by William B. Effler
January is a time when people consider New Year's resolutions. Today would be very different if some of God's servants did not "resolve" themselves to follow through on God's instruction. Our lives would be different today if Moses had said to God, "I don't do water crossings" or, if Solomon had said, "I don't do building projects" or, if Paul had said, "I don't write letters." Mary's response to God's invitation to be the bearer of Good News helps us better understand our own amazement at being modern bearers of the Good News.
First, Luke tells us when Mary was told that God wanted to use her as a messenger of Good News, her initial response was, "How can this be?" (Luke 1:34). Mary questioned God. Are you and I any different? You hear a sermon on evangelism, perhaps one time a year, and you think to yourself, "Yeah, right..." Or, a work colleague asks you about your church, opening a door for a low-level spiritual conversation, how do you respond? Do you have a response?
Second, we learn that Mary received the explanation that God wanted to use her, a young Jewish virgin, to be the "bearer" of the Good News. How open are any of us to hearing God's direction for our lives? Do we read the Scriptures with our minds already made up regarding a choice we have or, do we read God's word to discover possible new directions? As preachers, do we come up with a flashy sermon topic and look to crowbar a text into our idea or, do we let our hearts be ravaged by God in a tireless search of Scripture and let God give us His topic?
Third, we learn Mary's acceptance brought a strong (v. 1:37) yet quiet (v. 2:10) assurance that she was hearing from God. Mary's exclamation, "Nothing is impossible with God" (1:37) is evidence of this assurance. We can observe here a basic lesson about hearing from God. Like Mary, the longer and deeper you and I seek God, the more likely we are to hear from God. Less time with God, less assurance from God. Scripture is full of examples that bear out this simple spiritual equation.
A fourth lesson on being a messenger or bearer of God's Good News is that God knows we need earthly confirmation of His guidance. In Mary's example, God sends Mary's cousin Elizabeth to confirm the angel's report (1:37-42). Elizabeth's confirmation is that she, too, is pregnant-not from God, but also miraculous because she is described as a woman late in years (1:36). How awesome and loving of God to confirm in a natural way, through others, what He is doing in the Spirit.
How do we respond to God's invitation to be used in the area of evangelism? Like Mary, we may question God or at least respond with utter amazement. But, when we accept God's invitation to be involved in His great work our lives will be marked with strong and quiet assurance. We will receive earthly confirmation. And like Mary, our lives will never be the same.
Bill Effler, author of the newly-released book, Turning The Church Inside Out, can be reached via email