Surrendered | The Inconvenience of Obedience
Monday— Gabriel was sent by God to a town…called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph. Luke 1:26-27
From fat babies with wings to supermodels in lingerie, the concept of angels has been polluted by wild speculation and fanciful descriptions. To dispel a few popular misconceptions, we don’t become angels when we die. Jesus did not start out as an angel and we never pray to angels. Angels are simply messengers in service to the Lord God Almighty. Satan has hijacked our imaginations because he knows the truth about angels. He used to BE one and now those supernatural warriors are his greatest enemies. Only three angels are named in scripture and Gabriel is one of them. But he is not a god, so he is not to be worshiped. He is a servant, sent by God to specific people for specific reasons, but he demonstrates faithful obedience.
Angelic assignments recorded in scripture allow a glimpse into the spiritual realm where God’s authority is unchallenged. Angels are never given options; they are given commands and they live to obey them. Imagine an angel receiving a command from God and responding with “Now? Do I hafta? I don’ wanna…” He wouldn’t last another second in the presence of God. We should learn something from that. If we want to enjoy the presence of God, our hearts must be set to obey. To live a surrendered life means that we voluntarily give up our rights to be the final authority. Gabriel shows us how it’s done.
Final Thought: What if holy angels refused to obey God’s commands? What if you do?
Prayer: Lord God Almighty, I forget how awesome and wonderful you are. If angels obey your every word, why do I think I can act differently? Help me learn to go where you send me and say what you give me, like Gabriel does. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!” Luke 1:30
He knew her name! As if a shining angel standing between her and the clothesline was not enough to make her drop the laundry basket, this one knew her name. God knew her name! But that wasn’t all. Gabriel got right to the point: “You have found favor with God.” Freeze-frame that scene and put yourself there. You’re changing the oil, clearing dinner dishes, or hanging wet laundry and suddenly an angelic being is standing in front of you. What would happen next? Besides the fact that you would probably pass out, consider this: Would he know your name? Would he say that you have found favor with God?
Matthew 7:21-23 shows us what the flipside of that question will look like on Judgment Day. Surrounded by a crowd of people who considered themselves His followers, Jesus warned that many of them would hear Him say, “Depart from me. I never knew you!” But how can that be? They certainly knew Him. They liked Him, liked His social justice teachings and especially the miracles. But Jesus said that it didn’t matter whether or not we think we know Him; it only matters if He knows us. Does He know our names? Walk with us as friends? God knew Mary because her heart had belonged to Him since her earliest days. She’d lived in light of His commands. Her life was His. Her choices were His. Her desires were His and He knew her name.
Final Thought: “Do you know Jesus?” may be the wrong question to ask. Maybe we should ask, “Does Jesus know you?”
Prayer: Jesus, if I’d been in that crowd listening to you say those scary words, would I be one that you were talking about? Does Heaven know my name? Is it written in your Book? I need to know. I surrender now. May I find favor in your sight. Amen.
Wednesday— Joseph… being righteous and not willing to shame her publicly, resolved to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1:19
Was she kidding? What man in his right mind would believe a story like that? Joseph’s picket-fence dreams had been ripped from his soul and replaced with scandal. Outrage. Shame. Betrayal. Maybe she’d gone crazy. She said an angel visited her, told her she was gonna get pregnant by God. No way. Too bizarre. Joseph pulled shaking hands through greasy hair and clenched his jaw. He loved her but he couldn’t marry her now. What would people think? He groaned. He knew what they’d think: he’d violated the village sweetheart. His family would be so embarrassed. So would hers. How could she do this to him? He shook his head. No, stop that. This wasn’t about him. It was about her. Her welfare. Whatever it cost him socially, he would protect her reputation. He’d find a place she could go, and he’d move from Nazareth. Start over. It was all so inconvenient.
Sometimes the way God does things leaves us shaking our heads. Why, Lord? Couldn’t you just drop your miracle out of the sky and save us all this trouble? Save us the stack of medical bills? The embarrassment? The bucket of tears? Being significant in the kingdom of God usually requires great inconvenience on our part. Joseph could tell us all about that. He’d also tell us that he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way because right in the middle of the inconvenience is the miracle.
Final Thought: What if instead of grumbling about the inconvenience of obeying God, you looked for the miracle?
Prayer: Father, I grumble too much about the way you’ve chosen to do things. I act like I could do a better job at being God than you can. Please forgive me. Remind me to stop saying, “Why would God…?” and say “Thank you, God.” Amen.
Thursday— Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38
“Everything you have said about me…” Can you hear her heart pounding like a bass drum? Can you see the sweat beads forming across her forehead as the weight of what was about to happen settled over her soul? We gloss over what those words meant for Mary because to us, Christmas is a starry night, sweet baby in the hay, and an angel choir. But not for Mary, a teenage virgin with a pure reputation. She was madly in love with her fiancé and planning a dream wedding. “Everything you have said about me” meant labor pains without the “I Do’s.” Childbirth instead of a honeymoon. Shame. Inconvenience.
Even Mary did not know what those words would mean, but she did know her life would take a detour. “Everything you have said about me” would include shame along with honor. Sacrifice along with blessing. Pain along with joy. It usually does. When God wants to do something amazing through us, it usually means our lives will take a detour. The road to Blessing-land snakes through Humility Valley and across a one-way bridge called Inconvenience. We study the map and frown. Then often, instead of surrendering like Mary did, we head for Compromise Highway. Mary was no superhero; she was simply positioned for obedience. She’d lived her life as a servant of the Lord so when He chose her for a significant role, she was ready. If God chose you for special assignment, could you respond: “May everything you have said about me come true”?
Final Thought: Are you in position to be used by the Lord to do great things for His kingdom?
Prayer: Lord, am I in position to be used mightily by you? Is my heart ready and humble? Am I fully surrendered? I want the heart Mary had so that when you call me, I am eager to obey. Make my life worthy of your assignments. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— At one time you surrendered yourselves entirely as slaves to impurity and wickedness… In the same way you must now surrender yourselves entirely as slaves of righteousness for holy purposes. Romans 6:19
Surrender is one of the scariest words in the English language. It implies weakness, failure, and slavery. We envision soldiers with their hands up, marching before gun-wielding victors. Our natural selves recoil at the idea of surrender but that’s only because we don’t realize the prison we’re already in. Every human being is already surrendered to something. Even the loudest rebel declaring, “I am my own person!” is a slave to lust, greed, anger, or cultural opinion. Satan has cleverly-constructed prison cells waiting for the next deceived human to march right in, shouting about freedom. God commands us to switch cells. Shake off Satan’s chains and enter into His service where joy, peace, fellowship, and heaven come with it.
Mary and Joseph were not perfect people, but they gave us a model of surrender. Rather than being enslaved by fear, shame, or society’s expectations, they surrendered themselves and their future to the will of God. They looked like failures to outsiders. Joseph’s friends may have wondered why he went ahead and married the girl who’d cheated on him. Mary’s family may have treated her differently the rest of her life after she’d “shamed the family.” But surrender means we don’t care about the cost to ourselves. It’s a small price to pay compared to all we gain. Surrender means we’ve chosen God’s agenda and let go of our own. We’ve accepted the fact that we won’t always understand or even like His ways, but they are better than ours.
Final Thought: On a scale from 1-10, how surrendered are you to the Lord?
Prayer: Father, it’s scary to ask this, but how surrendered to you am I? What areas of my life have I kept off limits to you? I want to follow Mary’s example and submit my life and future to your plans. I choose to trust you. In Jesus’ name, amen.