- Fear of What God is Asking Me to Do
- Luke 1:26-29
- Lyndol Loyd December 11, 2016
December 11, 2016
Fear Not: Fear of What God Is Asking Me to Do
Here at LakeRidge we are spending the season of Advent looking at various accounts from the Christmas story where angelic beings show up and the first thing that they say is, “Fear not” or “Don’t be afraid.” We began a couple of weeks ago and looked at the story of Zachariah & Elizabeth and discussed the “Fear of Being Able to Trust What God Says.” Today we are going to examine the angel appearing to MARY to announce that she will give birth to Jesus and our topic will be “Fear of What God Is Asking Me to Do”.
I bring this topic up because I think that a lot of people have this feeling toward God that is similar to the feeling they have towards some annoying person who is always wanting something out of them. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the person who calls and you know they want something from you so you let it go straight to voicemail or you spot them from a distance at the grocery store turn your cart in the opposite direction and think to yourself, “I’ll just pretend I don’t see them.”
I believe that many of us, even unknowingly, can treat God that way. In other words, we want to be close enough to God to get the good stuff. Right? I want to experience the goodness of God and I want the promise of Heaven, but I don’t want to be so surrendered to God that he has total access to my life. Because if I completely surrender to him he might make me go to Africa. He might make me give up something I enjoy. Sometimes there is this fear of “What if I give it all to him and life doesn’t go the way I want for it to go?” So fear can overwhelm and overtake us.
Some people say that “Fear is the opposite of faith” or that “Fear is the absence of faith.” I would actually argue that “Fear is actually faith, but in the wrong things.”
Fear is placing your faith in the “what if’s.” What if the economy crashes? What I lose my job? What is someone I love gets cancer? What if I never ever get married? What if? What if? What if? Fear is placing our faith in the worst case scenario.
It can be so very easy to be overtaken by fear. Those of you who have children, chances are that you know what I’m talking about. As a parent if you are expecting your child to come walking through the door at a certain time and then that doesn’t happen it can become alarming. They are running five or ten minutes late and you haven’t heard from them and all of the sudden you can allow your mind to start going toward worst case scenarios. What if she was in a car wreck? What if something happened? What if? What if? What if?
Why do we fear God’s plans?
Why is it that we are often afraid of God’s plans? I have a couple of thoughts as to answers about this question and they are both based on this story of the angel appearing to Mary.
- God’s Interruptions Are Often Inconvenient.
Aren’t they? We’ll see this as we read our scripture passage. Let’s begin with Luke 1:26-29. “26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary…”
Now let’s talk about this for a moment. An angel appeared. I think sometimes, in our world today, when people think about angels they don’t really think about them the way that they are. They think about these cute little fat bald, naked baby, cherub looking angels playing a harp on a cloud. That is not the biblical image. These are fierce warlike creatures who are able to strike down a nation at God’s command and yet are submissive enough to go and protect an innocent child. This angel’s name is Gabriel. And the story goes on…
“…She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you![d]”
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.”
Now let’s start to get into the backstory of what is happening in Mary’s life. We don’t know for sure how old Mary is. She is probably fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen years old. The reason we know this is because, in her culture, shortly after a girl hit puberty, she would be promised or betrothed to be married.
So if you think about a young girl’s mind, she is probably all giddy and excited about what is to come. Just think about modern day brides. What are they doing? They’re on Pinterest checking out all of the ideas for what can be done for a wedding. They practice writing their new last name.
And suddenly this angel interrupts all of that for Mary. The angel interrupts all of her plans and it is incredibly inconvenient for how she has her future mapped out.
So what can we learn from all of this? An important principle would be- what we call interruptions God calls invitations. Those times that I feel that God is interrupting me he is often inviting me to something higher or something better.
Think about it throughout scripture. With Moses God interrupts with a burning bush and offers an invitation to become a deliverer of God’s people.
With Jonah God interrupts his workout of swimming back to the shore and invites him to go back and do what he was supposed to do, which was to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. In the New Testament, God interrupts Saul, who had been persecuting and killing Christians, and invites him to follow him and become the author of much of the New Testament.
I believe that there are many of us who often shake off God’s invitations, calling them interruptions when God really wants to do something new and different, higher and better.
Some of you have this kind of a story already. Maybe you didn’t feature yourself to be an especially religious sort of person, but someone interrupted your plans invited you to be part of a Bible study or life group, maybe invited you to church and all of the sudden you heard about the grace of Jesus Christ, realized how it could be made real in your life and now you walk a different path.
What happened? God interrupted your life invited you to something better and higher and it transformed you. And you can continue to get those kinds of divine invitations in life if you won’t shake them off as interruptions.
An angel of the Lord appears to this girl, who has her life planned out, and says I’ve got something different for you. What does the angel say to her? “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!”
I don’t know about you, but if God has got some favor to hand out, I want a little bit of that action. We’re going to find out that a favor isn’t exactly what she thought it was going to be.
- God’s Purpose Is Often Different Than Your Plans.
His purpose for us is often so different than what we had planned out for ourselves. We see this in vs. 31-33, “31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
You can only imagine the swing of emotions that must have taken place within this teenage girl as God reveals his purpose for her. There must have been a moment when she was blown away by what she was told and then it must have swung the other way to “Oh my gosh, what are people going to say about me?” Because to be pregnant out of wedlock was a sin that was punishable by death by stoning.
From honor to fear. From “I’ve been chosen” to “Oh, I’m going to have to tell Joseph.” You can only imagine how that conversation would have to go. “Hey Joe, how’s it going? Maybe you want to sit down. I’m pregnant by the Holy Ghost.” It must have sounded so crazy because God’s purpose was so different than her plans.
I don’t know how it will play out in your life, but you will see that so very often God’s purposes are different than our plans.
Maybe you always thought you would have perfectly healthy children and come to find out you have a child with special needs. That wasn’t in your plans, but now you can see what an unexpected blessing this child has turned out to be.
Maybe you lost your job and you didn’t think it could get much worse so suddenly you had no choice, but to start the business that you always dreamed of starting and now you can’t imagine not having that business. His purpose was so much different than my plans.
Popcorn vs. steak: Let me explain it to you this way. This might seem like sort of an odd illustration, but I think it will help you get my point. A couple of years ago Madeline was gone to Virginia to George Mason University to compete in a speech and debate tournament and Joni was gone with her to chaperone so it meant was left at home alone because Abigail was still off at FSU. Come Sunday afternoon my plan was that I was going to just hang out at the house, complete my list of honey do jobs, watch football and have popcorn for dinner. That was my plan.
The next thing I know I get a text message from friends inviting me over for dinner. I get there and he’s cooking nice thick juicy steaks on his grill. I bite into that steak and it is juicy and tender. It was the best steak I’ve had in a long time.
Do you see the contrast? It was popcorn vs. steak. That’s the difference between my plans and God’s plans.
If we have any young single girls who are dating some guy right now. It might be that after today what you need to do is go tell the guy your dating, “You’re popcorn and popcorn is nice and all, but I’m holding out for a steak.” You see God has plans to prosper you, not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. That is the kind of plans God has for you.
Every now and then God may interrupt your life with an invitation and by doing so you will find out that his purposes are higher than your plans.
Then in vs. 34 it says, “34 Mary asked the angel, ‘But how can this happen? I am a virgin.’” In other words, this is totally impossible. It’s absurd. There’s no way this can happen. For me it would be like if an angel appeared to me and said, “Lyndol, you’re going to win the U.S. Open. You are going to be a golfing champion.” My response would be, “You’re crazy. That’s could never happen. Have you seen my golf game?”
For every one of us, who are followers of Christ, who are trying to walk with Jesus, there will be a moment when our faith is challenged. God is going to interrupt your life with an invitation, he’s going to ask you to participate in his purposes rather than your plans and when that takes place it is going to require faith to believe it can take place.
- “God I don’t know how you can ask me to forgive someone after what they have done to me. That would be impossible for me to forgive.
- God I don’t know how you expect me to trust you and to be generous when I don’t have very much right now. I don’t know how that would be possible.
- God I don’t believe that you could ever heal my marriage after what happened. I don’t think things could ever be good again.
- How on earth could you ever reconcile this relationship with one of my children after what they said and what I did. I don’t think it is possible.
This is what we see going on with Mary. Then in vs. 35 it says, “35 The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God… 37 For nothing is impossible with God.’”
I don’t know who came to church today just for this. But I’m quite certain that there are people here who are facing obstacles that feel that they will be impossible to overcome. You need to know this, what may be impossible for us as human beings to deal with, is not impossible for God. We serve a God who is all knowing, ever present and all powerful.
Some of you may be asked to do something by God that to you seems impossible. You don’t think there is any way that you could do it. And the truth is that on your own you couldn’t, but you aren’t on your own. For without faith it is impossible to please God.
So this morning I want to quite simply ask you, “What is God asking you to do or believe?”
If you are a follower of Christ, I believe with all of my heart that our God is a speaking God. He wants to guide you and direct you and shape you. What is he asking you to do.
For some of you, the answer is immediate. You already know. You know exactly what it is that God is asking you to do because you’ve been resisting it. Others of you it may take a few moments or days of praying to discern what it is. But make no mistake about it, our God speaks.
- For some of you it is going to become active in some kind of a ministry, to serve God.
- For others it is going to be to take steps to restore a relationship.
- For some of you it will be to change directions.
- For some of you it might be to reach out to someone who has been living far from God and you think, but I’ve already tried, there is no way, they are going to resist.
What is God asking you to do or believe?
And when you know what it is that God is asking know this, outcome is God’s responsibility, obedience is yours. All you have to do is to be willing to step out in faith.
Many of you will remember earlier this year when we had the Investment Challenge here at LakeRidge. One of the people who received money as part of the challenge was Robert Rodriguez. Robert shared with me about how he had a couple of ideas that he thought were great ideas, but that he never felt like he received to go ahead from God to do.
Robert owns a used car dealership, so his first idea was that he was going to buy a cheap car and then flip it and keep flipping cars until he ended up with a $10,000 car and give it away to someone in need. God said no.
He then thought about having lunch with forty men for fourty days as a way of investing in other men. I heard this idea and thought, are you sure God doesn’t want you to do that one because that is a really, really good idea. God said no.
Finally someone mentioned the idea of back to school assistance to Robert and he felt like God gave him the green light on that idea. Robert felt like it would be a good idea to do backpacks for children in need. He posted his project on social media and within a day he had all of the money he needed and then some.
Then he contacted a former neighbor of his that he hadn’t seen in some time. This former neighbor owned a novelties business. Robert asked him if he had any sources for backpacks and the man responded, “I’ve got you taken care of. I’ll come meet with you, but I’ve got the backpacks for you.”
Robert’s neighbor shared with him how he had closed down his novelties business and how he had a storage unit with 300 backpacks in it that he had been praying about what God would have him do with them.
Then someone else offered up Bibles for the backpacks. Then Robert had enough money to do another 300 backpacks and guess what? Robert’s friend told him that actually he had another 300 backpacks if he wanted. As a result, 600 students received brand new backpacks with Bibles in them because Robert was obedient and God took care of the outcome.
That’s an example of something small, but it demonstrates obedience. What is God calling you to do? Whatever it is, obedience is yours, the outcome is God’s.
All you do is simply surrender yourself to him, just like a teenage virgin girl did some 2,000 years ago when God interrupted her with an invitation to join him in his purposes. In her mind she couldn’t conceive how on earth it was possible, but she had to remember that with God all things are possible.
HOW DID SHE RESPOND? 38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.”
She takes a moment to remind herself of who she is and whose she is. And in that moment Mary’s fear subsides as she states that she wants everything the angel has told her to come true.