Lesson 3 -- first quarter 2003
December 15, 2002
© Copyright 2002, Christian Light Publications
What do you fear?
I was practically convinced God had opened all the necessary doors and made green all the required lights, finally clearing the way for our return to Mexico. But I was afraid. I was afraid of that practically -- what if I were misreading the signs? I was afraid of losing my oldest daughter -- what if the enticements of the world lured her away? I was afraid of financial peril -- what if we went broke on the mission field? I was afraid of what people would think and say -- would I be indelibly branded as a stubborn rebel, a proud dreamer? So I did not move ahead with the plan.
I wonder if Joseph had to struggle with his own unique batch of fears. Though he was obviously a godly man, he was just as obviously human. So it seems safe to conclude that Joseph did indeed battle at least some fears. "If I go ahead and marry her, will people think we are both moral failures? And even if my reputation were so strong that they would not blame me for her condition, would they think I'm a fool for not divorcing her? I wonder what this will do to my business and to my standing in the community. What if that angelic appearance was only a dream and Mary really was unfaithful to me? Why should I not believe the obvious -- that another man is this child's father? Will I be able to trust her?"
Often our fears come from the unknown and the perplexing. I imagine Joseph got the angel's message plainly enough, but I doubt he understood it all. Despite any perplexities and fears ("concerns," if you prefer) that may have harassed him like a persistent swarm of buzzing mosquitoes, Joseph did precisely as God said he should do.
When God makes His will clear to us, it isn't entirely necessary for us to be completely understanding and fearless. No, the only thing that is absolutely necessary for us is trust and obedience.
In one of His parables, Jesus mentioned a servant whose fear caused him to be unfaithful to his calling. His fear moved him to hatch a "safe" plan which was a "sensible" alternative to what the Master had in mind. For allowing his fear to get in the way of his knowledge of his Master's will, the servant was branded as wicked and slothful (Matthew 25:26) and was cast into outer darkness.
Well, what do you fear? Whatever it is, never allow it to keep you from faithful obedience to the known will of God. Remember that fear becomes unfaithfulness when it paralyzes us in our walk with God. Be assured that those who obey despite their fears discover that God helps them overcome those fears.
Joseph was surely thunderstruck when he learned that Mary was expecting a child. The response he planned was entirely justified. But the way he planned to do it reveals the selflessness of his character. He was determined to show thoughtfulness and consideration for Mary, choosing to put her away in a non-public way. He put her first ahead of his own need to make a public statement about his own innocence, purity, and righteousness.
I imagine Joseph was getting settled into a new life away from his old home town. Perhaps his business was just starting to take hold. Maybe after months of financial hardship and sacrifice, things were finally looking comfortable and secure. Now he has another one of those dreams. And again it means putting someone else ahead of himself. This time it means heading for a foreign country and starting over again. Being selfless, he once again put Mary's and Jesus' interests ahead of his own.
I know; the section title seems misleading. But it isn't. How well we put others first is very indicative of how well we put God first!
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