Monday, March 2, 2015

Whatever You Say (Is Possible)

Week 3 in our six week study on "True Faith"

Nothing that God says is impossible! Do you really believe that?! - Having in their minds that they will not always understand God or life’s situations, we are now prepared for the next step in walking by faith. Whereas Job (Last week's blog) learned to keep his mouth shut in humility and to control his desire to challenge God’s sovereignty or goodness, Mary demonstrated faithful obedience. Students will see a clear picture of a young girl faced with a seemingly impossible call on her life; this teenage virgin became pregnant and gave birth to the Son of God! Facing the scary and seemingly impossible through faith, Mary modeled a servant’s attitude. She regarded the Word of God as her authority, trusting Him regardless of what she would experience as a result. We will be encouraged to face their fears and the unknown circumstances in our own lives by relying on the promises of God as their marching orders.

Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Supporting Passages: Genesis 18:14, Matthew 19:26, Philippians 4:13

How should we respond to what God tells us to do? God sent His messenger, Gabriel, to a young girl named Mary with a life-changing announcement, possibly the greatest life-changing announcement that has ever been made. And what God says, He does. The choice that Mary had in the situation was about how to respond. She humbly submitted to everything that Gabriel said simply because it had come directly from God. When we are kids, our parents have lots of things that they want us to do. They are constantly telling us when to wake up and when to go to sleep, which vegetables to eat, what chores to do, how to behave, how to speak, and that it isn’t appropriate to belch in public. As kids, we often respond to them by asking, “Why?” We want to know the reason behind what our parents tell us to do. Many times, they come back with the same response: “Because I told you so.” That answer from our parents can often be frustrating, but when it comes to God, that’s the only answer we need.

1. God’s grace toward us is astounding (Luke 1:26–29).

Just as He does for all of us, God had a calling on Mary’s life. He sent His messenger specifically to present to her His glorious and eternal plan. But why would He do such a thing? The answer is found in the way that Gabriel addressed her. God highly favored Mary. This meant that He had great grace toward her. This grace displayed in Gabriel’s greeting caught Mary so off her guard that it left her completely astounded.
Have you ever been to a surprise party? Better yet, has a surprise party ever been thrown for you? Everyone gets to the party place early. They hide. The guest of honor shows up and enters, and then everyone jumps out and yells, “SURPRISE!” Next time you attend one (whether you know it or not), pay attention to how the guest of honor reacts. They often experience emotions like surprise, fear, excitement, anxiety, and confusion all at once. Mary probably experienced similar emotions when visited by Gabriel, and we might experience them too when we become aware of just how gracious God is toward us. God has a calling for each of our lives, just as He did for Mary’s life. Of course, most of us won’t benefit from having an angel visit us to let us know exactly what it is. Although He keeps us informed in different manners, the motivation behind what God has to say to us is the same: His grace. The very fact that God talks to us and has a plan for us at all is an example of His astounding grace toward us.

2. God’s commands and promises to us are overwhelming (Luke 1:30–36).

Gabriel responded to Mary’s concern by exhorting her to not be afraid and reiterated God’s grace toward her. He then laid out the plan that God had. She would conceive a child and give birth to a Son. He would be the almighty King, reigning on the throne of David forever and ever. But as if bearing the Savior of the universe wasn’t enough, God was going to bring all of this about in Mary’s life even though she was still a virgin. Obviously, this meant that biologically, she shouldn’t be having any baby. So how would this happen? God would be with her, and He would make it happen.
Think for a moment about the big problems of the world: poverty, clean water, sex trafficking, climate change, and war. Consider if God sent an angel to visit you and let you know that He wanted to use you in order to solve just one of those issues. How would you do it? Where would you start? Most of us wouldn’t have a clue about how to tackle any of these issues. We do good just to manage our own lives. Now, imagine that God came to inform you that He wanted to use you to solve all those problems. It would be overwhelming, to say the least, yet that’s exactly what happened with Mary. She would bear the Savior of the world. - If we are honest, the commands that God has for us are pretty overwhelming. Love Him and love people; make disciples of all nations; etc. We know how overwhelming they are because of the difficulty that we have in obeying them. However, God’s promises to us are just as overwhelming. His very presence is with us to lead and help us every step of the way.

3. God’s Word to us is trustworthy (Luke 1:35–38).

Gabriel closed His conversation with Mary by affirming for her that God’s Word would never fail. Everything that God had said to her through His messenger would come to pass. Did she really have a choice? But Mary’s response was to affirm her position as God’s servant and to pray for what she had already been promised—for His word to be fulfilled. Somehow, God knew what her response would be. One vision that comes to mind is in Toy Story 3, when the boy Andy is all grown and headed to college, when a series of misunderstandings leads to most of Andy’s toys being donated to a daycare when he meant to keep them in his attic. However, Woody the cowboy, the most trusted of them all, never gives up. He goes to any length to save his friends and convince them that Andy still wants them. Then, once everyone is reunited, he sacrifices his special position and future with Andy to ensure that they all can stay together and find renewed purpose as toys that were meant to be played with. God’s Word is just as trustworthy. It is always there to correct our misunderstandings, lead us in the way we are meant to go, and help fulfill God’s ultimate purposes and plan. - God knows His plans for us and for the world. He knows what is best and how to bring it all together for good. He is completely trustworthy and dependable. Everything that He has ever said has either come true or continues to come true. We can rely on everything that He has said to us and can confidently pray for His Word to be fulfilled—because it is as good as done.

So what's the big idea of the passage? 

God’s Word is so trustworthy that our only response should be to obey Him with complete confidence. Mary was no one special because of who she was. Mary was special because she was chosen of God, and He used her for His ultimate plan. He accomplished in her life just what He said He would in order to bring into the world the Savior of the universe. Of course, she knew that He would be faithful, and so she responded to His commands and promises by completely surrendering her life to His will.
God’s Word, the Bible, is full of His commands and promises. When we approach His Word by remembering that it is completely trustworthy, it affects completely how we respond. We live with the assurance that God will accomplish what He has set out to do.

After approximately 400 years of silence, God burst back onto the scene of human history and into the lives of His people by revealing the background of the birth of His Son. Luke’s role in writing this Gospel was to show that Jesus Christ is the Savior for all people—not just the Jewish nation. Even God’s choice of who would play the major role in the birth of His Son revealed that He can and will use anyone who lives a life of obedience and humility.
Though a simple Jewish peasant girl from the small and insignificant town of Nazareth, Mary was chosen by God for one of the most significant tasks in history. She had no special upbringing or standing in society that we are aware of that would bring her favor with God. In fact, we can only assume that it was her strength of character and humility that drew God to choose her. Not insignificantly, these were also the same character traits that describe our Savior.
God was also working in and through the life of Elizabeth at this time. Mary’s barren relative Elizabeth miraculously became pregnant with John the Baptist sixth months prior to Mary’s incredible conception. The divinely inspired miracles of these two pregnancies reveal how God orchestrated people and events to impact history for His glory, as John the Baptist would become the forerunner and make the way for Christ, who would die for the sins of the world.
God’s story and the details of history that He desires for us to know are revealed through the Bible. The miraculous conception and birth of Christ is one of those events that He desires for us to have an intimate knowledge of not only because it is an important part of our understanding of Him but also because it is an important part of our understanding of theology.
Mary was a lowly Jewish teenager going about her normal life when in one instant God miraculously changed it forever. Out of all the women in the world, God chose her to become the mother of His own Son—God in the flesh sent to earth to die for the sins of all humanity. Mary no doubt considered the question “Why me?” as she pondered the amazing words that the angel Gabriel spoke to her. She had no special abilities that would qualify her to become the mother of God’s Son. What earthly woman would? However, God saw in her life the traits of humility, purity, and faithfulness. These were what He needed in someone for the special task of being the mother of His child.
The extraordinary events surrounding Mary’s notification that she would become pregnant with the Son of God—later giving birth to and raising Jesus—give Mary a place of high honor among the women of the Bible. Mary’s experience should prove to us that God can and will do things that we consider impossible. For our part, we must simply believe and be willing to be used.

God can do anything whatsoever that He desires; absolutely nothing is impossible for Him. But we also need to understand that He works in and through individuals to accomplish His work. That means it is necessary for us to be open, receptive, and obedient to what He calls us to do. And in order for us to be used by Him to do what might otherwise be thought of as impossible, we must first be in a proper relationship with Him in order to hear His voice when He speaks. How have you responded to being a participant in God’s plan?
Are our students available to God? If God wanted to do something that could only be possible through Him, would your students respond to His voice? God doesn’t typically use angels to communicate His will and other plans to us; He uses the Holy Spirit. We as well as our students must realize that God wants to work through our lives to turn many impossibilities into realities. How many of these seemingly impossible opportunities have we missed because we have either not been listening or have not been available like Mary was available?

Small Group Questions:
  • Why do you suppose that Mary was so quick to accept what Gabriel had come to tell her?
  • Why was it important that God promise to give Jesus the throne of David? What does it mean that David was Jesus’ father?
  • Why is it significant that God sent the Holy Spirit to Mary? Why is the promise of the Holy Spirit important for us today?
  • What are the promises of God that you rely upon today before you take a step in faith?

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