Unwrapped – Is God Your Servant?

What are some of the expectations you had at the beginning of the year about what 2014 would look like?

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Throughout the nations of the world there are holidays. The most widely shared commemoration across the world, involving more people and more nations than any other holiday celebration is Christmas. It transcends national history and it goes everywhere where Christianity has ever been. Though it is the most widely celebrated around the world, in many ways it is the least understood. All the holidays and all the celebrations and all the commemorations of people and events across the globe take note of human events…human beings. Christmas commemorates a divine person and a divine event.

We’re not remembering what a man has done or what men have done, but what God has done. This is not a celebration of human history. This is not recognition of human achievement. It is recognition of a marvelous, miraculous, divine accomplishment. Christmas celebrates the most monumental event and the most monumental person in the history of the world. Christmas is all about the eternal, sovereign creator God of the universe coming to earth, coming into the earth of His creation as a human being to live among His creation as one of them.

What are some of the expectations you had at the beginning of the year about what 2014 would look like?

Every single year we start a year with expectations that may or may not be met. WHEN you begin the year you have some expectations…I want four dogs and a cow. I want to get married, to a good looking guy, more money in the bank, opening new frontiers, I want to be able to earn X figures. Every single year, we always start with this is the year of… By the way this is true even if you are not in the church, everybody wants to be a celebrity, everyone wants to make it big and everyone can. In New Age and positive thinking we are being told, just focus, just believe in yourself, you can be everything. You log into face book there are a lot of positive messages. Go and get it.  On Facebook there is always stuff about the world begin opened to possibilities. Everything tells you the time is now.

The reality however is that perhaps for many of you in business it has not been a good year. Even as a nation there has been insecurity on a national scale. The new government came in with a lot of expectations. This year there is also a level of disillusionment around the church and around the question of what faith is. The question then is what do we do when the expectations we had at the beginning of the year are not met?

Think of how it must have been for Mary to hear that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah…

Mary must have had some expectations. She must have felt wow…. Maybe in her head she thought that I am going to have the messiah, that’s kind of cool! This baby is definitely going to be good looking. Perhaps she expected that Joseph would immediately support this idea. This divine birth was going to be seamless, it is going to be in a good place…. Maybe she thought everyone would be like Oh Mary! You are so lucky, all these things are going happen so seamlessly. How the story pans out however we all know was different….

Luke 1:26-33

To understand the true picture let me share a little of the background of what was going on here, Virgin means “one who has had no sexual relation.” This word is never used of a married woman. According to Roman law, the minimum age for girls to be engaged and married was twelve. And Jewish practice basically followed that. Girls were usually engaged around twelve or thirteen and married after the engagement or the betrothal was over. And the reason was because they therefore would guarantee their virginity. As soon as they had reached puberty they would be engaged and then soon married. In that way they didn’t have to live five, ten, who knows how many years, trying to restrain their adult passions.

The most remarkable thing about this passage is how Mary responds to the message. Mary responds to Gabriel’s message with submission and obedience. She identifies herself as a bond servant. In everyday speech, this word describes one of humble station who addresses a superior in recognition of their position. As God’s handmaid, Mary accepts openly what God asks of her.

Mary is exemplary in the way she responds to God’s message of grace. God can do with her what he wishes. This acceptance is significant, taken at possible personal loss:

Such as step might involve her in potential problems with Joseph; men don’t easily share territory. Joseph was likely to be suspicious, angry, perhaps even break the engagement.

Then there was her reputation. Even in these modern times pregnancy out of wedlock is frowned upon in many communities. But in spite of her image and status… Mary accepts the angel’s message.

Besides that there was a death penalty for adultery or fornication. [John 8 Remember the woman caught in adultery] In other words there is risk in agreeing to go God’s way, but as the Lord’s servant, she willingly goes.

Now what we need to understand is that faith in God does not mean we are to be gullible. Mary questions how this birth can occur, given her lack of sexual experience. She is not doubting the announcement, because she does not ask for a sign like Zechariah did. But she is puzzled as to how this birth can occur, which causes the angel to explain further. Mary does not currently know a man and thus cannot expect to be pregnant. In other words she understands normal biology.

In most places in the world we see people behaving as though faith should insulate us from trouble. Sometimes in life we have a distorted view of faith. Faith is supposed to take away the inconveniences of life.

All around us we see pastors peddling this thinking. Think of some of the ridiculous fliers you have seen: ” Radical night for Jesus”. “Iron Gumboots kesha”. “Jet fighter ministries”.   “Your Jordan will part.” Churches even hold summits like: ” Lord where is my money? ”   In other words as a Christian you should have money and if you don’t have money, you attend a kesha (Overnight prayer meeting) to command your money to locate you.  Listen to this one: “Tied down in the village but needed in the City”. You may laugh but I recently attended the launch of a strategic plan where a certain business was planning to expand into the region and they invited me to pray over the plan. Many of us live with the expectation that we are tied down in one country but God is going to expand our influence across the region. Here is another one:  “Three days of war against Ebola Spirit.”  It may sound extreme but many of us feel that faith and sickness are incompatible. And finally, Fear not Interdenominational Prayer and worship ministries invites you to:  9 Mondays of Restoration: Lord let my hair grow again.

Many of us are not at the extreme end of the continuum, but many Christians actually behave as if faith is like a ‘lucky rabbits foot’ which if we carry along, guarantees us positive outcomes. The question I have for you is can you trust God when the expectations you had at the beginning of the year have not been met? When in fact you have experienced all kinds of trouble or difficulty?  Most of us find putting our faith in God incompatible with inconvenience. Do we understand that there is a risk in agreeing to go God’s way? Or are you in it because of what you can get out of it?

As this year comes to a close many of us are living a reality that is not compatible with what we anticipated at the beginning of the year. Yet we did all the right things. We prayed, we trusted God, we claimed a portion of scripture, but things have not worked out as we expected. At the beginning of the year, we challenged you to step out. You decided to trust God for this thing and perhaps it didn’t work out….

Can God do with you as he wishes? Are you the Lord’s servant or is the Lord your servant? Is God alone enough? We serve so many ambitions. We have so many masters. One of them is the interests of image, in other words, people need to know that I am ambitious. This creates a dilemma within us when our reality does not conform to our expectations, ambitions and our desired image.  How do you see yourself when all sorts of situations and circumstances come into your life. Do you have a clear sense of self understanding as the Lord’s servant or are you under some illusion that you are calling the shots?

Mary’s decision to have faith in God took her to unexpected places. This is not the territory of faith she would have seen for herself. We feel that when we have faith this is how the path will look like. But sometimes the path of faith will lead us to unexpected places. Our theme this year was step out and you stepped out and you stepped into some crazy places. It may not look like the way you wanted it to look out.

The path of faith may lead you into an unexpected place.

The most remarkable thing about this passage is how Mary responds to the message. Mary responds to Gabriel’s message with submission and obedience. She identifies herself as a bondservant. In everyday speech, this word describes one of humble station who addresses a superior in recognition of their position. As God’s handmaid, Mary accepts openly what God asks of her.

So what? Is there any hope at the end? With Mary’s story the story gets worse before it gets better. They have to flee the country and head off into a different place. A whole stack of babies die. But at the end of it, we are here because of that story.

I see a ray of hope. Romans 8:28 All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to his purposes.

Mary is a remarkable character, a fearless influencer if you like because of the way she chose to serve with her life. When you live a life that is given to serving God, you might fall, you might experience all manner of challenges, but you keep carrying the mission. Mary accepted the mission and carried it. She was in a relationship with God because of more than what was in it for her. Ultimately of course she got much more than she gave. Many of us are walking life as net receivers. If the vibe is not good, we don’t have time. If it is not now, we don’t have time. We are more about what’s in it for me. This is the Christian of today. What’s In It For Me

Many of us when we get into marriage we are getting into it for us. When we look at Christmas a lot of us are asking for stuff. I want this gift,… I want… I want… we are not at the place of demonstrating service with our lives. We carry this thought that we deserve it. So will I still believe and still walk in faith?

The path of faith may lead you into an unexpected place.

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One Response to “Unwrapped – Is God Your Servant?”

  1. Glory to God. Encouragement as we get towards year end tired and weary. God bless you Pst. Linda.

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