Faith in the Unexpected

See the source image

She stood in the dim light of the early morning with her hand over her belly and her heart full of awe and wonder at the life growing within her. It was all so surreal. She tried to remember every detail but it was so wonderful and frightening at the same time. She pulled her cloak tighter around her and noticed that she was trembling – fear mixed with excitement ran like shockwaves through her small frame. But the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus” (Luke 1:30). Then the angel said the most remarkable thing – that this child would “be called the Son of the Most High God” (v. 35). Oh my! Did he mean that she – Mary of Nazareth – would be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah? She was a simple peasant girl from the nothing town of Nazareth.

In the stillness of the morning, the angel’s announcement still rang in her ears. She repeated aloud the words she said to him that day as if reassuring herself and reaffirming her willingness, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said” (v. 38).

Mary’s quiet, well-planned life was suddenly interrupted by God. Her highest aspirations were to marry Joseph and fill their home with lots of children. She was in a most scandalous situation, one that could have cost her her beloved, and possibly even her life. Yet she humbly surrendered herself to the will of God and embraced an unknown future with awe and wonder and faith.

When God interrupts our lives, it rarely comes preannounced by an angel. It usually involves a heart-wrenching phone call, a doctor’s sad face, a police officer’s knock at your door, your teenage daughter’s morning sickness, or a memo that the company is downsizing. We don’t often get advanced notice of life-altering occurrences as Mary did. Still, we can respond with the same humble submission and faith that she exhibited. Why? Because God is with us in the unexpected, just as He was with Mary. Because He still has a plan and a purpose. Because, Beloved, there is still nothing that is impossible with God.

What Kind of Servant Will I Be?

 “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the later, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

How do you want God to use you? What kind of servant do you strive to be?

I’m not asking what you think you should do in the Kingdom of God, because, in truth, the Lord is more interested in who we are than in what we do.  He has given us, as His children, gifts and talents that He wants us to use in service to Him.  But we can have an influence in how God uses us with the gifts He has given.  In the verses above, Paul is writing to his disciple, Timothy, a young man who has great potential as a servant of Christ.  In his first letter, the older Apostle reminds Timothy about “the prophecies once made about you.” (1 Timothy 1:18)  Paul is now advising him to become a vessel worthy of God’s gifts and calling.

I think Paul’s message is very important for us today.  He describes items in a grand home, probably a palace – made of different materials for different purposes.  He describes some as crafted from gold and silver for “noble purposes” – and the word “noble” means honor, value, respect, specialness and cost.  Picture an elegant vase that sits atop the Master’s table, spilling over with beautiful and fragrant flowers, or perhaps the Master’s own goblet, polished to a rich luster by His own hands as He drinks from it each day.

The opposite word he uses is “ignoble,” a quirky sounding word that means dishonor, disgrace, shame, common use, and is actually a combination of the word noble and the modifier: “negation,” which means that “ignoble” is a term that negates everything that is noble.  When I was a very little girl, I recall visiting my grandmother who lived in little more than a shack in North Alabama, with an outhouse in the backyard, which fascinated my older brothers. (Boys!) At night, Granny would put an old pan under the bed; she called a “chamber pot,” so we would not have to wander out into the dark night to get to the outhouse.  I think you get the picture.  That is the image Paul is painting by using the word “ignoble.”

A vase on the master’s table or a chamber pot.

What makes the difference?  Paul says we do: “if a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes.”

Again, looking at words here, “cleanse,” has a very clear and definite meaning: “to clean out, get rid of,” with the root meaning of “clean and pure.” Paul says that only by clearing out everything that is “ignoble” can we be useful to Master and prepared to do any good work. This is the same idea we get from the writer of Hebrews who said “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” (Hebrews 12:1) Whether we clear it out or throw it off, we must rid ourselves from everything that trips us up or renders us unfit for God’s good work.

King Hezekiah called the Priests and Levites (those who served in God’s Temple) to “Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the Lord. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary.”  (2 Chronicles 29:5) “Consecrate” means “to be holy, sacred, to set apart as dedicated to God; pure, innocent, free from impurity.”  God, called the Temple servants to cleanse themselves – more than just taking a bath, it meant to cleanse their hearts where impurity had taken root.  He also called them to cleanse the Temple, to remove everything that had been allowed to accumulate there that defiled its holiness.

Get this: we are God’s Temple.  “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?  God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (I Corinthians 4:16-17-emphasis mine) As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Spirit, His very Presence lives in us.  That same Presence is what made the Old Testament Temple “The Temple.”  Not because it was declared by Solomon to be so, but because God’s Presence was there.  Otherwise it was just an ornate and beautiful building.  It was God’s Presence that made it the Temple, and it is God’s Holy Spirit that makes us His Temple.  Holy. Sacred. Pure. Dedicated to God.

What in your life and mine threatens to hinder us and make us useless to the Master?  Disobedience, laziness, worldly entertainment, pride, bitterness, relationships, selfish desires, profane words, attitudes, envy, or perhaps a sin we refuse to turn away from?  When we look seriously at our lives what will we find, and what will be do about it?  Nothing is worth giving up God’s purpose for us.

How do I want God to use me? I want to be a vase displaying the beauty of His creation. I want to be a goblet of polished gold in the Master’s hands.  I want the Spirit of God to fill me, just as He filled the Temple.  And that is God’s desire for you. Let’s decide today to be consecrated and available for God’s noblest purposes.

 Holy God, I am Your servant and I want to be useful and useable in Your kingdom.  Please reveal in me anything that will hinder You from using me for Your glory.  Amen