A Little Background
Something I have struggled with for a while is why as Christians we feel the need to put our own guidelines on what is Best. We think we know what is best for us. There are countless books written on the subject and we give “steps” or questions to ask ourselves in determining the Best.
Now I am not bashing these books. I have enjoyed these books and benefited from these books but I think we as Christians get confused. I get concerned when we start evaluating what God calls us to, by what we think is best for us. It is a wrestling match for me, because I get what is going on. We say we want to please God and that we want to do what He wants us to. But, then when He brings something to us that doesn’t fit those 5 things or 10 questions, we toss the baby out with the bathwater because it doesn’t fit our ideals.
Just before Christmas this last year I read something that caught my attention… it was about Mary, you know Jesus’ mom. Now you might say “Mary, Christmas was almost two months ago, why on earth has it taken you so long to write this?” The answer is simple. When something is triggered in my brain I need to study it out. I wanted to look at my friends in the Bible and see what the pattern was. And I did. I wanted to see if I could come up with someone for the antithesis of my idea… and I couldn’t.
Meet My Friend Mary
We don’t have a whole lot of background about Mary. We know that she was a Jewish girl in the line of David, which means in her lineage they are amazing women like Rehab (a Prostitute) and Ruth ( a Moabite woman). We are going to talk more about these two later in the story as well. AND let’s add in Jesus since he is a major part of this as well… Mary was probably between the ages of 14-17. Girls married young in that culture. We know that Mary was betrothed to Joseph, a Carpenter. She was a virgin and greatly favored. To be betrothed is more than an engagement. They were basically married but without the wedding.
One night Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and he had some big news for her. She was going to give Birth to a son and He was to be the son of God (paraphrase). She had one question “how will this be?” No virgin has ever given birth to a child before. It was a valid question. He explains how it will happen and her response was this, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” And then the Angel left (Luke 1: 26-38 NIV).
That’s it. She did’n’t take into consideration the financial strain. Or how about Joseph’s reaction. How about the reaction of the people around her. After all people got stoned for being pregnant without being married in her culture. What about her family. She simply trusted God, She had faith.
What is Faith?
Hebrews 11:1 NIV tells us EXACTLY what Faith is.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Mary trusted the angel and what he said. He promised that Jesus will… (Luke 1:32-33)
- be great.
- be called Son of the Most High.
- be given the throne of his father David by the Lord God.
- Reign over Jacob’s descendants forever. His kingdom will never end.
Now I know that she had an angel that showed up to her, which for me shows even more that her faith and trust was great. She said YES with no thought at all to what is best for her. Now I am sure as she began to show that she was pregnant she had concerns. GREAT CONCERNS! But her faith stood firm. She trusted God, even when the scorn was great.
REHAB, RUTH AND JESUS- no angels, no questions
So I know you can say, yeah Mary, but her faith was easy because she had a visit from an angel. But what about the countless others who fully trusted God and set aside their questions and inhibitions ad didn’t chose their BEST. Ok so let’s stop right now calling it the BEST. in reality it is what is safest. The least amount of strain, struggle and Pain.
REHAB a prostitute in the city of Jericho. She received two spies from Israel when they were scoping out the land to conquer. She hid them on the roof and then lowered them outside the city walls after nightfall. She asked for protection for herself and her family and the spies told her how to let them know where she was. She then lied about them when questioned. She hung the scarlet chord in the window when the day of conquering came and she was rescued. Due to her faith she became a part of the line of Jesus.
She didn’t ask how this was going to affect me emotionally, physically, financially or spiritually. She didn’t ask what else might she be trading it for. She did’t ask herself, is this was what God wanted for her life. For Pete’s sake (I know I know- WHO IS PETE?) she didn’t even really know the God of Israel. She had heard of the miracles surrounding the Israelites. She didn’t ask which was the safest or which had the biggest blessing attached to it. She just plain and simple made a decision and STUCK with it- she trusted the God of Israel. The God who devours armies with the Red Sea (Joshua 2 NIV). She had faith, and then OBEYED. She didn’t have to. She could have chickened out for the possible difficulties she could face. Like what if the ruler of the land had found out she harbored those spies and helped them to escape. What if someone saw the scarlet chord hanging from her window and started asking questions. Was she nervous about possibilities? Probably but she was human. Doubts are not a sin… disobeying God is. And for her faith she is blessed richly. She marries an Israelite man named Salmon… their son, Boaz, is an intricate part of the life of our next lady of faith- RUTH!
Ruth- THERE is whole book about this woman of faith. Ruth was not and Israelite either. She was a Moabitess who married one of the sons of Israelite couple Naomi and Ellimelek. They were Israelites and the law very specifically told them NOT to intermarry with other cultures because those cultures would influence their relationships with God in a negative way. Well the men all died. Both sons and the husband and that left behind 3 widows Naomi, Ruth and Orpah. Naomi decided it was time to return to Israel and her daughter-in-law set out with her. But before long Naomi encouraged them to return to their country of Moab. Orpah listened to her bitter mother-in-law and returned but Ruth on the other hand made a few very famous statements:
- Where you go I will go.
- Where you stay I will stay.
- Your people will me my people
- Your God will be my God.
Her concern wasn’t about herself or her needs. She cared first about Naomi and God. She had no promise of even a home or really even food. She could have returned to her home, remarried and lived a fairly comfortable life, but instead her faith took her to an unknown. Her loyalty took her to a place of risk and selflessness. Was is easy? no way! She toiled laboring in the fields like many other foreigners in Israel. But her loyalty and faith made her stand out far above the rest. And Boaz took notice. Catch that name? NOW in this account we have a rare sight. In the final chapter of the book we get to witness someone who did count the cost of obedience to God. He was worried about his finances, and his home and his standing socially. And ya know what, we don’t know his name and he didn’t end up in the lineage of Christ. So Boaz and Ruth got married. And they had a son named Obed, the grandfather of David. Ruth became the great X30 grandma of Jesus. When we worry about what is best for us we can write ourselves out of God’s greatest blessings.
And then there is Jesus
Jesus is interesting because He is God and Man. By coming to earth, from perfect glorious heaven, Jesus certainly did not choose the best for Him. This perspective or choosing the greater purpose is seen throughout His life on earth. The first time we see Jesus make a choice that went against what “should have happened” he was 12 and got separated from his parents when he chose to stay at the temple and teach the priests. I cannot even begin to comprehend Mary and Joseph’s conversation. “Joe, what are we gonna do? God trusted us with Jesus and we lost Him. How could we have lost the Lord?” And then when they found him… Oh what joy they must have felt. Later we see him confront sin and Pharisees. Hypocrisy. lack of Faith. lack of love. All without considering the consequences of his actions. He didn’t agonize over decisions that could have cost him his life. Even in the moments leading up to the cross we see him asking His Heavenly Father to let the cup of crucifixion to pass from him but in the end he says “NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS.”
Not MY Will BUT YOURS!!
Surrendering our will- DYING TO SELF. That’s what real faith is. Trusting that God really does own the cattle on a thousand hills. That all things work together for good for those who serve the LORD. Even when things look impossible or horrible God can take ashes and make it absolutely beautiful. See we look at our lives AND our ministries and we say things like oh but I wanted to do this with my life. The problem is I cannot see the big picture like God does. Nothing surprises Him NOT ONE THING. and sometimes we have to travel a path to get to the place God wants us. When Ruth got married to the cute Israelite man, she never thought “Hey He’s gonna die before we have kids, and I am going to move back to Israel and take care of Naomi by working from sun up to late into the night picking and threshing barley and then I am gonna haul a crazy amount back home again just so I can wake up in a few hours and do it all over again.” And yet she chose to stick with her commitment even in hardship. Despite the fact that physically when she started she didn’t really have the capability to handle it. And yet God gave her strength.
I’m guessing when Mary said yes to Gabriel she didn’t have the financial ability to be a single ostracized mom .
And Rehab is perhaps the most amazing to me. When she said yes to God, she gave up her financial ability. You CANNOT say yes to God and still hold on to your sin. She had NO idea her home was going to be completely destroyed. Can you imagine the emotional strain she was under to give up her career and pick up a whole new culture after meeting two spies for less than 24 hours and not even having much interaction with them. PLUS the fear of being ostracized because A) the line of work she was in and B) she was not an Israelite. And spiritually, well she had zero. She didn’t meet the standards of her rescuers. So how on earth could this possibly be the best for her when at first glance NONE of this seemed to be in her best interest. And yet look at her legacy!
THAT’S IT: OUR BEST isn’t here on this earth, we may be able to to witness it but most of the time we don’t.
- Rehab’s legacy- JESUS
- Ruth’s legacy- JESUS
- Mary’s Legacy- JESUS
- JESUS’S LEGACY- all believers serving Him for HIS purposes INCLUDING ME
- My Legacy- whoever is impacted by my choice to lay aside my comforts and desire- my willingness to die to self
And about our dear Mary, one more thought. Mary never once thought that saying yes to the Greatest gift-Jesus was also going to be her greatest sorrow. Watching the one she bore die. You know, the one promised to Reign over Jacob’s descendants forever. The one whose kingdom will never end, who would be given the throne of his father David. She watched her son, the Lord, die. Not just any death but the worst most shameful death a person could think up.
And as I looked and studied these women and Jesus I stood in awe of what I saw, then I began to think about all the others, and ya know what I discovered? All the people across scripture who made a lasting impression on eternity at one point had to set aside what they thought best for themselves and chose to do the radical and crazy. Some took a little longer and we watch their journeys and wrestlings unfold, but in the end the ONLY way YOU can be USED for GOD’S BEST is to lay yours aside.
So here are a few questions in closing.:
- What are we holding onto in our lives that we have sealed off from God? It’s usually something that we deem as ugly, and unmanageable, or too traumatic to deal with. The problem with that is we are holding on to what God wants to use and transform into a beautiful thing.
- Have we REALLY died to self? Have we set aside what we think is best and chased after the things God has brought to us- EVEN IF it makes us CRAZY uncomfortable?
- What’s diverting our attention (aka distracting us)? It can be a good thing. It can be a great thing. But if it doesn’t fit with the story God has given us, we can be hiding, running or ignoring the path and purpose God has for us!
Let’s chat! What is the person in the Bible that grabs your attention most when It comes to denying their selfish ambitions and what was in their best interest according to them?