December 26 - Message Update

“Faithful Living” – Luke 2:22-38 – Pastor Brian

What is faithfulness in the eyes of God?

 

Emily Colson, daughter of Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Ministries wrote, “Dancing with Max,” a personal account of being a single parent raising her son Max, who has autism.  Through many awkward and painful experiences, she describes with humor how God helped her navigate the many obstacles, challenges and judgments of those who were insensitive to raising a child with special needs.  What hurt the most was the way they were treated in some churches.  Yet Emily in her faithfulness to God did not become bitter but became better. 

 

Emily Colson’s story with Max is a prime example of what faithfulness before God looks like.  In this morning’s passage we will look at three individuals, Mary, the mother of Jesus, Simeon the prophet and Anna the prophetess who faithfully lived in the eyes of God.  So, what does that look like?  What does faithful living before God look like?  What is faithfulness in the eyes of God?

 

We see first from Mary that… 1) Faithfulness to God is living according to His Word.  (vv.22-24) The Law, the Bible of that time, required a firstborn son be ‘redeemed,’ or brought before God and dedicated to Him.  Further, after the birth of a male child his mother was regarded as ‘unclean’ for seven days and had to remain at home.  On the eighth day the boy was circumcised.  Then for another thirty-three days, mom was isolated.  On the fortieth day a purification sacrifice was offered which is today’s Scripture.  The sacrifice of two birds that Joseph and Mary offered, was less costly than prescribed by the Law but it was allowed for those of less means, indicating their humble estate.

 

I am especially grateful to worship with you this morning because last week Kathy and I were not able to attend Christmas Sunday.  We were exposed to a person who had COVID and needed to quarantine for several days until we tested negative.  It was not the best situation.  Beside missing all of you, we missed out on some family events.  As you know, isolation is not fun and is inconvenient.

      

Mary’s obedience to the Law of Moses convicted me when I began to murmur and complain within myself about being quarantined.  Mary, of all people could’ve followed the example of the religious leaders who felt entitled for their obedience to the Law.  Yet there she was, the mother of Jesus, humbly submitting herself to forty days of quarantine.  Because she gave birth to a son, she was considered unclean and needed to obey God’s Word regarding the laws of purification. Without complaint she demonstrated her steadfast faithfulness to God’s Word and willingly isolated herself for forty days.  Because she responded faithfully to the Word of God, she did not become an entitled person but she was a woman who continued to pursue a life that was pleasing to Him. 

 

As Americans living in a first world country, the temptation of entitlement is great. Entitlement can be mean.  People are living on the streets, under the freeways, in parking lots, etc.  Entitlement asks, “Why are they in my neighborhood?  I don’t deserve this. I pay my taxes, they should be somewhere else.”  There is a verse that helps in my battle against the temptation of entitlement, Romans 5:8 “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” While we were yet sinners Christ died for me and you.  In my sin, Jesus died.  Jesus died to give you and me life, eternal life.  What makes us think we are entitled to anything when He gave us everything? Mary remained faithful to God’s Word even though she was the mother of Jesus.  Faithfulness to God’s Word kept her humble.

 

For our next point in answering, “What is faithfulness in the eyes of God?” we learn from Simeon that… 2) Faithfulness to God is enduring to the very end.  To live faithfully before God is a lifelong process.  Faithfulness to God is enduring life’s challenges with Him no matter how long it might take. (vv.25-35).

 

Simeon was likely an older man.  He lived a life of devotion to God and was considered righteous among his peers. Verse 25 says, “the Holy Spirit was upon Him” reminding us of how the Holy Spirit came upon the prophets of the Old Testament.  In this same sense Simeon was a prophet, who in later verses prophecies over Mary.  Verse 26 says, “He would not see death before he had seen the Christ,” indicating Simeon’s sensitivity and trust in the Holy Spirit’s leading as he knew he would not die until he saw Messiah Jesus.  Simeon’s faithfulness to God was a marathon.  He endured and hung onto what the Holy Spirit revealed to him until the very end and was blessed. 


Simeon’s dedication to wait patiently for the arrival of the “consolation of Israel” is a shining example of faithfulness to God until the very end.  Simeon prayerfully stayed in tune with the Holy Spirit for years until he saw baby Jesus. 

 

Do you sense the Holy Spirit is moving you to pray for a certain person, situation, or event but you are not yet seeing results?  Be encouraged because a prompting of the Holy Spirit is not empty.  In His time, if it’s truly His voice, you will experience God’s blessings that can take you by SURPRISE.  Faithfulness to God is enduring to the very end, beyond our impatience.

 

Luke 2:27-32  “And he (Simeon) came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he (Simeon) took Him (Jesus) up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; 30 for my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.”

 

Mary’s child is the blessed consolation who offered salvation to Gentiles as well (v. 32).  A Gentile is someone who is not an Israelite, meaning the birth of baby Jesus is just as important for you and me too!

 

After this encouraging news, Simeon continues to prophesy in a more serious tone.  Luke 2: 33-35  “And His father and His mother marveled at what was said about Him (Jesus).  And Simeon blessed them and said (prophesied) to Mary His mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

 

Simeon’s prophesy says that Jesus will “cause the falling and rising of many in Israel.”. Those who embrace the message of Jesus will fall before they rise. In other words, those who follow Jesus will be persecuted and fall before He lifts them up. Simeon adds in that Mary herself will experience deep heartache and sorrow from the rejection that Jesus will encounter.

 

Simeon prophesies that those who receive Jesus will rise after falling from the persecution they will experience and that Mary will suffer great pain as if "a sword is piercing her soul.”  

 

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, Simeon revealed to Mary that as the mother of Jesus she would encounter the deepest of sorrows, like “a sword was piercing her soul.” She did not yet know that her child would be rejected, scorned, tortured and nailed to a cross to die.  I imagine Simeon’s words were confusing, painful and difficult for Mary to hear.  But she faithfully lived despite what was to come.

 

For instance, don’t you find it painful when you can’t remove the suffering of those you love?  You wish you could take away the terminal illness, the bullying of your child, or the financial ruin of your loved ones.  Try as you might there is very little you can do to relieve their suffering.  Yet even in suffering we can hope and hang onto the goodness of God’s plan.

 

If you are experiencing discouragement because it seems God is not hearing you, or facing hardships that feel like “a sword is piercing your soul,” hang on, don’t give up and don’t lose hope, because it pleases God to faithfully live until the very end, and in the end, you will be blessed. 

 

Answering the question, “What is faithfulness in the eyes of God?” We have seen that faithfulness in His eyes is living according to His Word until the very end.

 

In conclusion we see from Anna that… 3) Faithfulness to God is worshipping Him day in and day out.  Worshipping God each and every day is faithful living.  When we worship God daily, we are living faithfully.

 

Luke 2:36-38  “And there was a prophetess Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption or salvation of Jerusalem.”

The prophetess Anna had a very intimate and close connection with God.  She daily worshipped Him with fasting and prayer.  She continued like this day in and day out for decades and now the Christ has come. You could almost sense her joy and excitement as she gave thanks and couldn’t wait to tell others about Jesus.

 

Mindfulness seems to be the catch-word for taking time to meditate and reflect.  I see how mindfulness can be a form of worship if we take time to remember who you are in Christ Jesus.  Being mindful is remembering that you are a child of God because of Jesus.  That He is a Father who dearly loves you and cares about everything in your life.      

 

Being mindful is to intentionally pause and worship God, day in and day out.  Being mindful to worship each day will help us to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, stay connected with Him and to live faithfully in the eyes of God.           

 

We saw the faithfulness of Mary, Simeon, and Anna.  Faithful living for each of them required courage, devotion and dedication.  Their devotion to God was authentic, causing them to stand out from the crowd as they faithfully lived according to God’s Word, endured to the very end and worshipped Him each and every day.  They were ordinary people who broke from their cultural and religious box bringing glory to God as they lived out their faith. 

           

Emily Colson’s life with Max took her outside the box of what is considered the norm.  Because of Max she grew in her faith and God brought unexpected blessings that surprised her. Emily’s faithfulness to God brought comfort and blessings during the hardships she endured.  She is guided by the voice of God to bring hope to a broken world through Max.

 

Is God speaking to you now?  Does it seem out of the ordinary?  Seek God through His Word, wait patiently for His answer, worship Him continually and be open even if His plans may not be the same as yours. If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, will your response reflect faithful living before God?

 

As we close 2021 with the celebration of Jesus’ birth and look forward to 2022, may we consider the examples of Mary, Simeon and Anna who responded to the Holy Spirit in a way that reflected faithfulness in the eyes of God.

 

Praise Songs:

Once in Royal David’s City, ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord), Doxology