“We don’t have to live long before learning that life doesn’t always go the way we hope. Planners can do their best to make things happen, but there will be times in every life when God reminds us that His ways are not our ways.
I have been blessed by four New Testament women whose lives were radically changed because of Christ. While these ladies had feet of clay just as we do, they each teach us something about what it means to glorify God through the gospel .
1. Mary teaches us to say “yes” to God even when it costs us the life that we planned. (Luke 1:26-38)
Mary was a young woman who was very likely thinking about her upcoming wedding to Joseph when she was visited by the angel Gabriel. In one divinely ordained moment, Mary learned she would conceive and bear the Son of the Most High, the promised Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord. And with that announcement, one ordinary girl and the world she inhabited, would never be the same.
A thousand questions must have sprung to Mary’s mind, but she asked only one: How was this possible since she was a virgin? While Gabriel explained that the power of the Most High would overshadow her, the multitude of heavenly host must have been holding their celestial breath until Mary responded:
“Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to be according to your word.” In so many words, Mary said, “Yes, Lord. I’m willing to throw my plan out and go with Yours.”
When Mary said yes, it was simply by faith, for surely she couldn’t grasp the scope of God’s divine plan that was being set forth in Christ. I imagine all of heaven reverberated with praise when Mary humbly submitted to God’s plan; for this child would bring salvation to all who believed!
From a human point of view, Mary’s plan for her life had been turned completely upside down yet, from before time began, this had always been God’s plan for Mary.
This should cause us to consider our own response when God ordains a plan for our lives that was different than we expected. How often do we stop to think about the eternal implications of our acceptance or resistance to circumstances that God allows to touch or even nearly crush us? How might God use our simple trust and willingness to submit to His Word, so that His Kingdom purposes would be accomplished in the world and for eternity?
Has your life gone in a different direction than you expected? The gospel assures us that, no matter how dark and confusing things may seem, we can trust God’s plan is for our good and the praise of His glory. The gospel also empowers us to say, “Yes Lord,” so that we can be instruments of God’s grace to a lost and dying world. Submission cultivates the kind of soil where Christ’s joy and peace can flourish in our lives. We simply need to say, “Yes, Lord. Let it be to me according to your Word.”
2. Elizabeth demonstrates the wisdom of God’s plan for women to come alongside other women to encourage and equip them to live for God’s glory.
I love the way God provided a woman who not only believed Mary’s story but was eager to share her own divine miracle of grace as well! In Luke 1:39-56 Elizabeth teaches us what godly character looks like in the midst of life changing circumstances.
a. Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit which empowered her to confirm Mary’s calling by testifying that she was blessed among women to be the mother of her Lord. This reminds us that the Spirit equips and empowers us to do good works through our faithful obedience to God’s Word. May we strive to live Spirit controlled lives day by day.
b. Elizabeth welcomed Mary to stay with her. No doubt reeling from this life-altering news, Mary went directly to the home of Elizabeth where she received loving hospitality and encouragement to trust God’s call on her life. When Mary left singing a song of praise three months later, she was ready to face whatever would come for the glory of God. May our lives have that kind of impact on those who come to us for help.
c. Elizabeth rejoiced with Mary over her calling. This challenges us to remember that, when we accept who God made us and the work He has given us to do rather than envy others; we can be agents of grace to those who need encouragement or strength to face another day. May we find joy in serving humbly wherever God calls us for the glory of His name!
3. Anna, the prophetess teaches us to wait patiently on the Lord who is our true hope.
We first meet Anna in Luke 2:36-38 when Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the temple. Here was a woman who had experienced much sorrow and disappointment in life yet, rather than looking back with regret, Anna had dedicated her life to looking forward with hope. A widow after only 7 years of marriage, for the next 84 years Anna spent her days and nights worshiping with fasting and prayer in the temple, waiting for the blessed hope.
In only two verses we learn that Anna saturated herself in God’s Word and spent her life telling every woman who came to the temple about the Redeemer who was coming to save. So when Anna saw the Promised child in Mary’s arms she rejoiced, for this was the moment she’d been waiting and preparing for her whole life!
Rather than letting widowhood and childlessness derail her, Anna allowed her singleness to be a sign post pointing to the coming Bridegroom Jesus Christ. This godly older woman challenges us to use life’s disappointments as divine opportunities to align ourselves more fully with God’s purposes, trusting His ways and timing to bring about the fulfillment of His promises. Because no matter what a day brings; God’s best is still ahead of us!
4. Mary Magdalene shows us what it means to be wholly devoted to Christ.
Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary (Mark 16:9) and from that time forward she followed Him everywhere He went. Mentioned in all four gospels by name, Mary was the first person Jesus revealed Himself to after he rose from the dead. And in a culture where women were not highly valued, Jesus gave His daughter the added honor of being first to proclaim that Good News to the disciples.
Mary was a leader among women, spurring on other faithful sisters to give financially to the Lord’s work and serve His needs. But most important, Mary demonstrates devotion to Christ by her desire to be wherever He was, even when it took her to the foot of the Cross.
Mary’s life compels us to pause and ask: How does my life demonstrate wholehearted devotion to Christ? Do others witness in me a life marked by gratitude and generosity? Is being with Jesus the greatest desire of my heart, whether in good times or suffering? Do I count it a privilege to go and tell everyone that Jesus is alive?
Mary’s life was forever changed when she metJesus and so will ours when we come to know Him as Lord. The Scriptures teach us why we need Christ and what a life transformed by the gospel can look like. I invite you to read the whole Bible story this coming year to meet other sinners who, because of God’s great mercy, were saved by grace.
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” Romans 15:4.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you,
(Please note: I am taking a few weeks off from writing to reflect again on the greatest gift we could ever receive; Jesus Christ and His gospel. I invite you to take time to do that as well. Have a blessed Christmas! The next blog will be posted on January 12th.)