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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.
  • Pray in the Spirit

    Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

    Ephesians 6:18 NLT

    Key Thought

    "Pray in the Spirit...!" Paul is asking believers to pray consciously recognizing that the Spirit given them when they came to Christ (Ephesians 1:13) gives them direct access to God. That access allows them to pray what is on their hearts (Ephesians 2:18; cf. Romans 8:26-27) and to ask for knowledge, power, and boldness for others (Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 3:16; Ephesians 6:18-20). In other words, the Spirit lives inside us and empowers our prayers, interceding directly to the heart of God and enabling our prayers to have powerful results! Our prayers are so much more than the words we say. We pray, consciously, alertly, and persistently, speaking to the Creator of the universe, assured we are heard, knowing that God will respond with power and grace in the lives of those for whom we pray!

    Today's Prayer

    O Father, thank you for your incredible gift of the Holy Spirit who makes my prayers much more than my words. Thank you that I can pray in the Spirit, speaking to you spirit to Spirit, knowing that I am heard and understood and that the Spirit conforms my prayers to your will. Thank you that such intentional praying brings powerful blessings for those for whom I pray. In Jesus' name. 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.

  • Be Filled with the Spirit

    Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    Ephesians 5:18-21 NIV

    Key Thought

    When people are drunk, we say they are "under the influence." When a person is a follower of Jesus, he or she should be under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Paul lists five ways that we fill ourselves with the Spirit. Four we would normally identify with community worship — speaking to one another in song, singing, making music in our hearts, and giving thanks to God. Paul adds a fifth way to turn the Spirit loose in our lives: submitting to one another as part of our worship of Jesus. I don't know about you, but there are times when I have not wanted to do each of these things. However, in doing them with a genuine desire to honor the Lord, I find myself blessed and empowered in ways I would never have expected. We shouldn't be surprised: The Bible tells us that when we do these things, God's Spirit fills us!

    Today's Prayer

    Loving Father, thank you for entering into me through the Holy Spirit. I am going to try to do all I can to worship you with my words and with my relationships, trusting that you will empower me with your Holy Spirit. Please help me see your presence and power in my life as I do these things in today's verses. 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.