Christmas questions that determine your impact: Will I obey God when things don’t make sense?
Ever been in a situation where you simply don’t see any kind of good outcome. You know you should pray and trust God, but that is not easy when things just don’t make sense; when God’s plan for you has seemed to go off track where you think it should be going. God speaks to us through His Word, music, devotions, fasting and other people. But no matter what way He speaks to us, it is hard to trust Him when we can’t see a way out.
Something To Talk About:
Godly obedience means trusting the inexplicable commands of God no matter how strongly our hearts speak contrary, or our cultures disagree, or our feelings rebel or our desires overwhelm. This week, as we think about obedience and how to live it out, I want to look at five actions Joseph took that showed his obedience to God.
- Obey Immediately: Psalm 119:60 says, “I will hurry, without delay, to obey your commands.” When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, he told Joseph, “…do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20) So that’s what Joseph did: “When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.” (Matthew 1:24) He didn’t hesitate. He just did it. There is a refreshing immediacy to Joseph’s relationship with God. When God said it, Joseph did it. If you believe God loves you and you want to live a life of obedience in response to His love, then this is how you should respond. Living in immediate obedience to God is a kind of life that breathes with excitement and joy.
- Obey consistently: If we want the Lord to use us in great things, we need to be obedient in the small things He tells us to do. Studying the life of Joseph, one characteristic can be noted, he was obedient to God. But he was also consistent. He obeyed God every time. The reason most of us are not consistent is that there are occurrences when we are reluctant to obey God. We must settle the issue in our own mind regarding the character of God. Can God be trusted? Does He really want what is best for me? Does He really know what is best for me? You will never obey God consistently without the conviction that God’s character can be trusted and obedience to God’s commands will result in a better life.
- Obey sacrificially: There’s not a lot written about Joseph in the Bible, but I believe we can catch a glimpse of who he truly was by his acts of obedience to God. And Joseph in that moment had to trust God about something that seemed like a bad life move. He could have, quite simply, walked away from his relationship with Mary and the impending birth of a child, of whom he was not the father. But he shows his true character when he willingly sacrificed his rights, and instead, lovingly pursued the relationship. No doubt Joseph took some heat for his commitment to Mary. I’m sure he went through persecution by his family and the local community where he worked as a carpenter. Who knows, maybe he even lost business opportunities because of his decision. Yet, we are told quite clearly that he sacrificially obeyed God and became the adoptive father to Jesus.
- Obey courageously: Joseph heard a pretty crazy story one day. Mary was going to have a baby, but he and Mary were not married yet. She said she had been visited by an angel who told her she would have God’s Son. An angel came to Joseph, too. Now Joseph had a choice, and it was a pretty scary one. He could choose to tell Mary that he would not marry her. That would be the easy choice. But, Joseph decided to make the courageous choice instead of the easy choice. He chose to obey God and follow through with his commitment to Mary. Obedience is not always the easiest choice. It takes courage to obey.
- Obey engagingly: Joseph was obviously a man of obedience. He readily obeyed the angel’s command to take Mary as his wife. Joseph obeyed the angel’s message, regardless of the consequences. After Jesus’ birth, he was told by the angel to take his family to Egypt. This was quite an undertaking. To travel by donkey with Mary and young Jesus to an unfamiliar country at least 300 miles away over wilderness terrain is not a simple task. But Joseph obeyed. Joseph is a model to all of us of what it really means to be fully engaged in our walk with God. Are we that engaged? 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him….” God is looking for people who are fully engaged or fully committed.
- What’s your favorite “unexpected” detail in the Christmas story? What is your favorite part of Joseph’s story? What did you learn about Joseph from this message?
- What impressed you most about Joseph’s character? What makes his obedience difficult?
- How does Joseph’s story encourage you to cooperate with God even when He wants you to do something very difficult? How does Joseph’s story encourage you that God knows what He’s doing even if you don’t understand?
- Has God ever told you to do something that didn’t make sense? What was your reaction?
- How does God use our obedience to grow our faith? What does He want us to learn?
- What is the difference between immediate obedience and delayed obedience? What are the effects of each one?
- What makes it hard for you to obey God consistently? What reasons do we give for not obeying God? What does our unwillingness to obey say about our heart condition?
- How can your obedience to God and His words be a blessing to others (think through who the others might be – your family, co-workers, neighbors, church family)?
- How can you start to apply this message this week? What do you plan to do? Spend time praying to God for Him to enable you to apply the truth of the message.
- What did you learn about God through the message? What questions do you still have concerning the message?
Take one thing home with you:
Actions speak louder than words.
The Bible only gives us a few clues about Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. He’s only mentioned in a few verses, but from those verses, we can tell a lot about him. It is apparent that Joseph is a man of character. Our lives are built around following our own will. They’re built on doing what’s right for ourselves and making ourselves look good in the eyes of others. Those things are the opposite of what being obedient to God is all about. Joseph was a man of simple obedience. He was a man of few words. A man of action. We could learn a lot from this silent hero in the Bible if we just took some time to listen to his actions. The next time God asks you to do something out of the ordinary or that could paint you in a negative light, will you question Him or answer in simple obedience?