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December 22, 2017

Fear, Favor, and Faith

by Robby Higginbottom

...In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:26-38 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=998629ddf9&e=82a9a8f891)

How would we respond if we received the news that Gabriel delivered to Mary? As far as we know, she has never seen an angel. Of course she is afraid. Hearing of the Lord’s gracious favor and presence is encouraging, but then comes the announcement. A child—her child!—will reign forever on David’s throne. The news would make anyone’s heart race. And one more thing: she’s never been with a man. “How will this be?” is a fair question. The Lord is calling her to trust Him for a promise whose fulfillment requires doing the impossible. How would we respond? Would we trust that God can do the impossible? When our fear and God’s favor collide, faith grows as we remember God’s faithfulness.

Sarah was old and barren (Genesis 11:30), but the Lord chose her to bear Isaac, Abraham’s long-awaited child of promise. Rebekah was barren (Genesis 25:21), but the Lord blessed her with Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes. Leah was hated (Genesis 29:21), but the Lord opened her womb and she gave birth to Judah, the forerunner of a Lion whose roar would silence sin and death. A nameless Levite (Exodus 2) faced Pharaoh’s threat of infanticide, but the Lord delivered Moses to her—then delivered him all the way to Pharaoh’s household—that he might one day deliver Israel. Ruth was widowed and childless, but the Lord brought her a husband and a child, Obed, the grandfather of King David. Elizabeth was old and barren (Luke 1:7), just like Sarah, but the Lord chose her to bear John the Baptist.

Again and again, our sovereign Lord chooses to do the impossible as He writes His story of redemption. In choosing the barren, hated, hopeless woman, God makes it clear that salvation is nothing less than the Lord doing the impossible: bringing life from death and hope from hopelessness. And if barrenness and genocide are not enough, for His grand entrance the Lord overcomes the ultimate obstacle to having a child: virginity.

What impossible obstacles are we facing? Where do our fears collide with God’s favor? When we hold our circumstances up to God’s promises, what makes us ask: “How will this be?” If we learn anything from Mary, we learn that the answer is not: Because of who we are and what we can do. The Lord will do what He has promised in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, “for nothing will be impossible with God.” As we reflect on Mary and all these women, I believe the Lord wants us to see more than a string of medical miracles. He wants us to trust in His relentless love, a love that overcomes all obstacles to unite us with Himself.

At Christmas, we don’t just celebrate the coming of the Baby. We celebrate the arrival of the Bridegroom. God’s people are already betrothed to Christ, and a wedding is coming that will make the greatest earthly celebration seem dull. “How will this be?” I think we know the answer. Lord, let it be to us according to Your Word.

About the Author

Robby Higginbottom
Assistant Pastor of College Ministry
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Robby Higginbottom was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. As early as high school, he sensed the Lord calling him to pastoral ministry. Robby is a graduate of Highland Park High School, Duke University, and Redeemer Seminary. Through the years, he has worked with high school students, college students, and young adults at PCPC. Robby currently serves as an assistant pastor. He is married to Ann, and they have two children: Will and John Harper.

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God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Spirit-Warned

    [Paul and his traveling companions] looked up the local disciples [in Tyre] and stayed with them seven days. Their message to Paul, from insight given by the Spirit, was "Don't go to Jerusalem."

    Acts 21:4 MESSAGE

    Key Thought

    Okay, I admit this is confusing. Paul is convicted that he must go to Jerusalem. At the same time, he knows hardship awaits him. Now this warning from the Spirit: "Don't go to Jerusalem!" I don't know any way to understand this situation other than one of two ways. One, Paul is disobeying the Spirit when he goes to Jerusalem. Two, this message is more of the Spirit alerting him that grief and hardship await him if he goes to Jerusalem than it is the Spirit instructing him not to go. Here's the bottom line: Either way, God uses this trip to Jerusalem to deliver the collection from the Gentile churches and to get Paul to Rome, where the good news of Jesus needed to be heard and where Paul was determined to go. Somewhere in the confusion we all face in trying to follow the Spirit's lead, we have to trust that God will get us where we need to be and doing what we need to do to honor him fully (Romans 8:28, 38-39). The question is whether we are willing to invest ourselves fully and trust in the Spirit leading us no matter what the short-term consequences of our commitment may be.

    Today's Prayer

    Gracious Father in heaven, I trust that you will use the Holy Spirit to lead me where I need to be to do the work you want me to do. I ask, dear Father, that my life glorifies you no matter where your leading takes me or what your leading entails. My deepest prayer, Lord, is that I never, ever, outlive my love for you and my trust in you. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • Spirit Appointed

    [Paul, to the Ephesian elders at Miletus:] "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."

    Acts 20:28 NIV

    Key Thought

    Paul reminds the Ephesian elders of three heavenly truths about leaders:

    1. Leaders are to watch, feed, protect and care for (or shepherd) the people of God.
    2. The Holy Spirit is involved in putting leaders into their leadership role.
    3. Those who lead must always realize that those they lead (called "the flock" and "the church of God" in today's verse) never belong to them but to God, who purchased them at such a high cost.
    These truths give leaders a powerful and sobering reminder of their call as leaders and give followers a reminder to follow. For each of us, these truths give us a reminder of just how precious the church is to God!

    Today's Prayer

    Almighty God, please be at work in our churches today through the Holy Spirit's calling those you want and we desperately need in leadership roles in your church. I ask forgiveness, dear Father, for not valuing your church more highly, and I pledge to cherish it as you do. In Jesus' name, I offer these petitions and this commitment. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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