Pastor Shim's sermon on December 5:
Luke 1:11 -20 & 26-38
"The willingness to take risk is our grasp of faith." G. Woodberry
"I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said." Mary, Luke 1:38
"Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Heb 11:6
“The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.” George Eliot.
Whose voice are you listening to? It’s important to know if it’s the voice of God asking us to take a risky step. As Pastor Ray Ellis puts it, "There is a difference between being a dare devil and taking a step of faith."
A man appeared before the pearly gates. "Have you ever done anything of particular merit?" St. Peter asked.
“Well, I can think of one thing," the man answered. "Once I came upon a gang of high energy bikers who were threatening a young woman. I told them to leave her alone, but they wouldn't listen. So I approached the largest and most muscled biker. I smacked him on the head, kicked his bike over, ripped out his nose ring and threw it on the ground, and told him, 'Leave her alone now or you'll answer to me.’"
St. Peter was impressed. 'When did this happen?"
"A couple of minutes ago."
There's a big difference between faith and foolishness. We need to learn to discern the voice of God from that of Satan. Jesus said we can know his voice, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they know me” (John 10:27). Mary is a good example of hearing and discerning God’s voice.
Mary received a message about giving birth to the Savior of the world (Luke 1: 26-38). God sent his angel Gabriel with a message to Mary in Nazareth, a town in Galilee. Mary was a virgin betrothed to Joseph. Betrothals were as binding as marriage.
Gabriel said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you." Mary was troubled by Gabriel's greeting and she wondered in her heart what it meant. Gabriel said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will give birth to a child and call his name Jesus, the Son of the Most High, and He will be King Forever.”
Mary asked the angel, “How can this happen, since I am a virgin?"
The angel answered, “Mary, God is going to use the power of the Holy Spirit for you to conceive.” Gabriel told Mary how God enabled old, barren Elizabeth to conceive a child, for nothing is impossible with God. God created the whole universe with the spoken word.
Mary believed the message and submitted to God's will when she said, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." Mary was saying in effect, “Let Your will be done, not mine.” She was God-centered. But a self-centered person prays, “My will be done, God bless it.”
Why was Mary “favored of God among all women?” We may not know God's reason; however, we know from the Bible God favors obedience, according to Deuteronomy 5:10, “but showing
love to a thousand generations, for those who love me and keep my commandments." And His commandment is, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut 6:4). Mary's love and obedience is evident by what she said in
submission to God.
"I am the servant of the Lord," willing to do His will—she loved God more than security. Mary's song of praise shows her deep faith in God and a desire to honor him (Lk.1:46-55).
"My soul glorifies the Lord." Her desire was to glorify God because of her devotion to him.
"My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” She found her joy in God, and she knew God personally—she called him “my Savior.”
Have you found your joy in the Lord too?
King David did, and he encourages us to do the same in Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desire of your heart.” Paul affirms what David said in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; rejoice.” Paul was in prison when he wrote about rejoicing.
We can rejoice in God as we are advised, if we focus on the greatness of God rather than our daily problems. Our rejoicing even in times of trouble shows our trust in God’s faithfulness to bring us through!
Our trust in God is not based on wishful thinking – it is because of what God has done and what he can do. That’s what the angel told Mary to calm her fear and to go along with God’s
plan. God will fulfill His plan because “nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). Mary understood God was calling her to trust him and take a risk to become the mother of the Son of God. She acted on her faith and cooperated with God to bring the Savior to the world despite the cost to her.
What were Mary’s risks in obeying? Death, shame, divorce.
Faith in God makes the impossible possible, as the story of Jesus' disciples shows in Matthew 14:22-33. The disciples of Jesus were in the middle of a life-threatening storm. They saw Jesus coming toward them walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they
were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they cried out in fear. But Jesus said to them, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid."
Peter, hearing the voice of the Lord, took a risky step of faith. "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water.”
Jesus invited Peter to walk on the water, saying, "Come." Peter walked on the water toward Jesus
until he turned his eyes away from Jesus and saw that the wind was boisterous. He was afraid and began to sink, and he cried out, “Lord, save me!"
Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him. ''You of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Doubt is the enemy of faith. It causes unbelief and it hinders the miracles of God from happening. The doubter suffers God's wrath or punishment. An illustration from Luke 1:5-25:
The angel of God came to tell the priest Zechariah that God was going to give him and Elizabeth a son in their old age. Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
The angel Gabriel, in effect said, “When God sent me to tell you about the birth of your child, he knew the fact of your old age and that of your wife, and you chose not to believe. Your faith in nature won over the supernatural power of God. Therefore you will be unable to speak until God proves his word to you, by giving you a son.” Zechariah was not able to speak as the angel has said. God punished him for his refusal to accept by faith what he had been asking in prayer for a long time.
Zechariah perhaps was more deeply disappointed in God for delaying answering his prayer and gave up on the idea of having a baby in his old age, even though he knew as a priest about Abraham and Sarah having a baby in their old age. Faith is a decision of the heart, because the mind might only focus on the natural. The heart knows that God deals with the supernatural as well.
Mary willingly gave up her own plans and took a risky step of obedience to God. Mary said, “Behold the bond slave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word” (Luke
1:38). Mary believed, despite the fact no woman ever gave birth to a child without a man's involvement. Unlike Zechariah who doubted Gabriel's word, Mary said, "Be it done to me according to your word." To Mary, the word of the angel was the word of God, and with God all things are possible. She put her future in God's hand, took the step of faith to partner with God in bringing the Savior of humanity to the world.
What's God asking you to do? What is God asking you to believe to reach the lost souls? What have you risked for God? Mary believed and now we call her the most blessed of all women. Faith makes the impossible possible.
The following story told by Paul Northwick proves it.
Hudson Taylor, the great man of faith who founded the China inland mission, integrated faith and risk. He said, "Unless there is an element of risk in our exploits for God, there is no need for faith."
When Hudson Taylor went to china, he made the voyage on a sailing vessel. As it neared the channel between the southern Malay Peninsula and the island of Sumatra, the missionary heard an urgent knock on his stateroom door. He opened it, and there stood the captain of the ship.
"Mr. Taylor," he said, ''we have no wind. We are drifting toward an island where the people are heathen, and I fear they are cannibals."
“What can I do?" asked Taylor.
"I understand that you believe in God. I want you to pray for wind."
"All right, Captain, I will, but you must set the sail."
“Why that's ridiculous! There's not even the slightest breeze. Beside, the sailors will think I'm crazy." But finally, because of Taylor's insistence, he agreed. Forty-five minutes later he returned and found the missionary still on his knees. "You can stop praying now," said the captain. “We've got more wind than we know what to do with!"
Faith honors God, and God honors those who take the risk of obedience!
What are we taking home from today’s message?
1) God planned to send his Son to save us from the cancer of sin – his motive? Love (John 3:16).
2) God planned a virgin birth, and He invited Mary to cooperate. She accepted the challenge at a cost.
3) God wants to save people. If you are saved and you know the joy of salvation, are you sharing Jesus?
4) God is offering you partnership in the work of the Gospel. It cost Mary to obey God – are you willing?
The Grace to be forgiven is free, but it cost God the life of His Son – that’s super abundant grace!
Christmas means Christ came to save sinners from eternal separation from God. You’re the messenger!
Pastor Shim Habte – Willows United Methodist Church, 544 N. Shasta
St.; Willow, CA 95988
(530) 934-3190, Shim53Jesus@gmail.com