Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Mary and the Quest for Purpose

Photo Courtesy of: Gareth Harper

“Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” ~Luke 1:38

When I read Mary's story each Christmas season, what strikes me the most is seeing the hope that was brought to all mankind through her willingness to surrender herself to the Father’s will. 

Scholars often say that she was likely no more than about fourteen years of age when she was visited by the angel and told she was going to give birth to a son. Fourteen! We read the amazing story of Mary’s willing surrender to the Father’s will in the narrative Luke writes in Luke 1:26-38. 

What amazes me the most is that, apart from her initial shock over how it could be that she, a virgin, could bear a son, Mary immediately jumps to surrender and obedience. We read her words in Luke 1:38, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” She describes herself as a servant of the Lord - she has no agenda of her own but rather finds her purpose and mission in doing her Master’s bidding. Such is the kind of heartfelt response we find in Luke 1. No grumbling, no trying to find a way out, no argument, no frustration or anger or pride, nothing. Simply quiet, willing surrender. To say that she possessed an amazing sense of faithfulness for a young teen would be an understatement!

Mary’s faithfulness to God was the natural outworking of her faith in God. We read, in what has become known as Mary’s Magnificat (Song of Mary), of this young girl in Luke 1:46-55 singing forth a hymn of praise to her God. This song is a staggering and countercultural portrayal of Mary’s theological prowess in a day and age in which women and girls were not regularly taught theology. This theological training, however, was a God-send, for it was precisely what prepared her for the hard work to which God had called her. Had she not known her theology and had she not known God to be a God of goodness, love, mercy, and compassion, she never could have willingly and trustfully surrendered herself to her Master’s bidding in the way that she did. 

God’s call on Mary’s life was definitely a hard one. Remember: she is likely in her early teens as all of this is happening. She is betrothed to Joseph, but they have not yet come together intimately. She is living as a young girl in a culture and under an old covenant in which women and girls were regularly stoned to death for not being virgins when they married (see Deuteronomy 22:13-22). Mary is agreeing to what could potentially be a death sentence for her. And yet, her faith and trust in (not to mention her evident love for!) her Lord renders her willing and able to surrender whatever plan she may have had for her own life so that she can instead take on the plan prepared for her beforehand by the hand of her Heavenly Father. She exhibits great strength and fortitude in the face of a call which would leave many a weaker woman trembling off in a corner somewhere. God not only called her to this mission, but in His grace He also strengthened and equipped her for it.

Truly, it was her willingness to follow the Lord and His mission for her life and the surrendering of her body as a willing vessel for the world-changing plan of the Lord, which secured for us the hope we each so desperately crave as we live out our days in this sin-cursed world. Granted, if Mary had not willingly submitted to the Lord’s overarching plan for her life, He would have found someone else who would in order for His great redemption plan to unfold as  first prophesied about all the way back in the Garden (Genesis 3:14-15). But He didn’t have to. Mary knew Him, and that is what made her willing to follow Him.

That, my friend, is why we are able to have hope today - an unending, unfaltering, persevering hope in the face of even the worst of life’s trials and hardships. 

As we consider today Mary’s actions, I pray you are walking away feeling refreshed, renewed, and infused with a new sense of hope. A hope you can take with you as you journey through the rest of this Lenten season and on into the rest of the year. A hope that the enemy can’t shake. A hope that is not based on your circumstances, your background, your age, your bank account, your family situation, your friendships (or lack thereof), your past (or present!) sins and failures, or anything else you could imagine. I am praying for you a hope that is unchanging specifically because it is not based on the changing realities of your day-to-day life. Rather, I pray that you will be able to journey forth from this study feeling within you a tangible hope that can only come from our great Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ Himself. The same Christ who intentionally and graciously included women with rather colorful and challenging stories and backgrounds into His genealogy. The same Christ Who desires to do that very thing for you today as He welcomes you into His forever family.

Because, while we pause this Advent season from all the stress and overwhelm of our typical daily schedules and seek to step back from the many distractions, may we remember this: we don’t have to strive to find our purpose. We don’t have to think that living a life of purpose for the Kingdom requires that we always be rushing to and fro, running on empty. This is not at all what God designed us for! Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” 

Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” We don’t have to push, strive, and overextend ourselves in order to live a life of impact. All we ned to do is keep in step with the Spirit and follow Him as He leads. After all, those good works He designed for us to walk in? They were prepared for us before we ever even came to be.

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