I remember when I was in high school, I thought that I had life all figured out. I was going to become a lawyer--a corporate one to be specific. I dreamed of the power and the money. Things were coming together for me to pursue this career too. I already had an internship lined up with one of Vancouver's corporate law firms. Then, my school decided that they were going to have a missions trip to the country of Peru.
As I sat there, listening to the leaders talk about what it would be like, I thought to myself: Definitely not for me. But try as I may to convince myself of this, a nagging feeling continued to tug at my gut until finally, I decided that I would give it a go. I signed up, and on the way home from those three weeks abroad, sitting in the back of my parent's vehicle it struck me: it was not for me to become a lawyer. God was calling me into ministry. I believe the words that came out of my mouth were something to the effect of "Stupid! I think God's calling me into the ministry."
Now, when God says that he wants you to do something, and when things come together as they did for me, normally you would think you'd jump on board. But not me. It was another year before I finally laid aside my own purposes and fears and submitted myself to King Jesus' purpose for my life and came to a place where I was willing to trust that he could do whatever it was that he was going to do through me in the way he said he wanted.
That was a difficult place for me!
But really, that's a difficult place for all of us, isn't it? We have our plans. Sure, not all of us are excited for them--sometimes they look a lot like failing at life--but they're our plans! We look at ourselves and we place a value on us. We say, "I deserve this" or "I'm not good enough" or "I'm too good." "I earned it" or "I blew it." We look at Jesus and say "Why aren't you giving me what I want?" or "You couldn't possibly forgive or use me." Yet, at the end of the day, Jesus has a purpose in mind for us. We may not like it, or know it, or even think we are capable of doing it; however, the fact remains that he has a purpose for every one of us, and we need to come to a place where we are willing to allow him to help us fulfill our purpose!
If you don't believe me, then maybe you'll believe what God says. This time of year is that time that we look at the birth of Jesus--God come to earth as a human little baby boy--and we wonder and we celebrate and stand in awe of him. But as Luke, a historian whom God used to write about Jesus' life, explains to us: for one young Jewish girl Jesus' birth was no simple matter.
Luke 1:26–38 NLT
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.”
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Can you imagine what that day must have been like for Mary? How frightened she must have been? What God was asking her to do would cost her dearly. There she was, as young as 12 years old, knowing the impossibility of what the angel was telling her was going to happen. Understanding that to become pregnant before her wedding night would open her up to ridicule, rejection, and possibly doom her to never marry which, in that day, meant she may be forced to spend her life as a beggar or a prostitute. Yet she placed her trust in God, that she would be giving birth to the King who would save the world and whose Kingdom would last on earth forever.
Friends, what we see here is that Mary submitted herself to God, she trusted him, and she allowed him to enable her to accomplish the purpose he had for her.
What God is telling you here is this:
Trustthat King Jesus can do what he is going to do through you .
You need to trust that King Jesus can do what he is going to do through you!
You're not too big for the plan that he has for you, nor are you too small, because
God's ability to use you is not dependant on how useful you think you are .
Mary was just a young peasant girl, likely going about her business doing some kind of work around her family's home when the angel appeared to her. She was ordinary. In fact, in the eyes of the world she was probably less than ordinary. Yet God chose to use her--and use her he did!
When Gabriel spoke to Mary saying that she was highly favoured, what he meant was that she had received God's grace. On her own, she could never be good enough for what God had for her--no one is good enough on their own!--but God gave his grace. In Ephesians 1:6, Paul wrote:
Ephesians 1:6 NIV
to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
That phrase, "freely given," is the greek word charitoō, and is the same word that is translated "highly favoured" here in today's passage. You see, you don't earn God's grace, he freely gives it. And when God gives his grace, you are highly favoured by him.
The great thing is that, the birth of Jesus was the start of God's grace being brought to earth in an even more powerful way. Jesus would be executed on a Roman cross, but unlike any before him or after him...he was completely blameless and innocent. His birth leads to his death, and his death leads to his resurrection. See, in his death he bore the weight of your rebellion against God, and in his resurrection he won the victory over death. Now, any who believes in him is a recipient of God's grace. In other words, anyone who chooses to make Jesus their King is "highly favoured" by God.
Friends, whether you are a 12-year-old peasant, an 85 year-old billionaire, or someone in between: God's ability to use you is not dependant on how useful you think you are. He can use you! Just trust that King Jesus can do what he is going to do through you.
As the angel Gabriel reassured Mary: the word of God will never fail. Nothing will be impossible with God. You see, whoever you are, wherever you've been, whatever you've done, you have a purpose, and when you trust that King Jesus can do what he is going to do through you you will see that
Jesus makes what you think is impossible possible .
Writer Doug Larson once wrote, "Some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible."
Sometimes we think that we know what can be done, and when Jesus tells us what he wants us to do, we say "Everyone knows that's impossible!" Anyone with half a brain knows that an 88 year old barren woman shouldn't be able to have a baby, and for sure: a young virgin girl can't get pregnant without first having sex! Yet Jesus makes what you think is impossible possible. He's not interested in what "smart" people say is possible. He's interested in what he's said he's going to do and in whether or not you'll trust that King Jesus can do what he is going to do through you!
In Mary's case, she was to give birth to the promised Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Israel whose kingdom would never end, the King above all Kings who has brought and is brining the Kingdom of God into the midst of us all here on earth!
And as she was told this magnificent thing, she knew just what to do--something that you must learn too.
You need to humble yourselfbefore King Jesus.
When God called me to become a pastor, I wasn't happy. I had other plans for my life--better ones, in my mind. I had to recognize that I am not in charge. When I gave my life to Jesus, it wasn't just to get a pass out of hell and to go to heaven when I die. It was to become his servant. Giving your life to Jesus isn't something that only affects you in the future, giving your life to Jesus means that you make him King, now; and you receive the life-giving Holy Spirit, now. You've never been in charge, but sometimes we like to pretend we are. Now is the time to humble yourself before Jesus.
Mary's response to God's call was, "I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true." She humbled herself before God. She recognized that she was to be a humble servant before him. And in that humility, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, she conceived, and she gave birth to the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Will you humble yourself today and trust that King Jesus can do what he is going to do through you?
Will you join me in beginning to discover your purpose and how each of us can live as members of the Kingdom of God here on earth?
Perhaps you're like me, and you're not very excited about what you have felt God is saying to you. That's fine, but here's a challenge: let's all allow him to help us as we go forward, let's trust in his ability to do what he has said he will do, and let's humble ourselves--not following our own ways, but saying "Yes, Lord" in response to him.
When I look back at the choice I had to make back then, whether to trust that Jesus could do what he was going to do through me, I am so glad that I decided to follow him. Yes, there were things that I had to give up, but I gained so much else. When I think of who I could have become had I ignored God's call, I am so glad that I obeyed my King, and I hope that all of us will continually be listening for where the Holy Spirit is leading us, and that we will all trust that King Jesus can do what he is going to do through you.
If you're ready to start doing this, here are three action steps for the week:
Remember that God makes you worthy, you don't make yourself worthy.
Humble yourself before King Jesus and accept the call when it comes
No matter what you think of yourself, remember that God can use people like you!