Posted on: 10th December 2018
“And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
When I read in the gospels the story of the birth of Jesus, I read a verse like “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem”, without stopping to consider the implication. Have you ever stopped to question how far that was, what the route was like or how long it would have taken? Let’s just say, it wasn’t close, easy or quick! Factor in the pregnancy and you must come to the conclusion that Mary knew what it was like to face adversity.
Compare this to the opening verses in the book of James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.” I wonder if that is the sort of encouragement that spurred Mary on to the stable in Bethlehem. Interestingly, the book of James was written by Jesus’ brother, another son of Mary. I wonder if the story of Jesus’ birth as well as his death were in his mind as he wrote those words.
I heard a story once about a lump of rock that made me consider the meaning of James 1:2. In a busy museum there was a beautiful marble statue that people in their thousands would come and admire. The statue was magnificently crafted and showed the expertise of the sculptor. A marble tile from the floor looked up and grumbled at the statue, “It’s alright for you, everyone loves you and admires you. All I get is walked all over and trodden on each day.” The statue looked down at the tile and replied, “My friend, we were once the same but when the sculptor came at me with his tools, I allowed him to break me and shape me in the way he saw best. There were times when I wanted to crack and give in, but I trusted his workmanship.”
Maybe the reason Mary was able to face her adversity was because she clung to the promise in Isaiah 7:14, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” During this season as advent, let us consider how we can be thankful for adversity, clinging to the promises we have been given.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Posted on: 24th September 2018
“And [Joseph’s] master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favour in his eyes and served him.”
Do you have a favourite Bible story? Is there a character that you admire the most? Are there mistakes a character has made that you feel like screaming at them or taking them one side to have a quiet talk about how they could have gone about it differently?
Joseph’s life can be viewed from a number of perspectives. We have the end of the story so are able to reassure ourselves that everything he went through would eventually be worth it. If you do not know the story, please spend some time reading the following few chapters in Genesis.
But imagine now taking a young lad, with a bright coat, and describing the trial he would face. Imagine telling him he will start in a pit, then a slave line, then in prison for a good part of 20 years. Considering these events, do they support the verse that was used to describe Joseph? Is this the favour he would have hoped for?
Contrast another Bible character. In Luke 2:52 we hear of a young boy, aged twelve, developing in four different areas. The writer of the gospel mentions growth in wisdom, stature, favour with God and favour with others. Little is known of this character’s life until the age of thirty. At this point we begin to see the effects of this favour. Again, our perspective allows us to see that ‘all’s well that ends well’, but this favour with others led Jesus to the cross.
In the lives of both these characters, favour does not go hand-in-hand with ease and comfort.
As we consider respect, whether it is earned or deserved, let us consider how we can show favour to others. The promise in God’s word is that his favour is with you today. What does that mean to you? What would it look like if you were favoured by God? I hope you take time to consider this, even if you find yourself at the moment in situations outside of your control. Consider the promise in 1 John 3:1:
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”