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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.
  • Must!

    [Jesus said,] "But the time is coming — indeed it's here now — when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."

    John 4:23-24 NLT

    Key Thought

    "Must..."! That is a hard word when spoken by Jesus! So we should pay careful attention when the Lord uses it. Our actions must conform to his words. "Must..."! Yet this "must" is not one we can do on our own. The requirement to worship God acceptably cannot take place because of our effort — not because we do it right, say the right words, do it in the right place, or follow the right procedures. God is Spirit. We cannot worship God without the Holy Spirit! In other places, we are told that true worship is worship in the Spirit (Philippians 3:3; Ephesians 5:17-21 — notice "pray/praying in the Spirit" in Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20). More than engaging our minds and our bodies, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit to help us worship acceptably. We need the Spirit for at least two reasons. The first is that the Holy Spirit facilitates our communication with God by giving us access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18), interceding for us (Romans 8:26-27), and enabling us to cry Abba Father to God, spirit with Spirit to God (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:6). The second reason is that the Spirit is at work conforming us to be like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18), empowering us to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:9-13) and to display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This influence of the Spirit is why being born of water and the Spirit is so important (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:3-7). Without the Spirit, true worship will not happen. We MUST have the Spirit to worship in spirit and truth!

    Today's Prayer

    Father, thank you for sending Jesus to reveal your truth and for sending the Spirit to make that truth come alive in me. May my life be a living and holy praise to 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.

  • The Time Has Come

    [Jesus said,] "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."

    John 4:23-24 NIV

    Key Thought

    Jesus' words, spoken to the woman at the well in Samaria, echo down through time. They cut through the worship wars of every era. They rattle our selfish preferences and challenge our dogmatic positions. They remind us that worship is something much more than a responsibility, a ritual, a place, a time, or a style. Worship is a gift. We cannot even properly worship without the Spirit of God in us. Those who are born of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-7) are given the opportunity to worship because of the Spirit's presence. And when they are led to worship in the Spirit, they are then called to make that worship authentic. Worship in truth is worship that is consistent throughout life — living-sacrifice worship (Romans 12:1-2). As the Spirit permeates our being, influences our hearts, and conforms us to Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), then worship is no longer about a place (John 4:21), but about presence! The Holy Spirit, God's abiding Presence in us, makes the life of God come alive in us — not just on a "worship day," but every day in all of our ways.

    Today's Prayer

    O Father, I want to be a true worshiper! I want to worship you spirit to Spirit. I want my worship words to be consistent with my daily worship in thought, action, and speech. As the psalmist said so long ago, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

    The quotation in the prayer is from Psalm 19:14 NLT.


    Ⓒ 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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