Lesson 1 -- first quarter 2009
December 7, 2008
© Copyright 2008
Why were you born?
Are there any preconditions for our prayers to be heard?
What shall I do in the face of doubts about what God has declared?
Did I "exasperate" God this past week with my "mild" unbelief?
How do I know God cares about my reproach?
Have I been willing to work with God to prepare the way for another?
Why was John the Baptist born? For what purposes did God send him to this planet? What function did John have in God's scheme of things?
John the Baptist came to prepare Christ's way before Him (Mark 1:2-3). He came to turn many Israelites to the Lord their God, "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children," to turn the disobedient to wisdom, and "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:16-17). John came "to give knowledge of salvation" (Luke 1:77) and "to bear witness of the Light" (John 1:7).
I doubt if Zacharias and Elizabeth kept all this information from John. I am sure that from his earliest childhood, John knew his mission and calling. By the time he reached young adulthood, he likely saw and lived life with a messenger's perspective. Because he had a long watching and waiting period, when his speaking time finally came, his message was clear, concise and forceful.
What about you? Why were you born? What purposes does God have for you here, I mean right here where you are? Your parents may or may not have planned for your conception. That makes no difference; Ephesians 1:11 refers to "the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." The timing and location of your birth were predetermined by God so that you might effectively fulfill His plan for you. And He has brought you to this place and point in time in order to use you. Ready? Anxious? Willing?
"Groomed for greatness." I can think of no other person to better say that of than John the Baptist. But let me ask you: Would you rather be the groomer or the groomed? Let me change the illustration to make it a little clearer. Often on a dark stage, a powerful light is used to illuminate an orator or singer. Would you rather be a light or alight?
As limelights, Zacharias and Elisabeth flashed and faded in the universe of biblical history. Between the two of them, they account for some 50 verses; a paltry sum. (Truly spoken as a human!)
As a limelight, John the Baptist flashed brighter and longer than his parents. But he, too, faded. Such was the nature of his assignment (John 3:30).
Most of us yearn for recognition; we chafe at low-prestige tasks. This is particularly true if our task is grooming somebody else for greatness. Even the most shy often prefer being in the limelight to just being the limelight itself.
Perhaps you respond as I'm inclined to, "Ah, come now. Let us be realistic and reasonable! Of course I would jump at the opportunity to be a limelight with John's assignment! I would even agree to take on Zacharias' role. But to take such a privileged opportunities and raise them up as examples for us in mundane living...well, that just seems too out of touch!"
What is required of lights? Illumination. Of stewards? Faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:2). God's measure of John's stewardship is on the same terms as His measure of my stewardship with this quarterly -- faithfulness. God's measure of John's stewardship is on the same terms as His measure of your stewardship with the junior Sunday School class -- faithfulness. Whether it is writing a quarterly, teaching from a quarterly, or announcing the impending arrival of the Messiah, preparing the hearts of individuals to listen to the Master requires faithfulness.
In this context, we can safely say that any task we may have is virtually insignificant of itself; its potential for greatness springs from our own faithfulness to its completion. The ramifications of this concept are truly amazing. The meanest of tasks is made great if we faithfully see it through to its finish and thereby light the way to Jesus just a little more clearly for someone.
Now to look at this from a slightly different angle. What if God wants to use you to prepare the church for someone else? Usually I am so busy protecting my own interests and advancing my own ideas that I give little thought and less time to those of others. God wants us to learn to defer to others and seek to make them successful, even at our expense. What did Jesus say once with regard to John the Baptist? "He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matthew 11:11). So greatness in the Church is determined by humility and service -- preparing the way for another person.
Do you still think this perspective on the lesson is twisting it just a little too much? Does it still strike you as unrealistic to put preparing the way for others on an equal plane with preparing the way for the Lord? I leave this verse for you to ponder: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40).
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