We Wait for the King
We’ve been given an immense responsibility. We have time, resources, and abilities. The King expects a return on His investment. Have you stopped to consider all that God would give if you would steward what He gave initially?
We Bring Gifts to a King
Before the Wise Men could offer their gifts and worship to Jesus, they had to do a few things. You too must prepare yourself to adore Him. Find out how to recognize the King, verify that He is worthy of your loyalty, and present your gifts unashamedly. As you allow Him to fill your heart with abundant joy unrelated to your circumstances, coming to adore Him will never be the same.
We Bow to the King
Have you bowed? This is not something you want to be foggy about. You can either bow before the King of Kings willingly today or forcefully in eternity. In other words, you have to get the second life during the first life or you’ll get the second death after your first death.
He came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:28–30, esv).
Mary was just a regular human being. She wasn’t full of grace; she needed grace. She wasn’t sinless; she was a sinner, just as all of us are. The reason she said, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47) was because she, too, needed a Savior. Even in this amazing passage from Luke 1 where we first meet her in Scripture, we see her perplexed and “greatly troubled.” We see her freaked-out afraid in the presence of the angel Gabriel. We see her expressing real doubts—“How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)—like any regular person would ask.
But here’s all that matters. We also see her finding “favor with God.”
And finding favor with God makes everything else okay.
Make the favor of God your focus, and everything else will fall into place. Please God with your life, and you’ve found what’s key. The Bible doesn’t say Mary found favor with her parents or with her fiancé or with her neighbors. Those are all fine things to do. But when you’ve found favor with God, you’ve found everything.
Now it doesn’t mean everything in your life is going to be perfect as a result. Is that what it meant for Mary?
Mary found favor with God, but it didn’t mean her husband wasn’t pretty misunderstanding of everything that was happening. Mary found favor with God, but it didn’t mean her Son wasn’t going to be born in a barn. Mary found favor with God, but it didn’t mean she wouldn’t experience some lonely times when Jesus left home, going off to dedicate His life in service to His Father. Mary found favor with God, but it didn’t mean this Son she loved wouldn’t be hated and rejected and beaten and crucified before her very eyes.
Finding favor with God doesn’t mean everything becomes wonderful and rosy and beautiful and bright. But here’s what it does mean. It means God Almighty has laid His hand upon your life, and He is going to use you for His eternal purposes.
It means having ongoing hope—hope that you can overcome all the obstacles you’re facing.
I promise you, Mary is having a great day today. She hasn’t spent one minute bemoaning what a rough plan God laid down in front of her when He sent His messenger to Nazareth, telling her she would be the mother of her Savior. God is fully capable of rewarding those He has favored, those He has placed His hand upon to use.
And if you, like Mary, are faithful in this hope, you won’t need to wait until eternity before being able to look back without resentment toward the hard things He took you through. As one who’s found favor with God, you can thank Him and praise Him right now for all He’s allowed in your life, knowing He’s working something special in you.
God’s favor isn’t easy, but God’s favor is good.
It means you’ve put all your hope in the only right place.
Lord, thank You for the promise that You will make all things right. Thank You for the assurance that all those You’ve redeemed through Christ will spend eternity with You. But thank You for providing a way for me to experience Your favor even now, despite the difficulties I’m facing. Help me look to You above all others, especially above myself, knowing You are the sole source of my life and my hope. I come in the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus. Amen.
We Welcome Kings
In the lows of difficulty and despair, Christ offers you hope for your hopelessness. In the highs of feeling like you don’t need Jesus, He gives grace for your strong will. He is a Savior who levels the ground between the mountains and valleys in your life and guides you as you prepare your heart for His triumphant return. Listen and find out how to get ready to give Him a welcome fit for a King.
He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God (Luke 1:63–64, esv).
Maybe nine months without being able to talk would be just the cure we need for whatever keeps us from praising God with the mouth we already have. Maybe the joy we’re not feeling and expressing today is directly related to an unwillingness to embrace this message:
God has been gracious to us.
Did you know that’s what the name “John” means? The Lord has been gracious. When Gabriel told the old priest Zechariah, “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13), here’s part of the reason why this name was chosen. Every time he held that baby in his hands, every time he saw him growing up as a kid, every time he thought about what his son’s birth meant in terms of God’s faithful promises, he was supposed to think, The Lord has been gracious to me.
But he didn’t see it at first. Zechariah couldn’t get there in the moment. He said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18). He couldn’t believe that the Lord had been that gracious to him.
And if that’s you, sitting here not enjoying the Lord like others do, you’re going to miss out—like Zechariah did, when he was made “unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words” (Luke 1:20). If you’re so focused on what’s yet to be, on what your mind says can’t possibly be, you’ll miss the joy that comes from embracing that the Lord has been gracious to you already.
So make your focus this Christmas, “The Lord has been gracious to me.” Sure, you could list the things you’ve been waiting and longing for, all the prayers He seems to have left unanswered through the years. But are you really going to lose your joy over those things that haven’t happened yet, when He’s given you help and strength and life and breath—a Bible in your hands, the Spirit in your heart, love showered on you in innumerable ways?
Picture Zechariah, when his wife Elizabeth came to tell him she believed she was pregnant, but he wasn’t able to speak. Imagine him putting his hand on her stomach and feeling the baby kicking, but not being able to say anything. Even after the boy was born, as their neighbors and relatives were rejoicing, as Zechariah held him in his arms, he still couldn’t utter a word. He couldn’t embrace it. He’d lost the capacity for joy.
But then the day came for them to name their child. How was Zechariah going to handle it? “He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’” He wasn’t going to blow this again. For nine months he’d been thinking every day, The next time I get to talk . . . he was going to praise God. He was going to say what he wouldn’t say the first time. He was going to embrace what he hadn’t been willing to embrace before. “John”—the Lord has been gracious to me.
Do you want joy? Then get to the place where, in spite of what you’re waiting on, in spite of the thoughts you think in your weaker moments, in spite of where you feel you’ve been forgotten by God, you speak it and mean it from your heart, “The Lord has been gracious to me.”
Because that’s where the joy flows.
Lord, You have been good to me. Forgive me for looking at things I wish were true and failing to rejoice in what already is. I don’t have what I’m going to have some day, but I have what You’ve provided for me. And in all of it, I want You to hear from me the acknowledgment that You are good. Keep me in the place where I can say it with all my heart, in Jesus’ name, amen.