December 13, 2015
Fear can be a great motivator or it can suck the life out of us. Last week we started to look at 3 different events in the Christmas story where an angel came and said FEAR NOT!
Last week we saw the angel appear to Mary and we learned that sometimes when God calls us, we view the call as inconvenient interruptions, but God views them as invitations to something bigger and better.
Today, we’re going to see where an angel appeared to Joseph and look at the fear he would have experienced.
There are very few people who don’t care what others think of them. The reality is that, at one level or another, all of us are very concerned about what others think of us. Do you like the clothes I wear? Do you like my hairstyle? Do you think I’m funny? Am I smart enough? Am I attractive enough? Do I fit in? Do you like my Instagram selfie? And we become so easily obsessed with what others think of us.
Joseph was going to have to battle with what other people’s opinions were. He had to decide between what was socially acceptable and what God wanted him to do. Let me give you the context ~
Joseph was engaged to be married to a teenage virgin girl named Mary. The rules were different back then. Today, if you’re engaged, and things don’t work, you just break off the engagement.
In Mary and Joseph’s day, an engagement was a binding agreement. You would be engaged for 1 year, and if you wanted to break off the engagement, you actually had to file for divorce. The engagement was so serious that if one died, the other would be considered a widow. They took engagements seriously.
With that in mind, we pick up the story in Matthew 1:18 ~
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
Can you imagine the conversation Mary had with Joseph? Mary would tell Joseph to sit down and would say something like ~ “Sweetie, I need to tell you something. And before you say anything, I need you to hear me out and don’t jump to conclusions! I’m pregnant! And the good news is, it’s by the Holy Spirit!”
Can you imagine what’s swirling around in Joseph’s head? He’s thinking, how long did it take you to come up with this story? Don’t give me the Holy Spirit stuff – I saw the way that guy was checking you out at the well!
In Joseph’s eyes, either Mary was not pregnant, but crazy; or she is pregnant and she’s lying. Joseph had to decide if he stays with Mary, what will happen to him; and if he divorces her what will happen to him — and to her.
He’s marked for the rest of his life. If he’s the guy that got her pregnant, or she got pregnant with someone else, then, from that point on, he’s going to find it hard to find a job.
If he divorces her, what other father would want his daughter to marry him. Because the question is always going to remain . . . was Joseph the father?
He might find it difficult to get people to do business with him. He’s taking his donkey in for a tune up, and the people say, “Sorry, we don’t work on that kind of donkey here.” Because everybody’s going to know what was going on in his life.
Eventually, we learn Joseph is going to bail on the relationship. He’s done. He doesn’t believe her, and he’s thinking it’s best to get out of this.
Matthew told us ~ 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
Notice the Bible refers to Joseph as her husband, that’s the commitment that went along with being engaged. He’s jumping out of the relationship. He was trying to do the noble and honorable thing. He’s thinking I’m not going to expose her to public shame. I’m not going to say to everybody, “She cheated on me. Stone her.” He probably loves her and cares about her, and thinks, Maybe she can have this baby somewhere, and then start over. I’ll start over, and we’ll move on.
And he’s going to learn something from God. And it seems to me what he is learning is that when you listen and obey God, you’re probably going to disappoint people.
The next thing we learn comes in verses 20 and 21 ~
20 But as he considered these things,
In other words, he’s thinking — — Here’s the pros, and here’s the cons. And the cons (staying with her) outweigh the pros, so I’m going to break up with her.
But something happens while he’s considering how he’s going to let go of Mary. We read . . . behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Then the angel adds . . . 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Can you imagine having this dream and then waking up and thinking what just happened? Did I really see an angel or was that some bad hummus I ate last night? Is this really real? Was Mary really telling me the truth? What now? I already had my plans all set!!
But now if Joseph obeys God . . . What are people going to say about me? What is this going to cost me?
On the one hand, I get to part of the greatest event in history!
On the other hand, this is going to be really difficult!
Everyone will tell me – “Run for your life! Don’t marry this girl! We always knew she was bad!
Should I do what people want, or should I do what God wants?
And this also happens to us. We’re going to be confronted with amazing opportunities to obey God, which may be costly . . . or we can do something easier to win the approval of people.
We need to understand . . . and this is so true in all of life, especially it’s true for younger people . . . We become obsessed with what people think about us and we forget what God thinks about us.
And sadly most of us slowly slide to the side of wanting to please our so-called friends more than we want to please God. We’re more concerned about ~ What do you think of me? Do you like me? Do I fit in? Do I measure up? Am I cool enough? Can I be a part of your club? Can we be friends?
And without even meaning to, we surrender our lives to the opinions of people, at the expense of living to please God.
And here’s the cool thing about this, if we do the opposite, we’re doing the right thing. Instead of being obsessed with what people think about us, we should be obsessed with what God thinks of us, and not worry what others think of us. The more we focus on God, the less we worry what others think. We need to please God, not people.
We should know by now, we can’t please everyone. If you try to please everyone, it’s not going to happen!
Some will like your hair, some will not!
Some will like your music, some will not!
Some will like your politics, some will not!
Some will like your faith, some will not!
If you try to please one, you displease another. No matter how hard you try, you cannot please everyone.
But the good news is, you can please God! You can live a life where God looks at you and says, “You did good! You did the right thing! You brought glory to My name. Well done, good and faithful servant.”
And Joseph is going to have to get to a place in his life where he says, You know what? I value the opinion of God above the opinion of people.
We need to understand because Joseph obeyed God, he and Mary would face a great deal of criticism from their community.
Think about all of the different ways Joseph and Mary would be criticized. They would be publicly disgraced, again and again. People would whisper about them, “Hey you know that’s not really Joseph’s baby. The baby doesn’t even look like him.” OR “They say it was by the Holy Spirit, but I saw his donkey parked outside her apartment at 2:00 a.m., and you know they weren’t doing a Bible Study at 2:00 a.m.” And try explaining that to the parents! This was a huge and public disgrace.
I don’t know how it will play out in your life, but there’s going to be a time, when you believe God is calling you to do something that is unpopular. And if you obey, you’re going to be shunned or criticized.
You may be a teenager, or a college student, and you’re breaking free of the party lifestyle. You say, “I’m going to serve Christ, and I’m not going to party anymore.” And all your party friends are calling you a “Jesus freak!”
You may leave a high-paying job to go to a lower-paying job, because you believe God’s calling you to do something that would make a difference and you believe this new job will make a difference in the world — even though the pay is less. And people are asking – Why would you do that? Good for you, but that’s stupid!
Or maybe you don’t take your vacations to warm places, but you save your money to go on mission trips or you donate your money and participate in a local ministry instead of spending your money.
There’s an endless of possibilities that we can do, and things we can be criticized for. Yet, when God calls us — we need to listen and obey.
The final point is really pretty simple. Extraordinary acts of God often start with ordinary acts of obedience.
When you haven’t exercised you can’t just get up and run 5 miles. When you haven’t prayed in months, you don’t start with a goal of praying for 1 hour. When you haven’t read your Bible in awhile, you don’t start saying I’m going to read Genesis tonight! It does not happen that way.
Usually it’s small acts of obedience that get us started and it grows. And we want to see God’s action plan before we’ll commit. We want to know what He has in store for us. But Mary and Joseph didn’t have that. They were told they were going to have a son and He was going to be the Savior of the world.
They didn’t know details. And we don’t have to see the whole picture to put the first puzzle piece in place, and trust God with the rest. Because who’s responsible for the outcome? The outcome is God’s. What is our responsibility? Obedience!
This should be encouraging to all of us. We don’t get what one simple act of obedience can lead to. When you simply obey what God puts on your heart, amazing things can happen.
It happened to me when I said yes to going to church one Sunday morning, and here I am today. There were a lot of obstacles, but I had to say YES, in order to get to this point. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have Debbie, Joshua and Zachary; and I wouldn’t be here!
For so many of you, it was an act of obedience that changed your life. God called you . . . He invited you . . . it may have been inconvenient at the time, but you can’t imagine life being any different now!
Maybe you’ve given up inviting someone to worship, but now is the time for you to keep pushing. Invite them to Christmas Eve worship, invite them anytime. You have no idea how their life might change. You have no idea how generations might be different, by a single act of obedience.
When you serve somewhere in the church, you have no idea who you might impact, whose life might be different, how you might bless them and how they might bless others. You may realize the greatest time of your week is when you’re serving, even behind the scenes, and you find love, joy, power and fulfillment.
Some of you might start to tithe, give 10% to the church or just start giving . . . and one day you look back and say, “I can’t believe what God did in our lives, or in our family, or in our finances, when we took this simple act of obedience.”
We don’t have to completely understand God’s plan. Most of the time we don’t. We just say YES to God and follow His plan.
You have no idea what a single act of obedience can set into motion, when you obey what God puts on your heart. Extraordinary acts of God often start with ordinary acts of obedience.
And so, the angel spoke to Joseph and told him what was going to happen and in one short verse we hear Joseph’s response ~
24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took Mary as his wife
He did what the angel of the Lord commanded him to do. And through that simple act of obedience, the greatest act of God in human history, was brought to fulfillment.
You have no idea what you set into motion with a single act of obedience to God. So, when God speaks to you, you wrestle with it: what’s easy, what’s right, what do people think, what does God think.
And there could be one sentence that is a life-altering sentence: And you did what the Lord prompted you to do. You have no idea what one single act of obedience can set into motion.
Folks we need to be bold with our faith. We can’t worry what other people think. We need Jesus. We need His forgiveness. We need to follow Jesus. We need to want Him with all of our heart.
Would you pray . . .