Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Insights 6

Do Not Be Afraid

As we continue looking at the Christmas story, today I want to take a look at what happened to the shepherds. This will be at least two parts, that as a whole I call “Any Moment”. I am calling this “Any Moment”, because what happened to the shepherds in this one moment not only changed their lives and probably their eternities, was so significant that it has been recorded in the Bible forever.

Why “Any Moment”? Well, I was thinking about this from the perspective of the shepherds. This night which we now call Christmas, was really just another day at the office for them. There was nothing unusual going on at all. The hype of the census was over, and although Bethlehem was still crowded, the excitement of change had passed. They were just ordinary people doing an ordinary job on an ordinary day. They had no idea that God was writing His Story and that He was about to incorporate them into it.

That is how I think it is for all of us. God is telling His Story to all creation. It is not a historical narrative, it is a present experience. It did not just happen, it is happening and will happen. And the super cool, really neat, incredible thing is that the story of God includes you and me! Are you ready?

Do you believe, and/or expect God to use you?

If God did call you right now, how would you respond?

Let’s look at the story.

(Luk 2:8) In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

This is the ordinary part of the story. They were just like me and you. They were living their lives horizontally—doing all that needed to be done in order to provide for their families. Maybe they had dreams of expanding their flocks, or of having their own, or of even someday starting something totally different. These were men and boys living life.

(Luk 2:9) And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

Put yourself in their shoes/sandals/barefeet. They are in the fields on an ordinary night, chatting about life, telling jokes, or just thinking. Then, see that phrase, suddenly stood? That is a phrase that indicates immediately, instantaneously, BAM!

What would you do if you were staring off in space and a man just popped in front of you? He did not walk up. He did not approach. He was just there! But this was more than a man. It was an angel…see the next part. The glory of the Lord shone around them. We know from Scripture that the glory of the Lord is brighter than the noonday sun.

Okay, so here is what happened. They are in the dark meadow just doing their job, and this dude pops into existence. In this exact moment, a light brighter than the sun surrounds them. If you have ever had an opportunity to literally be in the spotlight, you may have a little understanding of this. I have been on stage with spotlights on me, and you truly cannot see anything past the light. It is overwhelmingly bright. Imagine taking all of the brightness of the sun, and condensing it to a 25’ diameter circle. They were surrounded in supernatural and supernaturally bright light.

So, their response? They were terribly frightened. Duhr. I would have wet my pants.

What just happened was that the spiritual which had been there all the time suddenly invaded their quasi reality. They were able to see both what they had experienced, and the reality that was invisible. They could not handle it.

(Luk 2:10) But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

I love that. Do not be afraid.

Yet, you know something?
Although you and I will never experience this type of supernatural event—I think that if we are honest with each other, deep inside we have this fear of God’s will. We think that if we truly, completely, and totally released who we are to the will of God…He may just ruin our lives. I mean, what if He called you to be a missionary?
I believe that one of the impacts of sin in the world is that we have lost our trust…not our faith, but our trust in God. We fear His will. This is the essence of sin, when we think that our will for our lives is better than God’s will for our lives. Isn’t this what the devil was trying to do in the garden as Jesus was praying? Jesus spoke and said, “Not my will but Yours be done.” Why did He say that? Was it because the desire of Jesus was contrary to the desire of the Father? Absolutely not! Jesus had said that His meat was to do the will of the Father. He saw what the Father was doing and did it. His entire life was simply following the will of the Father.

I think that as Jesus was contemplating things, He was honest. There were two courses that could be followed. One would result in His death, the other would avoid the cross. Jesus, as a man, verbalized: “Father, Your will for my life is the best thing that I could ever do, even if Your will for my life is my death.”

That is trust.

Let’s stop here with two things: My story and a question.

Denise and I live on the mission field. Some of you have heard our story, some have not. Here is what happened. I was pastoring one of the greatest churches in America (my opinion). One Sunday morning during a sermon, I asked the following question:

“If you told God, ‘Lord, you can do anything you want to in my life, there is no out of bounds’, what would happen in your life?”

In this moment, I clearly heard the Holy Spirit say, “Go to the mission field.”

Now I was not preaching a missions sermon. It was on faith. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the great commission or world evangelism. It was about allowing God to control your life. But here it was, “Missions”. For the rest of the message, the Holy Spirit kept saying, “Missions” to me.

On the way home, I told Denise and she instantly agreed that God had been speaking and showed me something she had written down two weeks earlier that totally confirmed it.

God was saying, “My will is for you to leave everything that you have, everyone that you know, and all that you have dreamed of, and go to a place you haven’t been to do things you haven’t learned with people that you haven’t met.”

I was afraid. Why? Why in heaven or earth would I be afraid of God’s will? Why would I be afraid of the One Who gave His life for me? Why be afraid of my Creator Who loves me? Why was I afraid?

His will was great as long as it did not challenge or truly change me. I was comfortable and happy. I was also capable. Now, I was being asked to do something outside of my ability. It was going to have to be God and not me.

I realized that my faith was in God, my trust was in me. I had to give God everything and allow His perfect love to case out my fear.

End result: In May I will have been on the mission field for three years. It has been the most challenging…and the most rewarding, most enjoyable time of my life. I have grown more in Jesus in the last three years than maybe all of my life combined till now. This would have never happened had we not trusted His will…in reality, Him.

The bottom line is this: God’s will is the best thing that I could ever do! Even if His will for my life meant to die.

That is my testimony, now my question.

I am sure that if you read my blog, you probably have placed your faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
You believe in God.

Do you trust Him?

With your money? Children? Marriage? Ministry? Life? Dreams?

Do not be afraid!


Caris said...

Testimonies are so powerful - stories of people who have trusted and followed God through fire and water... and lived to tell about it, lol. Thank you guys for being that example, and sharing your story.

Stumbler said...

Very cool Joe.... and beautifully written.