I teach Sunday School this month. We follow the Standard Lesson series. This quarter (which starts in December, go figure) is looking at 12 people who responded with faith and obedience to God’s call. The first lesson, today’s, was about Mary when the angel Gabriel tells her she will conceive a son by the Holy Spirit.
Since I taught on Mary last December as well, I just spent part of the class reading the scripture from Luke 1:26-38, 46-55. I talked about Mary’s remarkable response and her submission to God. At the time of her response to Gabriel, I’m not sure she really thought through the implications. She just had a spirit ready to say yes in the face of an incredible situation. When she goes to see Elizabeth I think she had time on the road to start thinking about some of the less than positive things that could come out of this. The ridicule, how it would affect her parents and Joseph, and what it might mean for her life.
Then Elizabeth responds in just the right way, calling Mary blessed. Mary’s song at that point is truly wonderful as she rejoices in the special grace and mercy that God has shown her and His faithfulness through the generations.
Since the focus for the quarter is on obedience and being ready to respond to God’s call, I then read a blog entry from Zach Nielsen about an adoption his family was entering. I am going to include it here, but his blog is worth watching.
What are we doing?!?
Ever said this to yourself?
With all this adoption stuff flying around our house since last Sunday night, we have been finding ourselves asking this question quite a bit lately. Two examples:
Early Tuesday morning after we got the news that this baby could be ours if we could just round up the money in about 24 hours, my wife rolled over in bed at 4am and said, “Are you awake?” Of course I was. Sleep has been a bit tough to come by with the sudden realization that we could have a fourth child very soon. Are we really going to do this? What are we doing?
Tuesday afternoon after the adoption was verbally official with the people in Alabama, we were off the phone for about 2 seconds before it seemed that our three kids all decided to simultaneously lose their minds. Can we really deal with four kids under the age of 6? What are we doing?
This is not second guessing our adoption in the least, but rather just feeling the weight of the enormity of what God has called us to. Temporal emotions are sometimes nearer to the surface than our deeply rooted sense of calling. It’s not a question of doubt but rather one of an assured sobering weightiness.
I’m sure Abraham felt this way ask he marched up the hill to sacrifice his covenant child.
I’m sure Moses felt this way being a guy who couldn’t talk well and yet was called to command the most powerful man in the world to get a new plan for slavery in his kingdom.
I’m sure Paul probably asked himself this question numerous times as he was shipwrecked at sea.
The Biblical examples go on and on.
Lately it has occurred to me that we should probably be asking ourselves this question a bit MORE if we are actually laying our lives down for the Gospel. The Bible says that the disciples immediately dropped everything and followed Jesus. Sounds pretty radical to me in light of what they were leaving behind. Sadly, in my comfortable, control driven life, I don’t ask myself the question of “What am I doing?” nearly enough.
Certainly if you are habitually asking yourself this question it could just be an indication that you are painfully unwise, but compared with the hyper-control I have over my life these days I think I am pretty far removed from this danger.
I pray for the faith to live like this more. I also pray our churches would be full of people who are living lives that are so on the edge that times of uneasiness are the norm. May this drive us to our knees in dependence and forward with great faith for the cause of love.
I love this and have thought the same thing myself. I may feel overwhelmed by my own “stuff” sometimes, but I am not in the center of His will and traveling along often enough.
Then I talked about Samson because of a column I found on World Magazine’s online community, written by one of my favorite columnists, Andree Seu. I’m including some of that here as well.
But a recent Sunday’s sermon mentioned the incident in which Samson ripped the gate posts of Gaza out of the ground and carried them off on his back, which the preacher took to be a flamboyant visual aid communicating that God had given the Philistines over to Israel—if they only had the faith to see it, and act on it!
Instead, the attitude of the Israelites throughout their occupation by Philistia was abject defeatism, timidity, fear, and a resignation to powerlessness. They scolded Samson: “Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us? What is this you have done to us?” (Judges 15:11)
I was stunned. Paradigms shifted. Suddenly I saw that the contrast between Samson (a man of faith, for all his philandering) and the Israelites with their low-temperature faith was a contrast between great expectations of God and low expectations of God. Bawdy, bodacious, bad boy Samson was intimate with God, always asking for favor, always expecting it, always receiving it.
What is normal Christianity? Whom do I want as role models? Those sensible Christians who scold that we can’t do this or we can’t do that because don’t-you-know-that-the-Philistines-rule-over-us? Or those who see that God still offers us new conquests—if only we have the faith to see it, and act on it?
Samson made a lot of poor choices, but he certainly lived on the edge and there is something to his asking, expecting, and then receiving. Good food for thought.