Craig Smith - Miracle Management
Welcome to Mission Hills. So glad you are here. I have haven’t done anything yet — but, thank you. Actually, you know what? I’ll be honest — I’m exhausted. It’s been a long weekend. I know a lot of you were serving and on mission with Jesus at the Colorado Christmas Adventure. That was such an awesome time as Danny said, we had almost 6,000 people come through. The best part for me was — I was playing an innkeeper, kind of close to the door, so I had a lot of conversations with folks from Mission Hills that were so clearly on mission. They would introduce me to a family or neighbors or coworkers. The family would kind of move on, and the Mission Hills person would lean in and they go, I have been inviting them to come to Christmas stuff and church stuff for years, and they would never come. This is the first time they have said yes, and I was like, that’s awesome. That’s why we did it.
To all of you that invited somebody or served at the Colorado Christmas adventure, maybe you did a house or you painted faces, so many different ways you were on mission with Jesus in the community. Just thank you. Let’s give it up for Jesus and what he did this past weekend. That was awesome, and hey, I’ll get to preaching in just a second. Let me just say this, but the ability to do those kinds of things — and that’s why we are at church, right? That’s why God’s got us here. The ability to do those kinds of things is so dependent upon your generosity in serving, but also being on mission with your money. As we come to the end of the year, let me just do this quick reminder. I think this is true for all churches, but I know it’s true for Mission Hills. We depend heavily on end of year giving to make our budget for the year and to be able to begin the next year from a good solid place to be on mission with Jesus for 2019. Think about Mission Hills as you are thinking about end of year giving, or maybe you are watching online, and this ministry has been a huge blessing to you.
We know thousands are watching online right now and we are so grateful to be able to connect with you via this medium. But maybe God would lead you to give to Mission Hills a gift here at the end of this year. I just want to say that and — all right, that’s enough of that. It’s always weird, but honestly, being on mission with our money is a big part of being on mission with Jesus generally. It’s true with my family, and we need to do it every now and then. Let me get to what we are really here to talk about today, which is joy, right? This is week number two in the “Joy to the World,” series. There is a piece of art in my house. It’s in the laundry room of all places. I’m not sure why my place put it here, but she put it up years ago. It says “I choose joy.” I’m not sure, again, why that’s in the laundry room, but it’s kind of interesting. I know when she put it up a few years ago I was like, that’s nice.
I have walked past it for several years, and I don’t really pay much attention to it, but as I have found myself studying for this series on Joy to the World, I have found myself looking at that and thinking some things that I haven’t really thought much before. Two main thoughts I find myself having again and again when I see that, “I choose joy.” I think first, you know, that’s right, actually. It’s a true thing. It’s a Biblical thing. Joy is a choice. Happiness just happens. Happiness is a result of our circumstances, and that’s why it kinda comes and goes with our circumstances, but joy is bigger than that. It’s not based on our circumstances. It’s rooted in a relationship with God, and so because of that, joy is something we can choose to have in spite of circumstances, and you know, that’s right. The second thing I thought was, man, I’m not good at that. Anyone else? I’m not necessarily good at choosing joy. I often find that I allow circumstances to really impact my ability to have joy.
I have been praying a lot this Christmas season that God would teach me to be better at. To get me to that point, to get me to the point where I am actually able to choose joy, and he’s been teaching me a lot about what it means to choose joy, and so I’m really excited to be able to share another piece of that this week. Why don’t you go ahead and grab your Bible and make your way to the Gospel of Luke. We are going to be in 1:26, kind of picking up where we left off last week, part of the Christmas story that’s a little more familiar than what we looked at last week, but a really powerful truth here about making — you know, the joy that came to the world in Christ, making it possible for that to come to our world. That’s really my prayer for today, God, how do we make joy to the world in Christ mean joy to my world, to our world as individuals.
So 1:26 in Luke begins this way, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee. Let’s just say, Gabriel’s been busy, right? We haven’t seen Gabriel for a long time. Last time we saw Gabriel show up was about 600 years ago. He was talking to Daniel, and now he’s popping up all over the place. I wonder how he feels about this, because his primary duty lately has been baby announcements, which I think is kinda interesting. He’s a warrior angel, but he’s been basically been going, baby’s coming. Baby’s coming. I mean, they are big news babies, I get it, but I wonder sometimes how he feels about it. He’s probably okay with it, but last week he was in a place you expect an angel to be. He was in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Israel is a really important place. Israel is the place of the people of God, so it’s the most important country in the world. He’s in the capital, the most important city in the most important country, and he appeared in the temple which is the most important place in the most important city in the most important country, and he’s in the place where they would burn incense to the Lord, so he’s in the part of the most important place of the most important city of the most important country which is where you expect angels to show up, right? Important places.
But here he says he went to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, and that’s not an important place in anybody’s book. Nazareth in Galilee, that’s a back water, back woods, off the map, off the radar, unimportant kind of place. I think that’s so interesting because what happens here, really, is the most important thing that’s ever happened anywhere, but it’s happened in a place most of us wouldn’t expect God to do something important. And it reminds me, this truth I forget so often in my own life that some of the most important things that God does, He does start — He starts them in unimportant places. The places we would never think to look because who would be paying attention there? I think that’s true, not only geographically in a place like Nazareth, but I think it’s true in our lives too. We have these things that we are longing for God to do, these big things we are praying for, these miracles we want God to do in our lives, and we have in our minds an idea of where something big like that would start.
Well, it’s going to be over here. It’s this place. It’s this place, and we tend to look at the important places, right? The reality is that sometimes what God is doing in our lives, it starts in the places we wouldn’t be paying attention to because we don’t think they are important. I think some of the reasons we don’t see what God is doing until way late in the game is because we are looking for places that we think God needs to move. This is where we think God needs to show up. This is where we think God needs to start doing something, but the reality is if it’s in the world or in our lives, some of the most important things God does starts in unimportant places to us. The reality is, there are no unimportant places to God. The angel shows up in this kinda unimportant place, little bit of a surprise.
Verse 27 says, he appeared to a virgin pledged to be married to a man name Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. We say, oh, that makes more sense. He’s appearing to somebody who sounds kind of like an important person, right? He’s appearing to Joseph. Joseph’s a descendant of David, right? David — he’s a great King of Israel. Joseph — he’s one of the distant descendants, sure, but he’s part of the important family line. He’s got the right pedigree. He’s an important, person, right? The angel appears to Joseph, right? No, no, no, no. That’s not what it said, is it? It said he appeared to — Mary. Oh, yeah, she’s engaged to an important person, but he didn’t actually appear to the important person. Not who we would expect him to appear to. He appears to Mary. Joseph is the man in the middle here, actually. I always feel a little bit bad for Joseph in the story because man, he doesn’t have a big part to play, does he?
He’s the man in the middle here. He’s sandwiched in between two mentions of the important person here, which is Mary. It’s interesting. We are told Joseph comes from an important family. What are we told of Mary’s family? Nothing. Not a word. What we are told about Mary is — twice, interestingly enough, we are told she is a virgin. He appeared to a virgin. The virgin’s name is Mary. You understand what he’s saying here. This is so important, is that God is more concerned with your character than he is with where you come from, do you hear me? God is more concerned with your character than where you come from. You see, Joseph came from the right family line, but that’s not who God’s eyes are on here. His interest is in Mary right here. His emphasis on Mary is on her character. She’s a virgin. It gets mentioned twice. What that means is, she’s the kind of person — she honored God. I’m not saying Joseph didn’t, but the emphasis is on Mary and her character. She honored God. She kept sexuality in the way God intended.
It’s a good thing, but it’s supposed to be done within the boundaries of marriage. She’s not married yet, so she’s keeping her sexuality there. She’s honoring God in that way. That’s a character issue. Twice that gets mentioned. You see God is more concerned with our character than where we come from. That’s not the world always thinks about it, is it? The world pays a lot of attention to where we come from. Pays attention to the color of or skin. Pays attention to the countries we come from. Are you a native in this country, or are you an immigrant? That matters to the world. It opens and closes doors. Pay attention to the families that we come from, the schools we go to, the companies that are on our resume and those kinds of things.
The world pays a lot of attention to where we come from which is pretty frustrating. If you have ever been in a place where you didn’t get an opportunity, something didn’t happen for you because you didn’t come from the right place in some way, that’s pretty frustrating because we can’t change where we come from. You know what we can change? We can change our character. Our character is something we can work on, and apparently, this is really good new, God cares a lot more about our character than he does where we come from.
So he appeared to Mary, and the angel went to her, and he said, greetings you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. And I’m going to tweak that translation a little bit. I’m reading the New International Version. Almost every other version says the same thing. They say something like “greetings.” But the actual Greek word there is a commandment. It’s a command to rejoice. The first thing the angel says is, rejoice. He says, be filled with joy. He says, choose joy, Mary. Then he says, you are highly favored by God. He says, the Lord is with you, which is great sounding news, isn’t it? How many of us would love to be told, God’s paying attention to you. God’s got His eyes on you, and He’s with you. How many of us would like that? Of course, we would. That’s awesome right, which is why it’s so strange — look what Mary does. Verse 29, Mary was greatly troubled. Mary was greatly troubled at his words, and she wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
That’s interesting, right? He goes, hey, rejoice! Have joy! Well, maybe she’s an Eeyore type personality, right? Maybe she’s just allergic to joy. So, rejoice — oh, it’s going to be really hard. Ahh . . I don’t think so. He says — he says, you are highly favored, right? Like why would that be troubling? Why would that be upsetting? I mean, literally in the Greek, it’s really kind of cool. There is a little bit of a play on words in the original language here because the word for rejoice and the word for favor sound very, very similar here. Kinda what he says is rejoice, God enjoys you. Like why would you be like, oh, no. I don’t know why that would trouble you. He says the Lord is with you. What could be better than that? But actually, that’s the problem. That’s the key phrase there because as good as that sounds, it’s actually a loaded phrase.
She’s heard that phrase before. This is a girl who knows the story of God’s work with the people over the years. She knows her Bible. She knows the Old Testament, and she’s heard that phrase before. She’s heard the phrase “the Lord is with you.” And she kind of know, as good as that is, it also has kind of a downside to it. She knows that the Lord was with Moses, for instance. Moses — God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, right? Yeah, God had great plans for Moses, but you know what? Pharaoh chased Moses across the desert. They were attacked. It seems like everywhere they went, they were attacked, and his brother and his sister, they betrayed him. Yeah, see, God had great plans for Moses, but the world had great pains for him, right?
And the Lord was with David, great King David, the greatest King of Israel. He took down Goliath. That’s awesome. Yeah, and his brothers mocked him. His mentor tried to murder him. God had great plans for him, but the world had great pains for him. Or Daniel? The Lord was with Daniel. Mary knows that. The Lord was with Daniel. He was one of the great Old Testament prophets, one of the greatest of the greats. He spent his whole life in captivity in a foreign country. He kept climbing up the ladder of success, only to be knocked back down again when a new king came in. It was success and setback, success and setback over and over again. He got thrown into a lion’s den. Yes, God had great plans for him, but the world had great pains for him. So Mary hears this phrase, “the Lord is with you,” and she’s like, oh no. Because she knows — she knows that to be used greatly by God often means being hurt greatly by the world. Do you hear me, Church? I wish that weren’t true. I really, really — like if I was writing the Bible, I would have had a couple of changes in direction.
I would have edited some stuff because I don’t like that reality, but it is a reality, and we have to deal with it. To be used greatly by God often means being hurt greatly by the world. To have the mark of God’s favor on you, that’s a really good thing. I have experienced this. I have had a lot of God’s favor in my life, and I’m very glad for that, but I have also learned, you know what the mark of God’s favor looks a lot like? A bullseye. See — see, when God says I have plans for you, what he often means is, I want you to March with me. I want you to lead some people. Maybe it’s — maybe it’s in church, maybe it’s in your business. Maybe it’s in your neighborhood. Maybe it’s in your family. He says, I want you to lead. I want you to march with me, but God often marches against the flow of the world. He marches upstream against the flow of this life and against this world, and the problem is when you are marching against the flow, all of the debris coming down river — guess who it hits? The person out front doing that.
Sometimes in our families, or even in our churches, and certainly in our neighborhoods and in our businesses and other places in life, when God says, I have plans for you, come march with me, we have to recognize that there — there’s often a pain that accompanies that. I think it’s interesting that Mary gets that. But I think the angel gets it too, which is why he said what he said right off the bat. The very first thing he said was what? It was, rejoice. The first thing he said was, have joy. The very first thing he said was, choose joy. You might go, I don’t get that. If he knows what Mary knows, which is having the Lord’s favor on her and being used greatly by God is going to cause some pain, if it’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to lead to difficult circumstances, and it absolutely did for her, didn’t it? If he knows that’s going to happen, how can he tell her to rejoice?
Because he understands what we have already said which is, joy isn’t rooted in circumstances. See, happiness is rooted in circumstances, but joy isn’t. Joy isn’t the result of our circumstances, joy is the remedy for them, do you hear me? Joy is not the result of our circumstances, joy is the remedy for them. Joy is what allows us to face difficult circumstances. Happiness is rooted in circumstances. Happiness just happens. It’s how we feel when good things happen, but joy is not that. Joy is rooted in a relationship with a God who promises that your present is not permanent. Do you hear me? That’s where joy comes from. It comes from a God who says, stick with me, and your present is not permanent. So joy is not the result of circumstances. Joy is the remedy for them.
So the angel says to Mary, I know that you know what I know. This is not going to be easy. Here’s what you need to get through it. You need to choose joy. You need to rejoice. Verse 30 the angel said to her, do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. I know that you know what I know, but don’t be afraid, Mary. The God who promises that the present is never permanent, you have found favor with that God. He says you, verse 31. You will conceive, and you will give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus, and he will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descents forever. His kingdom will never end. He’s giving her a glimpse here, right? He’s saying this is what is waiting for you. This is what is on the other side of those difficult circumstances. We don’t always get that glimpse, okay? You and I don’t always get this insight into what’s waiting if we will trust in the God who says our present is never permanent.
You and I don’t always get this glimpse of what happens if we choose joy and allow that joy to take us through those difficult circumstances, but we need to understand is that whether we get the glimpse Mary gets or not, the reality is always the same. There is always a moment coming — listen to me, there is always a moment coming when our joy and happiness, that is our circumstances, when they come together. It may be on the other side of life. It may be somewhere down the line in this one, but there is always a moment where the joy we have in the Lord and the happiness that comes from circumstances, they do come together. He’s giving Mary a glimpse of that moment. He’s saying, here is what is coming. Your child — he’s going to be the one that everyone has been waiting for. He’s going to be the one who does inherit all of the promises that were given to his father David.
He’s going to sit on the throne forever and ever, that’s going to be your boy. You talk about bragging rights, right? Like I don’t know how you put that on the back of a bumper sticker. My kid’s an honor society student. My kid’s the captain, well my kid’s the King of Kings. I don’t know how you do that, but he says, that’s coming, because the reality is that the joy that God is building — we talked about this last week, the joy that God is brewing is always so much bigger than we can to begin imagine, so he says to Mary, hold on. Mary says an interesting thing. How will this be? How will this be, Mary asked the angel, since I am a virgin.
You know, if you were here last week, if you were listening last week, you may remember that Zechariah got announcement of a miracle baby, and he had a question, and it didn’t go so well for him. Mary has a question now, and we are going to see that it goes okay for her. That feels a little sexist, right? How come Zechariah got a punishment and Mary just gets information? Well the answer is because Zechariah ‘s question is motivated by something very different like we talked about last week. Zechariah is motivated by fear. He doesn’t want to get his hopes up. He feels like it’s been too long. God hasn’t moved yet and so he says, I’m going to need some proof before I begin to let my hopes rise. Mary’s not asking for proof. Mary’s just — she’s just curious, and maybe a little bit concerned. She says, I’m a virgin, and not only does that mean she honors God, but it also means that she’s pretty young. She’s not married yet.
There’s a sense of urgency. There is a sense of immediacy to what the angel is saying. I don’t get this. How is this going to play out, right? She was pretty young, by the way. Like we don’t know exactly, but a few years after this some Rabbis set a law in place and they said you can’t marry off a girl too young, and so they put a minimum age for marriage for Hebrew girls, and you know what it was? It was 12. They said you can’t marry off a girl before she’s 12, which means Mary could have been right around there. Of course, you might have gotten engaged a couple of years before that. We know she’s engaged, so honestly, Mary could be 10, 11, 12 — somewhere in there.
So Mary goes, I’m young, and I’m not married, but there is a sense of immediacy. There is a sense of urgency here. So how is this going to play out? And the angel answered her. He said the Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, and so the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. He basically said, Mary, don’t worry about it. God’s got this. See, when God’s going to work a miracle, you know who has to work the miracle? It’s God. You don’t have to worry about the how. Don’t how this thing to death, right? Just understand when God promises He’s going to do something, He’s going to do something. He says, even your relative — even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who is said to be unable to conceive, she is in her six month.
He says not only is got going to do this, he says God is already doing this. This miracle that God’s telling you about now. This glimpse that God’s giving you, God’s already on the move. He’s got pieces in play. He’s already got plans that are in process. He’s already got the gears that are beginning to grind along and they are beginning to spin. Everything’s coming together. I’m just telling you this now, but you are coming late to the party. The reality is that God is already been doing stuff that you had no idea about, and I think that’s so often true in our live, that we are praying for a miracle, and we don’t see it’s happening. We feel — we talked about this last week, right? We feel like silence equals inactivity. Maybe even — like maybe silence means that God’s not paying attention, but so often, God’s going, no, no, no, no. Your prayers have found favor in My ears.
Your desires are things that I long to give you. Joy is absolutely your destiny, but this is a big joy, and I have to get this thing moving. There are things you don’t even know are happening that are happening. And we get to frustrated. We get so impatient. We go, God’s not doing anything, and God’s back there going, man, I’m doing so much more. It’s already happening. Things you wouldn’t even believe are possible are already taking place. Just wait. Then the angel says this, in verse 37, he says for no word from God will ever fail, and I love that. He says, you are going to have a son, Mary. That’s God’s word to you. She says, how? He says don’t worry about how. Don’t worry about when. It’s all in motion. God’s got this thing, but no word from God will ever fail.
That’s a hard thing to believe sometimes, isn’t it? Can we just be honest with each other? You know when — when our family is a mess, when our marriage is falling apart, when our relationship with our kids just feels like it’s constantly tension and strain — it feels like the career is falling apart — our fear and anxiety has us frozen. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that no word from God will ever fail, especially those words about joy, right? Especially those promises that our present is not permanent, and that joy is our destiny, sometimes when things are hard, it’s hard to believe that no word from God will ever fail. One of the ones I think is hardest to believe but so powerful — it’s Psalm 126:5. I love this. It says this, those who sow with tears shall reap with songs of joy. Those who sow — those who plant with tears, will reap — will harvest with songs of joy. That’s a word from the Lord, right?
When we plant things in the ground, and we are weeping over them, maybe honestly, maybe we are not planting them with the hope that they are going to grow into anything. Maybe we are planting them and in our minds, it’s just a burial, right? This is a dream. This is a hope. It’s done. It’s dead. We are planting it, but there is no expectation there is any more life coming out of that. We water it with our tears. When things are hard, when circumstances are difficult, when happiness is not happening, the idea that we will reap with songs of joy — that’s hard to believe sometimes. What does God say? Through His messenger Gabriel when Mary wants to know how? How is that going to happen? The angel says, God’s got this, for no word from God will ever fail. Okay.
But then — then the question becomes, let’s just assume that’s true. Let’s assume that God will do what he says he’s going to do, that my circumstances are not my destiny. My present is not permanent, and joy is in fact what is coming, if that’s true, then the question becomes, how do I get from here to there, right? How do I get from where I am where not only is joy hard to choose, but happiness seems really far away, almost forgotten? How do I get from here to there where joy and happiness collide? How do I get from sowing with tears to reaping with joy? Do I have to do anything? Do I just wait? Is it my job, when God says He’s going to do something, do I just wait?
I don’t think so. I think we have this idea that when God says He’s going to do a miracle, like with Mary, He says, God’s got there. If God’s got this, then I don’t have anything to do. My only job is to wait, and sometimes waiting is the hardest thing in the world, right? But my job is only to wait? I think we get this idea sometime, but you know what? That’s not what the Word of God teaches us. That’s not what the history of God’s doing miracles teaches us. I mean, let’s talk about Moses for a second, right? God says, I’m going to do something like nobody’s ever seen before, and God parted the Red Sea, right? God did that. Moses didn’t do that. God parted the Red Sea. Before the sea was parted Moses was told, you have to raise up out your hand. You have to put up your staff, and only when you have done that will that sea part. And the Israelites, they saw what happened. God did it, but they had to step into the dry seabed with the water piling up on either side.
See God did the miracle, but they had to manage the miracle, right? They had to manage their part in it. God killed Goliath. Let’s just be really clear about that. Adolescent boys with small rocks don’t take down giants. It just doesn’t happen, okay? God took down Goliath, but David, he had to step out on to the battlefield, right? He had to pick up the stone, put it in the sling, whirl it around and put it in the general right direction, right? It would have been weird if he shot it over there and it did this boomerang thing. That would have been cool, but I think he had to be pointed in the general right direction. God did the miracle, but David had to manage that miracle. He had to manage his part in it. Peter — you know, Peter walked on water, right? Jesus made Peter walk on water.
Jesus enabled Peter to walk on water that day, but Peter had to get out of the boat, and the moment he took his eyes off Jesus, the moment he stopped managing the miracle, the moment he stopped managing his part in it, what happened? He started sinking. Zechariah and Elizabeth — we talked about them last week, right? God said, I’m going to give you a baby. You are going to have a miracle baby. I’m going to do that, but — I have to be careful here. Some of you are ahead of me, right? I’m going to keep this “G.” Don’t worry about it, I’m going to keep it all “G.” But see, what God did with Mary is a little different than he did with Zechariah and Elizabeth. In both cases, God does the miracle, only God did the miracle, but God made their baby a little different than the way he made Mary’s baby, right? Let’s just say it this way, God made their baby the old fashioned way, right?
He said I’m going to do this, but Zechariah had to go home, and he had to pick up some flower on the way home, a nice bottle of wine, put some music — I’ll stop there, but you see what I’m saying? God did that, but they had a part to play. They had a role in managing that miracle. You go, yeah, that seems to be true a lot, but not for Mary, right? Mary didn’t have anything to do, right? No, no, no. She had the most important thing to do. Verse 38, I am the Lord’s servant, Mary answered. I don’t know if you understand how powerful that is, how important that is, how foundational that is. She said, I’m the Lord’s serve. You understand what she’s doing, she’s leading with who she is. That’s her first response. That’s how she begins the rest of this. She says this is who I am, I’m God’s girl. I’m the Lord’s servant.
And what you need to understand is this, and I learned this years ago, actually, over the years I have talked to a lot of different first responder, soldiers, police and firemen. One of the questions I ask a lot of times is, how do you do what you do? Like how do you run towards a fire? How do you run towards the sound of gunfire? How do you run towards the sound of battle, and one of the most consistent answers I get back, and it’s such a powerful answer is, they say, I remind myself, that’s who I am. I remind myself, I’m a firefighter, so of course, I go to where the fires are. I’m a police officer, so of course I go to where there is chaos. I’m a soldier, so of course I go toward the sound of the gunfire because listen to me, what Mary is telling us is such an important truth. Who we think we are determines what we do. Who we think we are determines what we do. If we think we are afraid and fearful, we are not going to trust when God says to truth. We are not going to move when God says to move.
If we think we are insignificant, we are not going to believe that God could be paying attention. If we think we are unimportant to God, we are not going to believe for a minute that God might have a miracle He wants to do in our lives or through us in the world. Who we think we are determines what we do, and so Mary begins. She says, I’m the Lord’s servant. That’s who I am. What do the Lord’s servants do? She says, may Your Word to me be fulfilled. You understand what that is? That’s trust. She says okay. I’m God’s girl. Let’s do this thing. It’s a rough translation.
You understand what it is. She says this is who I am. I’m the Lord’s servant. What do we do? We trust. She says, let’s do it. I trust you. I think it’s so interesting, last part of the story is this, and it happens immediately. And then, at that moment, then the angel left her. It’s like there is this moment in the story, hey, Lord’s favor is on you. God’s got plans for you. She’s like, oh, no. He says let me give you a glimpse of what’s coming. I know it’s going to be hard, but choose joy, and you are going to get through that, and you are going to get on the other side of it, and you are going to look back on it, and it’s going to be incredible, and he’s watching her. What are you going to do, Mary?
I’m God’s girl. Let’s do it. You see that’s trust. The angel sees that and he says, okay. My work’s done. I’m out of here. You see, it’s in motion. She’s moving. You need to understand that if nothing else, if you remember nothing else from this today, remember this — the first step to experiencing the joy of the Lord is trust in the Lord. Do you hear me? The first step to experiencing joy is trust. It’s the indispensable — indispensable, first step. What does it mean to choose joy? Joy which is not only — it’s not a response to our circumstances, but it’s the remedy for them. What is the first step to choosing joy which takes us through those circumstances and out the other side where we see happiness and joy come together, whether it’s in this life or next, what is the first indispensable, foundational, first step? It’s trust.
The first step to experiencing the joy of the Lord is trust in the Lord. Let me give you a couple of questions to wrestle with this week. The first question is just this, is there a place in my life where the fear of pain is making it hard to submit to God’s plan? Maybe as mom, as a dad, as a husband, as a wife, as an employee, as a boss, as a student, that in some way, you know what God is calling you to do in that sphere in that place in your life is potentially painful, and so you are having a hard time making that first step. Is there a place in my life where the fear of pain is making it hard to submit to God’s plan? First step is to identify that and say, here’s a place I need to trust.
Second question, what’s God calling me to do to manage the miracle that I’m longing for? Understand that only God can do the miracle, but sometimes we have to hold out the hand to raise up the staff to pick up the stone to get out of the boat to get onboard. We have to manage our part in it. Sometimes we go, God, I want you to do this, and He says, I will do that, I just have this little thing — this little thing I’m asking you to do to manage your part in it. Sometimes we know what it is, but we haven’t done it. We are not willing to do it. We get frustrated. We get mad at God. God, why aren’t you doing the miracle? He says, I’ll do something bigger than you can imagine, but I just got this little thing. It’s so little. I can’t even see it — compared to what I’m going to do.
There’s something God is calling you to do to manage this miracle that you are longing for, and then maybe this last question, where in my life is a lack of trust in the Lord, maybe keeping me from experiencing the joy of the Lord? Let’s pray about this. Would you join me in prayer?
God, we acknowledge that trusting You is not only easy. We know that the miracles that You do are insignificant compared to the tiny parts that You ask us to play. Sometimes the fear of pain, the fear of having that bullseye that the world sees — just honestly, Lord, just the struggle to trust You is hard. We ask that You would grow our trust. Lord, we know the fertile ground that trust grows in. We know that the proof of Your goodness, the proof of Your love, the proof of Your commitment to us and to eternal joy is — it’s right there on display for everyone to see. It’s there on the cross, Lord we know that You sent Your own Son to die for us because You loved us so deeply, and we know it’s a fact of history, it’s not a matter of faith. It’s a fact of history that he did not stay in the ground. They buried him with tears and he rose with a shout of joy. They greeted him with shouts of joy. It’s a fact of history, Lord. He rose from the dead, and now he offers new life to those that will simply trust in what he did for them. Lord, we know that is the proof of Your goodness, and Your trustworthiness. We ask that You would allow us to deepen our trust for You, and our trust in You. Lord, as we trust in You, would You allow us to experience the joy of the Lord that comes from trust in the Lord?
I’m going to ask, if you are a follower of Jesus right now, on all of our campuses, wherever you are listening to this, if you are a follower of Jesus, would you begin praying for the people around you, because I believe on all of our campuses right now, and watching online, there are many people — they need to take the first big step of trust. They are hearing a message that God has joy for them that their present is not permanent, and they are longing to experience that, and they are going, how do I do that? If that’s you, and you are wondering how you do that, let me tell you right now, the first and most important step toward that destiny is trust in the God that loves you so much that He sent His own Son to die for you. And right now, if you are hearing that, and you know that you have never taken that first step of trust, if you have never put your faith in what Jesus did for you on the cross, but right now the Holy Spirit is stirring something in you, and you are going, I’m ready to take that first step.
If you are ready to take that first step, if you are ready to put your trust in Jesus to carry you on, not only to forgive your sins, and get rid of everything that would be a barrier between you and this God of joy, but to actually begin moving you towards that joy, if you are ready to take that step, would you just slip your hand up right now? If you are ready to put your faith in Jesus, would you put your hand up? That’s awesome. I see those hands. That’s great. If you are watching online, just click the button below me. Wherever you are, I’m going to invite you to put your trust in Jesus. Just say to him, this is what you say:
Jesus, I have done wrong. I don’t really deserve your love. I know that, but thank you for loving me. Jesus, thank you for coming, and taking all that I have done wrong, and paying for it on the cross. Thank you. I believe you rose from the dead, and you are offering me new life right now, and so I choose to trust you. Right now, I put my faith in you. I put my trust in you. Please forgive my sins. Start moving me toward joy. I give myself to you. I’m yours. Right now and forever. Amen.
Can we welcome those who came into the joy of the Lord for the first time today, and into the family of God? That’s awesome.