“But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name 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 the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
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Mary, favored by God, was called to give birth to the Son of God. And, for the first several months, she faced tremendous challenges—ridicule, the misunderstandings, the accusations, the whispers, and even rejection. But step by step, God gave her the strength to continue, making a way for her. But then, there was the decree by Caesar Augustus that a census be taken of all the Roman world. Mary and Joseph were required to embark on a journey at the worst time ever ... the time close to her delivery. Was the timing a surprise to the Lord? Was this an unexpected wrench thrown into His glorious plan for the Word to become Flesh and dwell among men? Hardly! Even this most difficult challenge Mary faced yet was all part of a glorious plan to teach us a priceless lesson!
Consider the trip to Bethlehem at Caesar’s decree. Here is Mary with Joseph, traveling through the land on a donkey, no different than any woman about to give birth. She was large with child...cumbersome, swollen, uncomfortable, achy, bloated, and feeling the burden of a full-term baby dropping into the birth canal. And yet she was on top of a donkey and plodding along for hours with no relief. Then, the onset of labor pains knowing there was no way the journey could be delayed to have the baby. There was no way out—the journey had to be completed!
Mary’s body, screaming out in pain but she was hesitant to say much – she didn’t want to bother Joseph—he had been so good to her to watch over her and care for her. Trying to silence her pain, the contractions continued to escalate. Each step the donkey took seemed to amplify the pain. The muscles in her body were burdened with the task of giving birth while they plodded along through the night. In fevered anguish they finally reached Bethlehem only to find there was no place for them to stay. Trying to avoid panic, she kept her silence while her beloved Joseph would surely come up with a plan. There wasn’t much time, she knew that. She could feel her time was close. Her water broke and there was no waiting, no stopping the progression of labor—it was out of her hands.
Joseph came back with the news … she would have to give birth in the stable in the back of the inn. No bed, no midwife, no clean linens, no one to help. She was all alone. Although Joseph was her husband, they hadn’t been intimate—could he help in the way she needed him to? Afraid to take advantage of his goodness, she kept these things silently in her heart.
Mary’s faith must have been tested to an extreme. The young virgin knew this child she was about to bring into the world was of divine origin—she knew more than anyone else. But the child was a King! Something wasn’t right! Was she being punished? Had she done something wrong? Did she ruin God’s plan? Were people not being obedient to the Lord by providing for them what they needed? What was going on? It’s easy to hear her questions as her body told her the time grew nearer with each contraction.
The stable stunk—animal dung, damp straw, only a feeding trough to substitute as a cradle. The smell of dirty sheep, the sound of their bleating … was this really what God wanted for the Promised Messiah? Was this what God intended for His Only Begotten Son? Surely not! He was to be a King! It shouldn’t be like that! He should be born in a palace, not a stable! All the other girls her age married and had their babies in their homes with the local midwife and their mothers by their side. They had fresh linens too! But, no! Not Mary! The chosen mother of the Son of God. The favored one. The one God called to such a glorious appointment! Something wasn’t right! She was “highly favored” and yet here she was in the most important moment of all time!
But, it WAS right because in Mary’s circumstances lies a lesson for us all. We may be called to a glorious calling, but that doesn’t make life easier. What it DOES mean is that regardless what happens, no matter how painful, no matter how others seem to have it so easy, no matter how wrong it appears … God called us to a specific calling, to fulfill a specific purpose, to achieve a specific destiny. He called us to serve Him, to reveal the glory of God through our lives. Whatever ministry we’re called to, God has called us to challenges, trials, and tribulations which will prove God’s faithfulness!
God has asked us to put it all in perspective when considering Mary’s plight! Her’s was a most glorious calling and yet what she was called to go through was incomprehensible! We rarely stop to think of the facts—instead, we see some romanticized story of a young couple so deeply in love peacefully traveling under a starry sky in a calm and gloriously beautiful midnight hour. We fail to consider the pain, the discomfort, the emotional trauma wondering why all this was happening to her. We fail to consider the cost of her calling and what she gave up to accept her calling. We don’t stop to think about the humanness of Mary, the vulnerability to physical discomfort, the pains of childbirth, and the fact her whole life had been turned upside down!
Then, we fail to contemplate how our callings are parallel to hers in so many ways. We may not be giving birth to the Son of God, but we’re giving birth to a Promise of God—the promise that He will make a way when there seems to be no way, the promise that He will take what the enemy meant for destruction and glorious outcomes that bring Him glory.
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
Bearing fruit! That’s what it’s all about—fruit that brings glory to God! We’re called to be like that tree planted by the water—rooted and grounded in the Lord. Our confidence must be in Him. Through Mary’s example, we’re reminded not to fear during the time “when the heat comes” but rather let our leaves remain green. We must refuse to worry in our time of drought! We WILL bear fruit—the Lord has declared it! That is, IF we be like the “man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.”
Mary’s circumstances were obvious—her challenges, her pain, her trial. But she had a promise and she believed the Word of the Lord! If she had focused on her circumstances, she would have fallen apart emotionally. Rather, she believed that the Word of God is FOREVER settled in heaven!
Mary’s travail, as difficult as it was, led her to a glorious VICTORY … the birth of the Son of God—the Promise of God. And, herein lies our lesson. No victory—no TRUE victory—ever comes without the travail, without the birthing process. Our challenges right now are part of the birthing process of the promise of God.
What if Mary had jumped down off the donkey before they got to Bethlehem saying she just couldn't do it, that she just couldn't go on, and that the calling was much too difficult? In fact could she have done that? No! God had appointed her to a sure victory. Although she didn't comprehend the personal cost, when she said "Be it unto me according to Your will" a series of events wee set into motion that led to ultimate victory—the birth of the Holy Seed within her.
If you’re a child of the Most High God, you have a "Holy Seed" planted in you. Your travail is hard and your calling is a difficult one. But no matter how hard it gets, God is leading us down this path to victory—it’s appointed to us right along with the pain, agony, and discomfort of travail.
Once we accepted God's call, God set us on a path. There's no backing out. Even if we decide to go on with our life and do things our own way avoiding God’s calling, we are still the bearer of a "holy seed" that MUST be birthed. Leaning on God, trusting Him to guide us and lead us through the wilderness will lead us in the path that leads to victory. Any other path we choose will prolong the travail.
We can't escape God's calling ... His gifts and callings are without repentance—they’re irrevocable! God doesn't change His mind. Don't let the enemy talk us into backing out of our calling. Let’s press on until we give birth to that "holy seed" so all of heaven will glorify God as His plan is manifest in us and through us.
Let’s make a decision -- a commitment -- to allow the "holy seed" planted in us be born regardless how hard the labor pangs become. We’re appointed to victory ... that God may be glorified as His will is perfected!
© 2006 Jan Ross
Jan Ross, President and Co-Founder of Heart of God International Ministries, is a passionate and outspoken defender of the Word of Truth and the Great Commission. http://heartofgodinternational.com. For more devotional material by Jan, please take a moment to visit www.hgdevotions.com.
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