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Wisdom for Worrying Times

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Wisdom for Worrying Times

Matthew 1:18-25

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Dec. 12, 2012


*Joseph was surely worried in the opening verses of this Scripture. Mary had been "betrothed" to Joseph. The KJV says "espoused" in vs. 18. We get engaged before we get married. But this was much more than that.

*Hebrew marriages had two stages. In the first stage of betrothal, the couple was considered to be legally married, even though they did not live together as man and wife. This period of being separate, but legally married could last as long as a year. And it was far more binding than modern engagement. Only divorce could break it apart. And if they had been unfaithful to each other, it would have been counted as adultery punishable by death. (1)

*Joseph was truly troubled in these verses, and we live in troubled times today. The influence of ungodly people seems to get stronger every day. God's church appears to be in decline, certainly in Europe and even here in the United States. Bible-believing Christianity faces growing opposition on every front. Government corruption goes largely unchecked. And family life has significantly disintegrated. We can see the decline most everywhere we look. On top of that is the trouble we face in our own health, our homes and our hearts.

*What should we do in troubled times? -- Let's look at Joseph and see.

1. First of all, Listen to the Lord.

*Starting In vs. 18 we find Joseph worried, but willing to listen to the Lord. These verses tell us that:

18. The birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.

19. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

20. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit."

*Try to imagine how worried Joseph was in vs. 18. Because of his Godly lifestyle, he had to assume that Mary had been unfaithful. There was no other earthly explanation. So Joseph was devastated. And in vs. 19-20, he didn't know what to do.

*Have you ever been there? We all have. The great news is that God spoke to Joseph in these verses. And He wants to speak to us too. How does He do it? Well, here God spoke through an angel and a dream. But that's a pretty rare thing.

[1] God can also speak to us through wise friends and acquaintances.

*James Wilson gives a good example from his friend, Dan Rhodes. At the time, Dan was the pastor of two rural churches in Colorado, so, he was unusually busy:

-Twice the number of meetings.

-And twice the number of worship services.

*One day, his daughter's third grade teacher requested a parent-teacher conference with Dan. Dan's wife usually took care of those conferences. But the teacher insisted on seeing Dan.

*When he got there, she said: "I wanted you to see this drawing your daughter made of your family." Dan looked at the drawing and asked, "Where am I?"

*"That's why I called you here today," the teacher replied. "I asked your daughter the same question and she said you're never home. So she left you out of the picture." (2)

*What a wake-up call from above! God can speak to us through an angel or a dream. He can speak to us through wise friends.

[2] But the best way by far to listen to the Lord is through His Word.

*You may never get a special dream from the Lord. But you can always look into His Word, and find the message you need to hear.

*In vs. 22&23, Matthew reminds us that we can always trust God to keep His Word. Here Matthew summed-up this miraculous story by saying:

22. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:

23. "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,'' which is translated, "God with us.''

*Over 700 years had gone by since God made that prophecy in Isaiah 7:14. But God kept His Word. And He always will. All of the prophecies in this Book are going to be fulfilled! And we can count on everything it says!

*What should we do in troubled times? -- Be sure to listen to the Lord.

2. And rest in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

*No matter what situation we go through, we can always find rest in our relationship with Jesus. God's Word reminds us of this relationship in vs. 21, where the angel said: "She will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."

*"He shall save His people from their sins." HIS PEOPLE: That's a relationship. The heart of Christianity is a personal relationship with God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

[1] Many people think that being a Christian is all about religion. If I go to church and read the Bible and get baptized and pray, if I do all of these things then I must be a Christian. All these things are important. But that's not the heart of Christianity.

[2] Some people think it's all about rules: If I do this and this and this, and I don't do this and this, then I must be a Christian.

*God gives us rules so we won't hurt ourselves, so we won't hurt other people, and so we won't hurt Him. Ephesians 4:25-30 tells us that our sins grieve the Holy Spirit. So all of God's rules are very important, but rules are not the heart of Christianity.

*When I was in high school, I used to think it was all about rules. I used to skip church as much as possible. But I still remember one of the times I went to church with a friend. It was Vineville Methodist Church in Macon, Georgia.

*One of the senior adults sitting in the vestibule struck up a conversation with me. And he asked me if I was a Christian. I answered by saying: "I'm not good enough to be a Christian." I thought that being a Christian was something like being a good Boy Scout. You had to earn your salvation, just like we had to earn those merit badges in the scouts.

*But salvation is not a merit badge. -- It's a miracle! It's a miracle that comes by opening your heart to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. And we can do that because God loves us! God loves us even though we don't deserve it. And never could!

*God the Father loves us so much that He was willing to send His only Son to die on the cross for our sins. And Jesus was willing to die for us to take all of the punishment for all of our sins.

*When we open our heart to receive the Risen Lord:

-We are born again into the Family of God.

-The Spirit of Jesus Christ literally comes to live in our heart.

-We know him in a personal way.

-And we can always rest in that relationship, no matter how much trouble comes our way.

*What should we do in troubled times? -- Rest in your relationship with Christ.

3. And always remember that Christ is close by you.

*Matthew reminds us of this great truth in vs. 22-23, where he said:

22. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:

23. "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,'' which is translated, "God with us.''

*These verses show us that the only way God could fully be "Emmanuel," the "God with us," was to become one of us. And that's what Jesus did on the first Christmas.

*Hebrews 2:14 explains it this way: "Inasmuch then as the children (i.e. the children of God) have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil."

*Hebrews 2:17 says, "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people."

*Jesus was like us.

-In Matthew 4:1, He was "tempted by the devil."

-In Matthew 4:2, He "was hungry."

-Mark 6:3 tells us that Jesus was a carpenter.

-In John 4:6&7 Jesus was weary and thirsty.

-And in John 11:35 Jesus wept with sympathy for His friends.

*God the Son humbled Himself to become like us in all ways but one: The perfect Son of God never sinned even once in thought or word or deed. As Hebrews 4:15 says, "We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin."

*So the only sinless Man died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. Now by His Holy Spirit, the Risen Christ who came to be the "God with us" is still "Emmanuel," God with us. So in Hebrews 13:5, the Amplified Bible tells us this: "[God] Himself has said, 'I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down [or ] (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]'"

*Jesus Christ was Emmanuel on the day He was born. And He is still "God with us" today! So always remember that Christ is close to us.

*What should I do in troubled times? -- Remember that Christ is close by you.

4. And commit yourself to live for Christ.

*We need the same kind of commitment Joseph shows us in vs. 24-25:

24. Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,

25. and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

*Joseph did all he could for the cause of Jesus Christ. He obeyed God. He took great care of Mary and his step-son Jesus. Where would Mary and Jesus have been without Joseph? He stood in the gap to provide for them and protect them.

*Think about that trip to Bethlehem they had to make just before Jesus was born. They had to go, because of the Roman census. They also had to go, because God had prophesied that His Son would be born in Bethlehem. Mary was very pregnant when they made that 70 mile journey to Bethlehem. They were on foot or maybe Mary was able to ride a donkey.

*How do you get a very pregnant woman anywhere? -- The answer is: VERY CAREFULLY. Joseph safely got Mary to Bethlehem. Then he safely got Mary and Jesus down to Egypt when Herod tried to kill the baby king. That was a journey of at least 90 miles, again, on foot.

*Joseph also provided love and guidance during the early years of the Lord's life. In Luke 2, he made sure that Jesus was circumcised. And he took baby Jesus to the Temple, to obey the law of redemption. Later, Joseph took Jesus to synagogue every week. The family also took the Lord to Jerusalem for the important feasts every year. The last time we see Joseph in the Bible was when the family had gone up to Jerusalem for Passover. Joseph took the best possible care of his family.

*Here in vs. 24, Joseph DID what God wanted him to, and the whole world was changed.

*Max Lucado tells the story of a man who was committed to the cause of Jesus Christ. His name is Robert Reed. Robert's hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He can't bathe himself or feed himself, brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His voice drags like a worn out recording.

*Robert has cerebral palsy. The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike or going for a walk. But it didn't keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian University, where Robert graduated with a degree in Latin.

*Having cerebral palsy also didn't keep Robert from teaching at St. Louis Junior College, or from going overseas on 5 mission trips. And Robert's disease didn't keep him from becoming a missionary in Portugal.

*He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. Robert would get someone to take him to a park every day, and there, he would pass out brochures about Jesus. In six years he led 70 people to the Lord. And one of them became his wife, Rosa.

*Lucado finished by saying this: "I heard Robert speak recently. I watched other men carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. I watched them lay a Bible in his lap. I watched his stiff fingers force open the pages. And I watched people in the audience wipe away tears of admiration from their faces.

*Robert could have asked for sympathy or pity, but he did just the opposite. He held his bent hand up in the air and boasted, 'I have everything I need for joy!' His shirts are held together by Velcro, -- but his life is held together by joy." (3)

*That's the committed life!


*What should we do in troubled times?

-Listen to the Lord.

-Rest in your relationship with Christ.

-Remember that Christ is close to you.

-And fully commit yourself to live for Jesus Christ.

*Let's go to the Lord in prayer.

(1) Adapted from sermon "Surviving the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by Mike Fogerson - Matthew 1:18-25

(2) SermonCentral illustration contributed by James Wilson

(3) Adapted from SermonCentral illustration contributed by David Yarbrough - Source: Max Lucado -

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