Submission and Obedience


God has a purpose for every person born into this world, but few there be that find it! Most folks choose not to follow God at all. Those who do often expect their journey to be a bed of roses because they are followers of Jesus. How wrong they are!

Jesus said that all those who will live godly will suffer persecution in one form or another. From all external appearances, those hard trials, that persecution may not be obvious But they exist, nonetheless.

For instance, take the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph. We've read the Scripture accounts documented by Mathew and Luke in church or at home around the Christmas tree before we opened our gifts. All sound sentimental and sweet. In reality, they were anything but.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he saluted her with words that caused her to wonder or to be confused: "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." Luke 1:28. To tell her that she would bear a child that WOULD NOT be Joseph's put her in an immediate dilemma. How could that happen? She was faithful to her pledge of marriage to Joseph. She had kept company with no other man. What did this mean?

Knowing her confusion and her purity, the angel went on to say, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God."

Jesus' conception would be supernatural. While marvelous and according to Isaiah's prophecy declared hundreds of years before, Mary's pregnancy would be one of shame and cause the wags to whisper the rest of her life! It would look like she and Joseph had been intimate before sealing their marriage vows. He would not be a 'nine-month baby'! They would call her son a bastard!

In spite of that, when Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, it roused within his honorable mind mixed emotions, too. At the fore was his desire to ditch Mary altogether. She was not the pure woman he thought her to be. She had betrayed him. On the other hand, he loved her so much he wanted to protect her reputation, and schemed to send her out of town secretly before the townspeople found out she was expecting.

Joseph had not chosen to be the step-father of Jesus, the Messiah. He had no idea that would be his lot when he proposed marriage to his beautiful fiancee. But there he was in a position that called out the best of his character while he planned how to help Mary rather than letting her become the object of shame and ridicule. He did not think of his own reputation as he sought to protect his bride-to-be.

As Gabriel unfolded God's wonderful plan to provide a savior for the world, Mary received his words with joy. She did not question what the angel said after that. She reached beyond human reason to receive the supernatural from God's hand.

We're told in Luke that very soon after the angel's announcement, Mary traveled to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. John the Baptist, already conceived and growing in Elizabeth's womb, recognized the Messiah within Mary and leaped for joy! What a confirmation of what Gabriel had said about Jesus' origin! The prophet recognized the Savior before either was born. But, oh, how alive they were! They were not mere blobs of fetal tissue that could be aborted in today's world! They were already sons of God!

While Joseph cogitated about how to protect Mary's reputation, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." So, when he wakened, Joseph changed course and went through the remaining steps in the Jewish rite of matrimony. Mary became his wife, but they did not consummate the marriage until after Jesus' birth.

Following their wedding came the decree from Caesar Augustus that Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem for the census. It was not a suggestion; it was a government command. Already Mary was well into her pregnancy: She was 'great with child.'

Travel in those days was not easy. People either walked, rode in a cart, or straddled the back of an animal. In their case, they used a donkey.

Had this happened today, Mary's obstetrician would have forbad her from going because she was too close to her time of delivery. Nazareth was about 70 miles from Bethlehem, a trip that on foot would probably take four days. With Mary's condition, it might have taken even longer. Each day they possibly covered between 15 to 20 miles. Sometimes Mary walked, while at other times she rode the back of the donkey.

Her legs must have ached. Her back hurt. She was warm under the blazing sun. She didn't sleep well at night, wherever it was they stopped. By the time they arrived at Bethlehem, she was worn out! Not even there could she count on a comfortable bed. The inn was full. She and Joseph were not the only travelers who had come to town to be counted. Joseph had to settle for stable accommodations for him and his wife, who already was having contractions.

So, during the night in utter darkness lit only by the stars and perhaps a small oil lamp with just angels in attendance, Mary gave birth to her son. No doctor. No midwife. Mary labored alone. Joseph could have given little help during the delivery. Once He was born, it was Mary who cleansed Jesus' little body and wrapped Him in strips of cloth usually saved for one's burial. Had Mary perhaps anticipated her own death in childbirth?

No woman would look forward to giving birth under such conditions. When she talked with Gabriel, Mary didn't anticipate a laborious trip riding a donkey; she did not expect to give birth in an animal barn not at all clean or sweet-smelling, but heavy with manure. She did not choose to be alone without another woman to help her during labor. The whole scenario lacked any convenience at all.

When she said, "Yes" to Gabriel on the day of his announcement, Mary vowed her acceptance of all that lay ahead, though as yet unseen. When you and I gave our will to God and submitted to HIS will for our lives, we said "Yes" to all God has on our future pathway, too.

As the days leading to the culmination of all things grow shorter and shorter, we must expect and prepare for times of suffering and persecution, perhaps even death. In all, we intend to be faithful to God and His calling on our lives to be His emissaries. We will live true to Him regardless of what others say about us or accuse us of being.

It will not be an easy journey. It will not be 'the norm' for daily life. We may have to hide and go underground in our worship. We may hunger and thirst; our bodies may cry out in pain from aching joints. In all, we will be true to God and seek to do only His will: to bear witness of His salvation in Jesus Christ.The results of our witness we shall leave to God. He promises to us a crown of life for our faithfulness and perseverance. Then we shall hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" That is our ultimate reward! A crown of life!

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Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®
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