Today’s guest blogger is my friend Kerry Doyle, pastor of Grace Bible Church
in Kingsport, TN.
Has God ever thrown your good and godly plans out the window? Ones made after prayer and seeking wise advice, plans that seemed to be from Him. Without warning or invitation, God sometimes shifts to Plan B. God is known for upsetting apple carts, adding proverbial monkey wrenches. He is fine with asking us to do the outrageous, to deploy faith in the face of seeming absurdities. He intrudes on a wonderful life and makes it a life of wondering what He is up to. Such providential butt-ins can make it tough to trust. Among the things we learn from Joseph’s role in Christmas is how to handle life-change with trust and courage. Joseph displays bold faith in the face of sovereignly scrapped plans. When called on to believe the seeming impossible, Joseph abdicated his plans for God’s. Watch for that in Matthew’s telling of Jesus’ birth:
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows : when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife ; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son ; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son ; and he called His name Jesus.” (Matt. 1:18-25)
In our retelling of the Christmas story, Joseph is often the odd man out. That seems to fit as he faces apparent rejection from Mary. He’s a spurned fiancé. Let’s be clear about Joseph’s pain and embarrassment. Marriage plans have been made. A dowry has been given to Mary’s Dad – possibly a large sum of money, a life savings – the hard earned money of a construction worker. More cash and a house is being raised for when he takes his wife home. Joseph is currently arranging his affairs to be ready to start a family. Life is centered on the day he’ll go and bring his bride home. Invitations had been sent, a kosher caterer is on the calendar, a photographer is on contract (well, maybe not, but you get the idea). Joseph finds out his bride-to-be has been unfaithful. He’s betrothed to an adulteress. He kept himself pure for her and this is what he gets? Joseph does the right thing – he seeks to give her the divorce she obviously desires. There must be someone Else she is devoted to. His new plans are noble and loving. His desire is not to shame her or get revenge. He just wants to release them from each other. As he makes his gracious plans – well within God’s Law – God steps in and redirects his already redirected plans. Poor Joseph – trying to get to sleep after hearing the news that Mary is pregnant. Tossing, crying, praying and hurting. How long did the angel have to wait till Joseph was asleep?
“Joseph, son of David…” the angel says. King David – Joseph’s ancestor – also knew family pain, and shame. Remember Amnon and Tamar? Bathsheba was King Solomon’s Mom. “Joseph” – God still knew his name. No small thing when you feel forgotten and tainted. “Joseph, don’t be afraid.” Change brings uncertainty. Rejection makes one unsteady. “It’s true; she is pregnant with the Holy Seed. Don’t be afraid.” How kind of God to address his emotional crisis. Men don’t admit fear easily. God knew and He cared.He went to sleep with a life that had been shattered. Now, God was calling him – by name – to be part of His bigger, eternal plan. Joseph needed to believe God’s word and obey.“When Joseph woke up, he did…” A perfect response: belief becoming behavior, faith having feet! A perfect example too: yield your dreams to God, enter into what seems to be a sham or shame, and be honored by God.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
What does God want you to wake up and do today? All of heaven is on your side. God has shown His ability to transform messes into glorious new lives. His Plan B’s are best. When God changes your plans and challenges your faith, be bold and trust Him. He still knows you, your fears and dilemmas. Everything is under control. God is still with us and more than ever as we trust and obey.
Merry Christmas in the name of Immanuel,who still saves sinners – us – from their sins!