Luke’s account of the Christmas story begins with failure.
After years of disappointment Zechariah receives an angelic visitor telling him his prayer has been heard and his wife is going to bear him a son! But instead of joy, he responds with disbelief.
“How shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years…” and he ends up voiceless for the next nine months as a consequence.
Fast forward ten verses and the angel Gabriel makes another visit, this time to a young girl. When he tells her she’s going to get pregnant without ever having known a man, and before she’s even married, she responds, after a little clarification, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” What faith!
But here’s the question ~ was Mary more spiritually mature than Zechariah?
Remember, Zechariah is introduced as being righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. That’s a pretty incredible intro!
Now we can’t measure spiritual maturity on the basis of this alone, but here’s a thought ~ it’s one thing to trust the Lord when you are young and have no idea what you’re getting into. It’s a whole other to trust him after decades of disappointment, when you’ve finally resigned yourself to the reality your last opportunity passed years ago, when you’ve hoped and hurt so many times…
Does this ever illustrate why we need each other! Why the Lord tells older believers to invest in younger ones! Not just so the young will benefit but so those older will too.
Yes, when you’re older you’ve had more time for your roots to grow deeper into the Lord – no amount of excitement can ever take the place of that. But, well, I guess I should say each season of life brings challenges in trusting and following Jesus.
Younger believers often have a harder time persevering because their roots aren’t as deep so there can be much benefit for them having someone older come alongside encouraging and helping them hang in there when life turns out far more difficult than they anticipated.
But for those who are older, there is something so invigorating about the optimism of youth, when you are with someone and they’ve first experienced Jesus and can’t get enough time with Him! When they’re ready to go anywhere in the world without a second thought or do whatever he calls them to do, no matter the cost! It can be so infectious! And spur you on to do the same!
I remember shortly after I became a Christian writing a poem that began…
I’ll climb the highest mountain, I’ll sail the roughest sea
I’ll travel to any distant land and live life dangerously
I’ll brave the harshest winter, pushing onward through sleet and snow
I’m ready Lord. Do with me as you will, just show me the way I should go…
And I spent my years in college sleeping on a reed mat on the floor of my dorm room getting ready to do pioneer missions, to take the gospel where it hadn’t been before and meeting with anyone who showed any interest at all to share with them about Jesus!
I remember someone commenting once I was a gift to the woman I met with because I was so excited about anything that had to do with God, at a time when she was wrestling with the reality she was probably going to be single the rest of her life and discouraged over shattered dreams. I better understand this now.
As I approach 50 it’s not quite as easy to climb those mountains, and after having endured this past week’s negative zero temps, I’m not certain how eager I’d be to push onward through sleet and snow – that’s not only cold, that’s wet!!!
We had a national staff conference a couple weeks ago and were so blessed to have Jim Downing and Jerry and Jane Bridges join us. I got to see first hand – It’s a whole lot harder for them to come to these conferences than it is for someone 80 years younger! But how blessed the younger staff are to have them there – and what a delight to see the joy on their faces as they interact with new staff!
If the Lord keeps me here I so hope to follow in their footsteps. I want to follow Jesus however, wherever, whenever with whomever, but I’m much more aware of the cost now.
Do those I meet with ever keep me on my toes, challenging me to go out of my comfort zone.
Here’s one other thing – note where Mary heads right after she gets this news… Straight to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s house! Can you imagine the incredible one on ones she shared with Elizabeth during their three months together? And what a blessing that was to her, too?!
Don’t you just love how the Lord works things out so we all get blessed as together we follow him?!