Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year Resolution

As we gaze out at a new year dawning, many are drawn to make ‘resolutions’ or to reflect back on the past year and contemplate what needs to change in the future. Often we are prone to concentrate on those goals that are measurable and well within our grasp. While those resolutions aren’t bad, maybe we should focus more on what God’s goals for us may be.
“We don’t know what those are”? “We can’t figure them out”? “They are too hard and aren’t achievable.” “They may inconvenience me or make me look silly.”
Before we get too far away from the Christmas images and the birth story, I think there is a great message in it for us regarding how we should let God have His way in our lives – for the new year and every year.
There are three different ‘birth pronouncement’ stories in the Bible that may seem somewhat similar, but actually show a marked difference in how we are to react to God’s plans for our lives.
First was the story of Abraham and Sarah:
God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, . . . I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” (Genesis 17:15-17)
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
(Genesis 18:10-14, emphasis added)
And then the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah:
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to [Zechariah], standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. . . . Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. (Luke 1:11-19, emphasis added)
And finally, the story of Mary:
But [Gabriel] said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God
. (Luke 1:30-35)
Do you see the difference in the responses to the pronouncement of God’s plans? Abraham and Sarah sarcastically said, “Yeah, right!” Zechariah said, “Prove it.” And Mary said, “Wow – how is that going to happen?”
God told Mary that He had plans for her that were physically impossible. In amazement, wonder, faith, and obedience, Mary responded: “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true." (Luke 1:38, NLT)
When God has plans for us, it doesn’t matter if they seem difficult or outright impossible to us. It doesn’t matter if we can’t figure out how they will come about. It doesn’t matter if we know we aren’t capable of pulling it off.
God’s answer to fulfilling His plans in our lives is the same as His answer to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you”. That wasn’t just a pronouncement about the ‘immaculate conception’ – it was God’s statement of His ‘modus operandi’ to accomplish His plans: His Spirit and His power.
While it is certainly true that most of us will not experience having an angel appear to us and tell us what God has planned for our lives, there are still many ways God speaks to us and gives us direction (His Word, prayer, godly friends, etc.). But we must be open to His plans, accepting of them, and obedient to them.
When we respond as Mary did (“I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true."), God will fulfill His plans in and through us as He did with Mary (The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.).
As you survey the new year approaching, what is it that you think God can’t do? What are you apprehensive about letting Him take care of? What are you afraid to yield to Him?
It may seem difficult. It may seem outrageous. It may seem impossible.
But as we are reminded in the birth pronouncement to Mary, “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God." (Luke 1:37, MSG)
Are you willing to make your New Year’s resolution to listen, accept, and obey God’s plans – whatever they may be?

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