SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
December 9, 2007
God Invites Us to Submit to His Wonderful Plan for Our Lives
Key Verse: Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. – Luke 1:38
The woods are full of skeptics who sneer at people who take God and the Bible seriously. The scoffers laugh at those who accept as truth the miracles of the Bible. If Jesus walked on water it was only because he knew where the rocks were. The loaves and fishes were not multiplied; Jesus simply inspired the people to share their lunches with one another. And the story of the virgin birth of Jesus is obviously a myth. So the scoffers believe.
Each of us has to decide which camp to stand in. We can choose to doubt or we can choose to believe. There is nothing wrong with honest doubt. Most of us are doubters at one time or another. The tragedy is to waste a lifetime caught up in skepticism and miss the joy of believing God. A doubter has his reward; his ridicule can sometimes cause a believer to question his faith. A devout believer has the greater reward – an inner peace that God gives to those who trust him.
To study the Bible is to learn that God delights in using ordinary people to accomplish his work in the world. Repeatedly God skips over the intelligent skeptics and chooses to use common men and women with simple faith. Mary and Joseph were ordinary people and humble believers who were willing to say Yes to God.
Joseph was a simple carpenter. He had neither wealth nor prestige. But when God gave him a special assignment, through an angel, Joseph listened and obeyed. Without Joseph’s understanding and cooperation, God’s plan would have failed. He did his part. He played his role without questioning God’s unusual plan.
Like Joseph, Mary had no credentials. In the culture of her day she was a “nobody.” Yet God chose her for a special role in bringing salvation to the world. Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel frightened her. That is not surprising; most of us would have fainted. How awesome an angel must be! That is why the first words of an angel are always, “Do not be afraid.”
Mary was also puzzled when the angel told her she would conceive and bear a son though she had never slept with a man, not even Joseph. So she asks, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” It was an honest question, not an expression of doubt. Gabriel explains that the Holy Spirit will cause her to become pregnant with a holy child who will be the Son of God. Mary seems satisfied with the angel’s explanation.
Mary had one great qualification – she believed God. The startling assignment – to give birth to the Son of God – did not cause her to laugh or to doubt. Instead she humbly agreed to do whatever God wanted. The New Living Translation renders her response to the angel in these words:
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). This was what the angel wanted to hear. After hearing this, Luke says Gabriel left.
This story helps us see that God is looking for people who will believe in the unlimited power of God and make themselves available to that divine power. Mary’s example is powerful: she believed God and she became available to God. Imbedded in this incarnation story is the good news that God is looking for ordinary people who will believe and who will make themselves available to do the will of God.
It is a relief to know that God does not call us to do extraordinary things. What he wants from us is simple faith like that of Mary. When the call of God came, Mary was ready. She was ready not to tell God what she wanted him to do for her but to do what God wanted. God wanted her to be a servant who followed his instructions.
Like Mary our lives are filled with fulfillment and joy when we learn not to argue with God but to say humbly, “Here I am, Lord, available and ready to be your servant. Show me what you want me to do.”
God’s assignments are similar but not the same since we are uniquely different. But all his assignments require our humble submission to God and our willingness to be ready and available – for whatever task he gives. When we take on a servant’s attitude, the simplest task becomes a holy ministry. This is the meaning of life that scoffers never quite understand.
No task is too small for the servant whose one desire is to please God, not to gain recognition or the applause of others. Mary’s humble example reminds us that the noblest work in the world is to live as a servant of Jesus Christ, ready to do what God says do any day, any time, any place.
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