Peninsula Community Church
December 7, 2014
Today, we begin a short three week series entitled “Fear not.” As we begin this, I must confess that some of my thoughts come from a message presented by Craig Groeschel of Life Church. While I may use some of his outline, the meat is mine as directed by the Holy Spirit. The focus of the series will on the the proclamations given by the angels who announced the birth of the Savior. As we read each story we find that each message given was one of hope and promise. And yet, each one receiving the news experienced a level of fear. For that reason, in each proclamation we hear these words of hope “fear not.”
This morning, we will look at the first of these proclamations. It comes to a young teenage girl named Mary. Let’s read together. Luke 1-26-35 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.
Notice what transpires here in this conversation with the angel. The angel proclaims that Mary is highly favored. You would think that she would be excited about this but she is troubled by what she hears. The angel however encourages Mary, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” Twice the angel proclaims that Mary has God’s favor. You would think that this message would bring joy to Mary’s heart but she has an opposite response. The truth is, when God calls us to engage in His will, we can be troubled and have a level of fear. Fear is a natural reaction. It can overwhelm us and cause us to panic. It can be so powerful that it will prevent us from accomplishing the tasks given to us by God.
Why is fear such an obstacle to us? Fear is an obstacle because it is the act of placing our faith in the wrong thing. Let me explain. We have heard it said that fear is the absence of faith but I would argue this morning that fear is placing our faith in the “what if’s” of life rather than the promises of God. I am sure that you are familiar with how this goes. What if I give my life to Him and then things don’t go the way I want? What if I lose my job? What if the economy disintegrates and I lose everything? What if I share my faith and no one gets saved? What if I teach that Sunday School class and no one is interested? We could go on and on but I think you understand. You see fear is placing our faith in the worse case scenarios. Rather than having faith in the best that God has planned for you, we would rather trust in the what ifs and the potential negative outcomes that may never happen. The result is we are bound by fear and not faith. Therefore, we become powerless to achieve God’s will. But let me let you in on a secret. God has not given us a spirit of fear. He has given us a spirit of power, love, and sound mind or self-control (2 Timothy 1:6).
To diminish the power of fear let’s look at a couple of truths. First, God’s interruptions are always inconvenient. Have you ever thought about the story of Mary. She was a young girl who was probably somewhere around 15 or 16 years old. She had been promised in marriage to Joseph. In her day this was a big deal. You see the engagement period would last a whole year. It was the couple’s time to plan for the wedding and begin to set up their home once they are married. With that in mind, I am sure that she was excited about planning her wedding. She was thinking of all the things that would make her wedding day so special. The fact, is she did not need this interruption from planning her wedding and her future with Joseph, but it came.
While we view such things as interruptions, God sees them as an invitation to a God size adventure. You see when we feel God is interrupting our lives, He in fact is inviting us to something bigger, higher, and better in the scope of eternity. Think about all of the people through the Bible whose lives were interrupted by God. Moses was watching sheep on the backside of the dessert when he was called to be the deliverer of the Children of Israel. Abraham was enjoying the good life when he was called to a new home. David was tending his dad’s flock when he was called to be the king. Saul was on his way to punish more Christians when God called him as one of the greatest missionaries of all time. The problem is that too often we shake off God’s invitations by calling them interruptions when God really wants to do something new and different in our lives. In recognizing God’s interruptions, God will take us to new places, to do new things. Gloria Gaither once stated that God has always been in the interruptions of her of life. It is there that God has used her most.
Secondly, God does not just interrupt us but His purposes are often different than our plans. Can you imagine how Mary must have moved from ecstatic joy of knowing that she would be the mother of Messiah to suddenly being shaken by what people would think. What would her family think? What would Joseph think? Will he believe my story? You see in that day to be pregnant out if wedlock was a sin punishable by death. The consequences were huge.
Can you imagine her telling Joseph? I wonder if the conversation went something like this. “Hey Joe I have something to tell you and you might want to sit down? Joe, I’m pregnant.” Joseph most likely would have responded with “How did this happen? I know I am not the father, so who is the dad?” Mary’s immediate response was “Well it is the Holy Spirit.” Perhaps Joseph laughed at first. Regardless of his response we know that in time Joseph accepted his role as the father.
Here is the lesson for us. What we think is a curse can become a blessing in the economy of God’s will. This reminds me of Joseph’s experience in the Old Testament. He was rejected by his brothers. He was sold into slavery. He was falsely accused. He was sent to prison. He was forgotten. Promises were broken. But in it all God had not forgotten him. When he was reunited with his family, he could proclaim that what was intended for evil God had turned to good (Genesis 50:20-21). God’s intent was to bring life to his family and he needed Joseph in this place to make this happen. The only way he could do this was to allow Joseph to go through all of the set backs he experienced so that he could be promoted and placed in a position to save His family. Jeremiah said it best. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
His invitation is to do something different because His purposes are always different than your plans. Your response to God may be the same as Mary’s. How can this be? I don’t see how this can be possible. I don’t see how God can work in my life. It is impossible for me to forgive that person that has wounded me so deeply. God I don’t believe that you can heal my marriage. I don’t believe that you can heal the brokenness of my life. I have this physical ailment and I don’t know what I am going to do. My finances are a mess and there is no hope. Here is the fact that we can hold onto. Nothing is impossible with God. He can do the impossible but it will change your plans. And whatever comes, God can use it for His glory.
You might ask, what is our role in all of this? You see we must be obedient to God’s word, His will, and His ways. If God is asking you to take a step of faith then here are two points you need to hear and apply to your situation. God is responsible for the outcome. We are responsible to be obedient. The fact is we cannot predict the outcome of the things we trust God for, but we can trust the outcome to God. It is His responsibility. If you do what the Word calls you to do first then you will be directed more than you think.
I can guarantee you that there will be a time that God is going to call you to trust Him with your life or a decision. He may put a ministry on your mind. He may be calling you to teach the youth or children of our church. You may not understand how you can do it, but trust Him with your decision. Take the step of faith and watch God do the impossible. To accomplish His will, we need to surrender to Him just like this teenage girl did 2000 years ago. He interrupted her life for a higher purpose and a higher calling. He interrupted her life with a purpose much greater than she ever imagined. In her mind, she could not imagine how this would work out but she had to remember that she needed to trust God as all things are possible with her God. As we now know, she trusted God and the world was changed forever.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom