Our future depends on how we respond to God. No surprises there, nothing new, yet we fail at it all the time. Maybe you don't even realize that God is interacting with you every day. He is our constant companion and those moments when you feel he has moved off are most likely because you have been too distracted to notice him. So if we are so super distracted how can we expect that we will be able to respond to him properly and if we don't respond to him properly we need to expect things won't go so well for us.
Right away people some people are going to twist what I am saying. There are natural consequences to not responding properly. It is like a driver who gets distracted while driving. Can he blame his accident on the manufacturer of the car? I am sure some have tried but the fault is his own. God warns us through his Word and through the Spirit when we are heading toward danger but we get too distracted to be studying the Word and we allow ourselves to become insensitive to the Holy Spirit. Yet we still blame God for the mess we find ourselves in. We say things like "Why didn't God stop this from happening?" He tried, but the choice is still ours. It is a natural possibility of freedom of choice; God had to accept the beauty and ugliness of it. However there are also things that God does in order to teach us, to provoke us into maturity.
This morning I am considering the difference in the response of Mary and the Zechariah to the angel Gabriel. Mary was just hit with some pretty major news; she was going to have a baby. We all know the possible consequences she faced under the law for being pregnant while pledged in marriage to Joseph. There is no sexual contact for a year in this state of their relationship, which is how God needed it to be. There had to be no guess work at this, people needed to know that it was his Son. Yet, it meant the possibility of death for Mary because of the law. That is a pretty overwhelming possibility for this 14 year old woman. How does she respond?
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)
Take note that this is a simple question of how God was going to do this. I am sure most women would ask the same question. That is when she gets hit with the news that it is God who will do this not man and that her Son would be the long awaited Messiah. Even with this possibility of death and the knowledge this child would be of God, Mary's response is a simple one, born from a heart of dedication and obedience:
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
This is the response of trust is what many of us fail to give. We are more like Zechariah.
As we all recall Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were beyond the years for having children. They had longed for a child all their life and had made it a subject of prayer. God, in his infinite wisdom, had held off on their prayer because he had something bigger in mind, something where he would get all the glory. Zechariah and Elizabeth needed to know that the child they were about to have would become a very special man to God. So, Gabriel showed up and spoke to Zechariah. He told him God's plan, to answer their prayer for a child and that this child would become a great prophet. Now remember that Zechariah is a priest, he is in a proper relationship with his wife, the only problem is their age. His response is not one of curiosity but of doubt:
“How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1:18)
Just in case you did not know it, the wrong response to give to God is a response of doubt. Think about it; what are you doubting? You are doubting his love, grace and power. The consequences for Zechariah was that he became mute for the duration of the pregnancy. It was only in his obedience in naming his son, which was an act of accepting God's plan, that his tongue was loosed. That was nine months of reflecting on the Word of God, on God himself, on his own failings and weaknesses, on his stupidity. Imagine the worshiping he did when he was given back the ability to speak.
Our future depends on our response to God. We cannot receive his blessings without faith in his love, grace and power. We cannot respond to his will for us and our loved ones without faith in who he is. The Word says that we cannot even see him without faith. We cannot participate in his work without this same faith. We can face natural consequences to our distraction from our faith in God and we can face lessons that he gives us so we can learn. The easiest way to live in service to our marvelous Lord Jesus is to respond as Mary did, in love and submission to what God is planning to do, so it will go well for us. Do we not recall the promise from the ten commandments that came with honouring and obeying parents, that the people would have a long life and that it would go well with them. Study the Word and you will realize that the same holds true for those of God's children who obey him in faith. There is a little chorus we use to sing in the Church that reminded us of this fact and may be a good for us to sing each day over the next few days as a reminder of how we are to respond to God:
Trust and obey
For there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus
Then to trust and obey.