing how troubled Mary was the angel says “…you have found favor with God.” The challenge that was being presented to Mary was not given as an act of discipline but of favor. God loved Mary and counted her worthy of this task. God can use challenges in our lives to grow us and make us more into the people he created us to be. He can give us challenges as a way of revealing himself to others through us. In a way, we should delight in those challenges. God is using us for a greater plan and a greater purpose. I talked about this topic more in a previous post.
**I want to pause for a sec.
I think we typically underestimate the challenge that was handed to Mary. And yes, I would consider giving birth to the Savior of the World a challenge. According to an article from Christianity Today, Mary and Joseph were already legally bound before the wedding ceremony took place. One challenge Mary faced would be explaining to Joseph how she was pregnant yet still a virgin. If it hadn’t been for the dream Joseph had about the baby, he could have easily accused her of adultery. She likely feared his reaction to her news. In addition, she would have reason to fear that the public would perceive her as an adulterer and stone her. So yeah, the angel definitely presented Mary with a challenge
2. Human fear.
I know that when I run into problem, my immediate reaction is to be fearful of the future. I’ll use my vocal problems as an example- when I first realized that my condition wasn’t going away, I became afraid of what would happen in the future. “What if I can’t compete? What if I can’t major in music? What if I can never sing again? What if?”
It’s fair to assume Mary feared the future as well. Verse 29 says, “Mary was greatly troubled at his words…” and later the angel says, “Do not be afraid.” It sounds as if Mary’s fear was due to the sight of the angel before her, but Mary probably had some fear of the future as well. Like I said above, the idea of convincing Joseph that she was pregnant but had not committed adultery was likely a daunting thought for Mary.
I don’t think God wants us to be scared of the future. Actually, I would say that it is an unfaithful response to a faithful God. Dwelling on fear is typically a sign that we doubt God’s sovereignty and goodness over our future. If I trust in the one who has already established the future, there is no reason to fear it. On the flip side, if I allow the world and my small, finite mind and emotions to guide my thinking, it is no wonder why I would be fearful of what is ahead. I’m helpless on my own.
Now granted, not all fear is bad. It’s good to maintain a healthy fear. For example, you would be an idiot to go swimming in a lightning storm. You should fear getting hit by lighting and stay out of the water.
3. God is with us
Despite our tendencies to doubt God and to run to fear, we serve a faithful King who is by our side and makes all things possible. That’s a comforting thought, huh?
In verse 28 the angel says, “The Lord is with you.” Later the angel says that the Holy Spirit would come upon Mary and that the power of the Most high would overshadow her. The angel concludes his announcement by saying in verse 37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”
Pretty neat stuff. God won’t give us a challenge that he is not willing to walk through with us. He has a plan for every challenge that comes our way and will never give us a challenge that he does not already have a solution to.
We often hear it said, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” I recently heard someone disagree with this. They said that God gives us challenges all the time that we can’t handle. He gives us way more than we can bear so that we run to him. Peter knew this to be true when he wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). There would be no need to cast our burden on God if we could do life alone.
It’s common thought that the saying “God will never give you more than you can handle” is a Bible verse. Sorry to burst your bubble. It might look cute on a painted canvas but it’s not from the Bible. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says,”… he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” The verse is about temptation, not trial or pain.
4. surrender and submission
When the angel finished his announcement Mary responded in a pretty astounding way. “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be as you have said.” (vs. 38). She didn’t argue or fight back. She didn’t complain or make excuses. She submitted. Mary saw herself as the Lord’s servant and someone who was counted worthy of carrying Jesus. Despite the challenge of being seen as an adulterer to the public and maybe even her fiance, Mary surrendered. Quite an example to learn from.
When faced with a challenge, it’s easy to pray that God would take it away and provide a way out. But what if it’s necessary to go through the challenge to see something beautiful? What if during a trial, we see ourselves as God’s servants carrying out his will? In no way am I telling you to stop praying. I pray almost everyday that God will heal my voice. I think we should pray and expect God to do big things. I’m suggesting that we change the attitude of our heart in the midst of those prayers. What if we pray for help and guidance while recognizing that his way is sovereign and just? What if we pray for healing but also pray that our desires would align with his? What if we surrender our hearts, understanding that our ultimate purpose is to bring the King glory in whatever was he sees fit? Some food for thought.
That’s about all I’ve got.
I hope that in 2015 Letting Down the Anchor encourages you to continually run to the King of Kings in recognition of his sovereignty and faithfulness in even the toughest of circumstances.
P.S. Thought this was an appropriate song to include. The lyrics are so powerful! Also, I can’t get over the musicality. (Nerd status over here, and I’m unashamed)