Perseverance

Persecuted, 30 August 2020



Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted Because of Righteousness
Blessed: The Beatitudes
Matthew 5:10-12

Series Big Idea: The greatest sermon in history is radical, revolutionary, and relevant.

Big Idea: Persecution is often a part of following Jesus, but He is worth it.

NIV: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

NLT: God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:10)

NKJV:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

The Message: “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. (Matthew 5:10)

Today we conclude our eight-week series on the Beatitudes, the blessings announced by Jesus at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. As a review, here’s what we’ve covered thus far:

Matthew 5:3    “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Today’s text might be somewhat irrelevant to us today in the United States of America, though some of you watching in other countries might be able to relate…and the future is uncertain.

NIV: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

There’s a scene in the movie Courageous where an employee is asked to lie about a shipment. He’s told he will receive a promotion if he does so. He refuses, putting his job on the line, only to discover it was only a test. His integrity results in a raise and new responsibility with the company. It’s a powerful example of honesty, truth, and righteousness.

But what if the outcome were different? What if Javier lost his job for being disloyal to the company? What if he was persecuted because of doing the right thing?

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

According to Jesus, the kingdom of heaven would be his. Unfortunately, we presently live in the kingdom of this world, a planet plagued by sin, death, and destruction. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven belonged to those poor in spirit (the first beatitude) and the persecuted.

Have you ever been persecuted because of righteousness? Wearing a mask to love your neighbor is not persecution. Someone saying, “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” doesn’t count! I mean have you ever paid a steep price for doing the right thing? It’s been said that no good deed goes unpunished, and yet God will have the final word on Judgment Day.

It’s important to remember Jesus isn’t saying you have to be persecuted in order to experience the kingdom of heaven. The beatitudes are not instructions to follow, but rather announcements of reality. It seems like some people throughout history have acted like fools in order to be persecuted, as if foolishness is noble. If you stand on a street corner and yell at people, people will mock you, not because of your righteousness, but because of your lack of love. We are not to seek out persecution, but neither are to be surprised if we genuinely encounter it due to our obedience to Jesus.

This verse has served as a comfort to our brothers in sisters for the past two thousand years ago, those tortured and even martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

Jesus adds a bit more to his declaration.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)

The words “be glad” literally mean “leap much!” I love that! We are to rejoice and leap much when we are persecuted.

We’re in the midst of an ongoing, spiritual battle between God and satan, good and evil. Sometimes we follow Jesus, other times the ways of the world. Make no mistake, though, they are polar opposites. God’s story is upside-down from the world.

Jesus never promised us happiness, or even the pursuit of happiness. He never said, “Fight for your rights,” “You deserve a break today at McDonald’s” or “Have it your way at Burger King.” The American Dream is not in the Bible! I often confuse my calling with our culture. It’s easy to forget God’s Kingdom while building our own. As USAmericans, we feel entitled to certain liberties and freedoms, and for good reason, but they’re not promised to us by God. Jesus said the opposite.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The blessings—the real blessings—is not health and wealth. It’s not name it and claim it. It’s not financially prosperity, feel-good spirituality, self-actualization, or comfort on earth. As we’ve said throughout the series, the real blessing is God’s presence and favor. The greatest thing about heaven is God’s presence. Period. Are you pursuing God or pleasure?

Is anyone else uncomfortable? We might need to do more study on the Sermon on the Mount. It’s not for the faint of heart. He basically says do the opposite of our culture. Here are some examples:

And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:22b)

If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:29)

But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:32)

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
(Matthew 5:42)

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44)

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:15)

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

Wow! Maybe we should skip that Sermon on the Mount stuff! Jesus couldn’t be serious, right? Let’s get back to our text.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

I want to offer a few thoughts on persecution.

We need to pray for our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted.

In the decade of the 2000s, there were over 1.6 million Christian martyrs. Many predict at least one million will be killed because of their faith in Jesus in this decade. Can we put a human face on those who are suffering? God is present to those who are persecuted. That’s the blessing. Can we be present? To learn more about the Persecuted Church, go to
Persecution.com.

We need to expect persecution.

I’m not suggesting we should seek persecution, but we need to expect it. Paul told Timothy,

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Timothy 3:12)

Jesus was certainly persecuted! Following Jesus means following him into death, too, whether it’s literal or figurative. It’s not about us. It’s about Jesus. He said,

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (John 15:18-20)

We need to endure persecution.

Paul wrote,

We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment. (1 Corinthians 4:12)

This would not be a good recruiting tool for Christianity on a billboard! But this is what it means to follow Jesus.

We need to embrace persecution.

Peter set a great example for us. It is believed that when he was martyred, he was supposed to be crucified like Jesus, but he didn’t feel worthy so he requested that he be crucified upside down! He wrote,

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (1 Peter 4:16)

So What?

Are we conspiring with the things of this world—money, sex, power—or God?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

People often ask about how to know God’s will. There it is! Turn away from the world, fill your mind with Jesus, and you will be able to test and approve God’s will. It might be messy. It could cost you your job. It’s possible that your life will be disrupted. But it will be so worth it in the end.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

Holy troublemakers live with prophetic imagination. They refuse to go with the crowd. They take the high road, do the right thing, love well, and honor God in everything they do.

If you were on trial for following Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

´╗┐Stu G of The Beatitudes Project asks some great questions:

Who and what am I colluding with? The dominant powers at play in the world—or the one who shared the message of the Beatitudes?

What am I resisting?

Are there situations in everyday life where I’m being forced to go with the flow? What would happen if I said no?

Who am I speaking out for? The homeless in my town? The woman at work on the receiving end of sexual jibes? The effeminate guy at school who’s getting bullied?

If I speak out—if I resist—am I willing to suffer for it? Because it might just happen.

One holy troublemaker, Mother Teresa, had this pinned to her wall in India:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

Live a life worthy of persecution. And remember, no matter what the cost, Jesus is worth it. You are blessed. God is on your side.

Credits: Some ideas from The Beatitudes Project, Life.Church

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library
here.

Traveler: Woman of Perseverance, 16 December 2018

Traveler: Woman of Perseverance
Series—Mary Christmas
Luke 2:1-5

Series Overview: Mary may be the most underrated, godly character in the Bible (at least for Protestants!).

Big Idea: Mary persevered through not only a difficult journey to Bethlehem but a life of trials and suffering.

I love to travel. It’s probably a trait I inherited from my mom who made sure my dad spent every vacation day away from home. No staycations for our family! I’m grateful for the memories created during our budget trips, whether they were with trains, planes, or automobiles.

Travel has changed a lot over the years. Flying was once a luxury only for the super-rich, yet earlier this month I saw flights for $20. Even simple road trips today would be the envy of any horse and buggy owner a century ago.

Today in our series
Mary Christmas, we’re going to examine what it really meant for Mary to be the Mother of Jesus, a blessed yet challenging role requiring tremendous perseverance.

Our text today is popular and relatively short.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. (Luke 2:1-3)

Every ten years, our nation takes a census. It helps estimate the size and demographics of our population. In this passage, we see Dr. Luke informing us of a Roman census, no doubt used for taxation

It was customary for people to go to their original home. Where were you born? Imagine if the 2020 census required you to return there. If you were born in Toledo, no problem. If you were born in Alaska, that trip would be more daunting. Imagine if you no longer had family in Alaska. You had to not only get there, you had to find lodging.

Dr. Luke includes this detail because although Jesus was raised in Nazareth, prophecy clearly stated He would be born in Bethlehem, a real town you can still visit today in Israel.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:4-5)

If you’re a pregnant woman today in Toledo, you have a variety of hospital options…and even some non-hospital options. You can choose to deliver at Toledo Hospital, St. V’s, St. Luke, or other local places. You can have your child at home. You could even opt to drive to U-M Hospital or some other regional center. My daughter chose to deliver our
granddaughter at a hospital 45 minutes from her home.

Joseph did not choose a journey to Bethlehem because of the fine labor and delivery professionals available there! He was required by law to go to his family’s hometown for this government registration. Mary just happened to be pregnant at this time.

We don’t know how far along in her pregnancy she was. She may have arrived well before her due date. What we do know is it was a long journey. It takes just seconds to read the account, but the trip took a little longer!

In case you were wondering, the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 70 miles as the crow flies. Of course Mary and Joseph were not crows, so they probably walked more than 90 miles—likely four or five days on foot. Maybe they had a donkey…maybe not. But imagine walking from here to Cedar Point…and even further…pregnant!

The Real Mary

Mary was not a weak, fragile girl as she is often portrayed. We saw last week how she was very smart, reciting numerous passages from the Old Testament in her Magnificat song. Her words were not merely worship lyrics, but radical declarations aimed at injustice. She was rugged and gritty. She was a woman of perseverance.

I learned this past week that the Hebrew word for perseverance comes from a root meaning “regular sacrifice.” It’s not once or twice or when we feel like it. To persevere in our faith, we have to regularly sacrifice our attitude, our time, our words, and our behavior.

In our November series, we talked about
When Life Get Hard. One of the most challenging yet hopeful verses we examined is in the fifth chapter of Romans. Speaking of the glory of God, it says,

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

Suffering produces perseverance.

Perseverance produces
character.

Character produces
hope.

Her suffering began as a pregnant, unmarried teenager. The ridicule, the gossip, the rejection. Then there was the long journey to Bethlehem—without heated seats or a Bluetooth entertainment system! That suffering was probably just the warmup for the labor pains she would experience at Jesus’ birth, which were nothing compared to what would follow throughout her Son’s life…and death. According to Romans, the hope we all desire comes through suffering, perseverance, and character.

This “most wonderful time of the year” is the hardest time of the year for many of us. Empty chairs, maxed-out credit cards, divisive conversations, or unmet expectations can lead us to depression, discouragement, and temptations to give up.

I’m sure Mary wanted to give up at times.
I’m sure Perlean wanted to give up at times.
I know Jesus wanted to give up at times. He said so in the Garden of Gethsemane.

What about you?

I’m reminded of Jesus’ words many years after his birth:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

There are many words that describe Jesus in the Bible:

Messiah
LORD
Savior
Good Shepherd
Great High Priest
Lamb of God
Light of the World
King of Kings

At this time of year, I think my favorite is Emmanuel. Prophesied in Isaiah and echoed in Matthew, Emmanuel means “God with us.”

No matter what you are facing today, you are not alone. It is my hope and prayer that our church family will surround you with love, encouragement, and support. But even if you find yourself truly apart from other people, you are not alone. God is with you. In his final words in the book of Matthew—the end of a statement we call the Great Commission—Jesus says,

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can claim the promises that God will never leave or forsake us. He is with us in the pain, the struggle, the fear, the trial.

Mary understands suffering and perseverance.
Jesus understands sufferings and perseverance, too.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus did not send someone to do the dirty work. He entered our world in the most humble manner and understands everything you are facing. And he will soon return, not as a baby but a King. Our hope is not in the economy, government, or entertainment, but in a new heaven and a new earth, new bodies, and eternity in the presence of Almighty God.

In the meantime, we are to persevere—one day at a time—making space for the Messiah in our hearts and homes, seeking his honor and glory in all things, loving God and others.

In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus tells a parable about wheat and weeds. He explains,

The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. (Matthew 13:38-39)

The instructions were to let them both grow together until the harvest. I’m taking some liberties here, but it’s as if Jesus is saying the Kingdom of God is here, but it’s not the only kingdom here. There is so much beauty, love, and grace in our world. A baby’s laugh, a stunning sunset, the singing of gifted musicians, justice being served, broken marriages mended, new jobs coming to town, families gathering for prayer…
Is there pain, evil, and loss in our world? Absolutely. The kingdom of satan is alive and well along with the Kingdom of God. That’s the tension. It’s not all good. It’s not all bad. I want to challenge you with a question as you persevere.

Where is your focus?

Is it on the wheat or the weeds?
Is it on the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of this world?
Is it on the empty chair at the table or the chairs that are filled with loved ones.

I don’t mean to minimize pain in any way, but simply to encourage you to count your blessings, to give thanks in all circumstances (not because of all circumstances), to focus on Jesus. He is with us.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

There are many of us who are hurting, grieving, and mourning. This has been a difficult year for our church family, but as I am reminded of the suffering, I’m also seeing the perseverance. I’m hearing stories of our church family loving one another.

This is the time of year when people think about presents, but I want to challenge you to think about presence.

Be with others.

Be present. Listen. Love. Encourage. Pray.

Mary was a woman of perseverance. She ran the race. She finished well.

It is my prayer for all of us that in good times and bad, in laughter and sorrow, we would remain faithful to God and one another. He is faithful. He is with us.


Credits: some ideas from The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Traveler: Woman of Perseverance, 14 December 2014

Big Idea: Mary persevered through not only a difficult journey to Bethlehem but a life of trials and suffering.

Key Scripture: Luke 2:1-5

Introduction

Do you like to travel? What is the greatest place you’ve ever visited? Where would you most like to go?

I love to travel. I’m fascinated with humans, especially those from other cultures. The sites, smells, tastes, and sounds of Israel are so different from South Korea, Toronto, and London (to say nothing of Columbus, Ohio!).

I used to love flying. I still do, but since 9/11 TSA can be a hassle…and don’t get me started on fees for checking in bags, fees for carrying on bags, fees for reserving a seat, etc. Soon we’ll have to pay to use the toilet!

The journey is important, but unless you’re on a cruise ship, you don’t travel for the journey as much as the destination. Business travel is much different than pleasure. Staying with family can be different than being in a hotel. A family adventure is different than a solo excursion. I once heard someone say a trip is with kids and a vacation is without kids!

Are you traveling for the holidays? Where?

Traveling can be one of the most stressful parts of the holidays—or one of the most gratifying. Strange relatives, icy roads, and uncomfortable bedding can make things challenging while joyous reunions, great food, and special gifts can make the journey worthwhile.

We don’t know exactly when Jesus was born. I estimate there is a 1 in 365 chance He was born on December 25! We do know His birth followed a trip—from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a trip that must’ve been difficult for Joseph…and even more for Mary.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. (Luke 2:1-3)

Was this trip business or pleasure? It was certainly not pleasure! Caesar issued a census. Every ten years the United States has a census that helps obtain information about who lives in our country. It’s a simple form typically sent via mail and returned the same way. In the future, I’m sure it will be done online.

Mary and Joseph were not as fortunate. They had to travel to complete the census mandated by Caesar Augustus (which means “exalted”), possibly the greatest Roman emperor. He instituted a republic form of government, expanded the empire to include the entire Mediterranean world, and led during the golden age of architecture and literature.

The census was used for taxation and military services, though Jews were exempt from Roman military service. So they traveled to pay a tax. What fun!

It’s amazing how God could use a pagan leader to bring Jesus to Bethlehem in fulfillment of Micah 5:2…

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

I love seeing Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in the New Testament!

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:4-5)

You’ve no doubt heard of Nazareth and Bethlehem, but where are they? It was about 80 miles—at least a three-day trip from Nazareth to the birthplace of David…and Jesus! That’s about from Ann Arbor to Frankenmuth.

There is much we don’t know about the journey to Bethlehem, but it certainly required perseverance. It would’ve been less of a pain if they simply had to load up the car, make the drive, register, and return home but, of course, they didn’t have a car. We don’t know if they walked or used an animal (a donkey is usually depicted in illustrated Bibles). Carpenters often had a donkey to carry pieces of wood and tools so perhaps Mary didn’t have to walk, but it was not as simple as running up to the drug store and back.

Traveling such a distance without an SUV with GPS and a DVD player would be long, tiring, and potentially even dangerous. You think our roads are bad? Imagine a rocky, hilly path that would make our dirt roads feel like glass.

Are we there yet?!

It wasn’t just a stroll down the street. Keep in mind, too, several days of travel meant several nights of sleep—either camping or from hospitable Jews along the way.

Women 12 years of age and older had to register for the poll tax so Mary had to travel (she was obviously at least 12 years of age). She was from the house of David. Even if Mary rode a donkey, eight-plus months pregnant—simply to register for the census—must’ve been grueling. Not that Mary had a choice! Nevertheless this is but one example of Mary’s perseverance.

So What?

We don’t know Mary’s attitude toward the journey, but it seems likely she accepted her fate and saw this as just one of the many hardships related to bringing the Messiah into the world. Her song, the Magnificat—which we looked at last week—praised God despite the countless trials she would experience as the mom of Jesus. She was a woman of great perseverance. Her pregnancy was a social catastrophe. She became a young mom. She later experienced disappointment and even witnessed the death of her son. Yet she persevered. She endured countless trials—as did her boy.

There are two ways we can look at trials: we can
groan or grow.

We are a spoiled, pampered people in this nation. We complain at the slightest sign of adversity, expecting to be safe and comfortable 24/7. We are told it is our right to pursue happiness. Jesus had a different message:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)

That’s a promise—we will have trouble! As I’ve often remarked, I’m among the wealthiest 1% on the planet (not the USA, but the world!). You may be, too. Regardless of who you are or where you were born, you will encounter troubles because this world is broken and filled with sin.

We will have trouble, but don’t miss the second promise: Emmanuel—God with us. He is always with us…and He has overcome the world.

I’m both challenged and encouraged by these words from the book of Romans:

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

Therefore, since we have been justified
through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Recently I heard the incredible testimony of former mobster Michael Franzese. He said he has experienced every conceivable emotion but one is far worse than the others—hopelessness.

It seems odd that suffering would lead to hope, but that’s often the result.

I’ve been amazed at one recent amputee and her attitude of gratitude for a surgery that took her leg (http://myelephantsintheroom.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/why-i-am-grateful-for-my-amputation/). If she can be grateful…

During these final days of Christmas chaos I encourage you to count your blessings and seek God’s will and purposes in your sufferings and stress. Every day is filled with things that we can complain about and things we can celebrate. God is still sovereign and in control. He is still on the throne. Mary persevered through much because she continually trusted God rather than feeling sorry for herself. The journey to Bethlehem is but one small example of the things she endured for the purpose of bringing honor and glory to God.

"Sometimes we think to ourselves, “I’m being obedient, so why aren’t things going better?” We face discomfort or inconvenience and immediately think either that we have misread God’s will or that God has made a mistake. But watch this quiet couple as they head toward Bethlehem. God did not soften Joseph’s bumpy road, but strengthened him. God did not provide a luxurious inn for Joseph and Mary, but brought his Son into the world in humble surroundings. When we do God’s will, we are not guaranteed comfort and convenience. But we are promised that everything, even discomfort and inconvenience, has meaning in God’s plan. He will guide you and provide all you need. Like Joseph, live each day by faith, trusting that God is in charge."

- Life Application Study Bible, Luke 2:4-5

May God be glorified in not only our praise and worship in the midst of blessings but also the way in which we suffer and persevere. This world is temporary and the best is yet to come.

For Further Study

The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.
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