BLESSINGS OF GOD’S FAVOR
A Study of Luke 1:26-38
While God pours blessings on both believers and non-believers, only believers can be chosen to serve and, in turn, receive God's preferential treatment. This was the case for Mary. Her narrative reveals that when we find favor with God, He will sow His seed in us. With the seed, which is Jesus Christ, there is no limit on how far we can grow. Everything we accomplish will be by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. But we must make a conscious decision to choose to receive the seed. The text shows that this is possible when we first choose to believe.
Note: This sermon was compiled for Sunday 20 December 2009, but not delivered from the pulpit because of the snow storm.
Pastor Paul from the (virtual) pulpit
Only a couple days left until Christmas. Have you completed all of your Christmas shopping? Have you gotten gifts for everyone on your list? I hope you have not forgotten those special people in your life. Oh, yeah, by the way …
– Did you remember to include God on your Christmas shopping list?
If you did not, I am sure it was an oversight.
The good news is there is still time to get God something special.
What can we get God this year? It’s a difficult question. Most people have no idea what to get a person who has everything.
To find the answer, let’s go back in time to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, and listen to the narrative of a teen-aged woman. After hearing her story, we will have no problem deciding what we should give God.
Over 2000 years ago, an angel of God named Gabriel visited a teen-aged woman named Mary, who was engaged to a man named Joseph. The angel informed Mary that God had a very special task for her, and that, because God had selected her from all the world’s women, it was a sign she had found favor with God.
Mary – and I am sure other women in her community – had questions. She asked …
– Why me?
– What is so special about me that God would choose me out of all of the other women?
The available information on Mary leads us to conclude that …
– Mary had done nothing of import that would be deserving of such honor
– there was nothing special about Mary. Indeed, she was ordinary.
These conclusions help us understand God a little better.
When it comes to using people for the fulfillment of His will, God can use anyone – great or small.
In most cases, God chooses ordinary people for extra-ordinary tasks. Availability is the only criterion for serving and being used by God. His selection of Mary illustrates that He uses an entirely different selection process to any we use. When we select a candidate for a job, we look for the most qualified person. We consider the person’s level of education, years of relevant experience, interpersonal skills, long- and short-term career goals, and so on. God is not interested in these things because He knows that, even when you research a person’s background and determine all’s well, there is no guarantee the candidate will work out.
The angel’s response to Mary’s inquiry reveals a key divine aid that is present when we are faced with making decisions while in God’s service. The angel said,
– “The LORD is with you.”
I am reminded of a story of a couple who, before marrying, decided that the man would make all the major decisions, and the woman would make all the minor ones. After 20 years of marriage, the husband was asked how this arrangement had worked out. He said, “After all this time I have never had to make a major decision.”
When faced with making decisions, allow God to decide rather than rely on human intuition.
The human decision-making process tends to be skewed by personal biases and prejudices. Even when we attempt to use objective standards, the human agency and its shortcomings thwart the process. Therefore, prudence and Gabriel’s admonition to Mary help us to see that we should not only include God in the decision-making process, but also turn the entire process over to Him.
Mary also wondered about how she had found so much favor with God. Favor means to show kindness or to show extra kindness in comparison to the treatment others afford. In essence, favor means to receive preferential treatment. When we apply this definition to the concept of finding favor with God, we see that those He favors receive His preferential treatment. The Bible says,
– “The rain falls on the just and the unjust.”
The blessings of God are not limited to only believers, but non-believers also reap God’s blessing.
Favor is another level of God’s blessing that is reserved for believers only.
I can imagine that this is a hard pill to swallow for some, and incomprehensible for others. It is important to keep in mind that …
– God favors all believers, and that God’s favor is given in degrees.
Those who think God to be unfair in this regard fail to consider that favor is not a question of being fair. What’s more …
… in God’s kingdom people receive in step with what they give.
There is a wonderful story about a Chicago bank that once asked for a letter of recommendation on a young Bostonian being considered for employment. The Boston investment house could not say enough about the young man. His father, they wrote, was a Cabot; his mother was a Lowell. Further back was a happy blend of Saltonstalls, Peabodys and other Boston first families. His recommendation was given without hesitation. Several days later, the Chicago bank sent a note saying the information supplied was altogether inadequate. It read, “We are not contemplating using the young man for breeding purposes. We just want to use him for work.”
God is not a respecter of persons, but accepts those from every family, nation, and race who fear Him and are willing to work for His kingdom.
The interaction between Mary and Gabriel reveals that we can do nothing to merit God’s favor. But when believers find favor with God, they are blessed beyond measure.
The Biblical narrative of Mary teaches us that when believers find favor with God, He will impregnate them with His seed.
What is the seed of God? It is Jesus Christ.
In order to understand this principle, we must go back to the Book of Genesis where we are introduced to the Seed Principle. God’s words begin Genesis 1:11-12:
– 11 "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so.
– 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.
All life is based on the Seed Principle. The purpose of the seed is to perpetuate life and reproduce after its kind. When God sows and implants His seed in us, we become producers after the manner of God Himself.
The text says,
– “You will be with child and give birth.”
Another translation would be that you will be fertile and productive. When God puts His seed in us, it no longer matters where we find ourselves, because He will make us productive in any situation and under any conditions.
There was a recent study that divided the world into consumers and producers. It pointed out there was a fundamental difference between the two groups. Whereas, consumers were a drain on resources and generally look to receive for personal use, producers were sought for their ability to provide, meet needs, and be a source of supply.
When we have the seed of God in us, we become a primary source of God’s supply that extends beyond the narrow confines of our own personal boundaries.
Finding favor with God also removes limits on how far we can grow. Gabriel said,
– “He will be great…His kingdom will never end.”
Consider California’s redwood trees. It is known that some have been around for more than 2000 years. They are some of the tallest trees on Earth. The only way they could have grown to such heights and lived as long as they have is because they were allowed to. I have never personally seen them up close, but I hear they offer an imposing sight and leave an indelible impression.
Likewise, greatness will develop if God sows his seed in a person, and it is allowed grow unhindered.
Jesus said in John 14:12,
– “I tell you the truth. He who believes in me will do the works I do and will do even greater works.”
But note two points of clarification.
– The first is that God’s concept of what is great differs significantly from ours. God’s view of great and greatness emphasizes the spiritual over the material and physical.
– The second point is that all we accomplish in the spiritual, material and physical realms is the result of God’s working in and through us.
When I think of great men and women in Scripture and throughout history, they all shared one common characteristic: they believed.
Belief is perhaps the single most important ingredient that determines how much we will achieve and how far we will go.
On the other hand, unbelief is the one thing that will stymie us.
During a recent conversation with my nephew, we were discussing how things are going for him in school and the phrase I heard repeatedly was, “I cannot.”
I say again that everyone who accomplished great things faced obstacles and hurdles, but they believed. The next time you feel like GOD cannot use you, just remember...
Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah & Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
Peter denied Christ (3 times!)
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
Mary Magdalene was promiscuous
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once...
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Lazarus was dead!
Now! No more excuses!
God can use you to your full potential. Besides, you are not the message; you are just the messenger.
Mary wanted to know how she had become pregnant. As far as she was concerned, to accomplish what God said she would accomplish – namely give birth – was impossible in the absence of human interaction. However, on this day, Mary learned a valuable life-long lesson: Nothing is impossible with God if you believe.
Mary’s perception reflects our own. We often assume that if we do not do something, it will not get done.
By nature I am a fixer. I jump in with both feet. But you sometimes tamper with things that are not broken. You end up breaking what you’re trying to fix, or your timing is off and your good intentions disrupt the entire operation.
People who find favor with God quickly discover that He gives them His Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit working on the inside of us that does the doing, empowering, strengthening and equipping to both face and overcome challenges and obstacles.
The Holy Spirit is God’s intangible in the life of the believer. It motivates us to get up after we have been knocked down, propels us to keeping pressing on even after we feel as though all of our strength has been exhausted, helps us to dream the impossible and see the improbable even though we may have been overlooked, denied, and rejected.
It is the Holy Spirit who teaches us and confirms throughout our lives that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible with God.
How did Mary find so much favor with God? She uttered the most important words of any language. Verse 38 says,
– “May it be to me as you have said.”
Mary was not just favored, but highly favored in the eyes of God is because she made herself available to be used by Him for His purposes. Mary did not offer excuses. She did not put God on hold or set limits on what she would and would not do. She said only, LORD here I am. Use me as you see fit.
I ask, do you want to be simply blessed, or do you want to be highly favored by God? Remember, God pours out His blessings on both believers and non-believers, but only believers can be afforded the opportunity to receive preferential treatment from Him. It is up to you. What do you choose?
If you desire to be highly favored by God and receive His preferential treatment, you must first come to know His Son and accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior. Then do what Mary did: offer yourself to God to be used by Him for His purposes. I implore you to follow Mary’s example. Give God the best gift you could ever Offer Him and truly the only gift He desires from us, ourselves. If you do not know Jesus or are unsure about your relationship with Him, take a moment to rectify that matter and then watch what God in Christ does in and through you.
I know and acknowledge that I am a sinner. I repent, right now, of all my sins, and I am asking you to forgive me. You said in your Word, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). I am calling on the name of your Son, Jesus, to come into my heart and be my Savior.
You also said, “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I believe with my heart that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead so that I may have eternal life. I confess Him, right now, as my Lord.
I ask you Lord Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to live on the inside of me, and help me to live a life that is pleasing to both you and God, the Father.
In the name of Jesus, I submit this prayer.
Sunday 20 December 2009
May God Bless You