Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Marys Faith
Pastor Steve Schell
Luke 1:26-56
When you’re receiving miracle you need to find someone who has the faith to believe with you, because many will be repulsed, frightened or even angered by what you are doing. Faith is something a person learns by experience. It grows by being exercised which is why there are many who might say they have faith, but when they actually observe someone trying to receive a miracle they recoil. They view it as fanatical or dangerous. To find a partner who can walk through that trial with you, you might need to find someone who has been through something similar, someone who had to stand in faith and fight for their own miracle. These are very special people. They understand what you are doing and are able to encourage you.

Faith is a capacity that must be awakened, and it only awakens when we use it. When we step out and obey we see His miraculous hand at work and learn to trust Him in that particular area, then those steps lead to more. Those who are willing to enter the process become awakened to the reality of God at a new level. They come to “know” that He can interrupt and control the normal flow of life’s events. They see Him do such things frequently and that builds their faith to a level so that they will have the capacity to believe for more when larger challenges arrive.

Mary’s miracle (Lk 1:26-38)
When a person chooses to walk in faith, it is very helpful to have someone who is like-minded to partner with them in the process. Receiving something by faith is much harder alone, but the fact of the matter is we often find ourselves trying to stand in faith while surrounded by family and friends who are not like-minded. Some may find themselves standing alone in a very sour spiritual environment.

That was the situation that faced Mary when the angel announced to her that she would miraculously conceive a child. That announcement literally put her life in danger. Who would believe her? Who would encourage her while she allowed this miracle to take place in her body? The small village of Nazareth in which she lived was particularly mean-spirited and quite capable of executing people who violated their religious standards (Lk 4:28-29; Mt 13:54-58; Jn 1:46). If her neighbors discovered that she was pregnant out of wedlock, what would they do? Even Joseph, her fiancée, when he learned she was pregnant became so worried that he planned to “send her away secretly” (Mt 1:19). Only after an angel appeared to him in a dream did he accept Mary’s report and marry her (Mt 1:20-25).

A safe place
Yet God, in His plan, had prepared a safe place for Mary. Someone else in her family, at that very moment, was also walking in faith through a miracle: Zacharias and Elizabeth (Lk 1:5-25). Not only had they seen God do a miracle that enabled their aged bodies to conceive a child, but they were believing that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb would grow up to be the prophet like Elijah whom God would send to prepare the way for the arrival of the Messiah Himself (Lk 1:17, 76-79; Mal 4:5-6). They too were experiencing a miracle, so they too were able to believe with Mary what the angel had promised. So to save her life, and keep her faith in God’s promise alive, Mary fled south to one of the villages in Judea. And listen to how her cousins received her: Luke 1:39-56.

Believing together
Faith is not something we’re meant to walk in alone. We need to partner with others. Listen:
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up…. And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Ecc 4:9-10, 12).

We need to have our faith encouraged and to encourage the faith of others. Believing God is not easy. As we said earlier, those around us may not understand, or may even oppose us. And then there is the spiritual warfare that takes place. The devil never allows God’s work to go forward without trying to stop it. If he can’t tempt us with doubt or fear he will look for the “weak link” in the chain of our relationships. He looks first at those closest to us, and if they’re not vulnerable someone else who has influence in our life probably is, and that’s where he will strike.

Poor Mary
Poor Mary! First her fiancée doubted her when she told him she was pregnant. He knew he wasn’t the child’s father, but to his credit he began to look for ways to protect her. It appears his plan was to quietly cancel their engagement and then send her away on a long trip, so no one would discover she had a child. This was Joseph’s way of protecting the woman he loved, but clearly he didn’t believe her report about the angel until an angel spoke to him in a dream. And who can blame him? Never before or since has such a miracle occurred. Nor apparently did her parents or siblings believe, which may at least be part of the reason she had to leave Nazareth, though later on her sister Salome believed and boldly stood beside her through another even more terrible trial (Jn 19:25; Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40).

Nor did any of her distant relatives in Bethlehem believe. It’s not surprising that under the circumstances the inn was full with people coming to town to register for the Roman census (Lk 2:1-4), but it is surprising that no family members opened their home to a woman about to give birth. This was Joseph’s and Mary’s hometown. This was where their distant relatives lived, yet Mary had to give birth alone. After delivering Jesus she herself had to wrap Him in cloths and lay Him in a manger.

When Herod the king and the residents of Jerusalem heard about her baby from the wise men (Mt 2:3) they became troubled by the news, not happy. What a strange reaction to the announcement that their Messiah had been born. Herod was so “unhappy” he determined to kill her baby by ordering his soldiers to murder every male child in Bethlehem who was two years old or younger (Mk 2:16). An angel had to warn Joseph, so they could escape in the middle of the night (Mt 2:13-14). Even after Herod died the son who took his place was so vulnerable to Satan’s control that Joseph was warned in a dream to move Mary and the baby out of the area, and they ended up back in Nazareth.

Faith is a battle in which our opponents are not people, but the forces that control people. Here are three:
1) An unbelieving environment: People we might normally look to for support are unable to join us in trusting that God will do what He said He would do (family, medical personnel, friends, church).
2) Unbelief within: We usually must fight our own inner battle as well. Our faith rises and falls with the influence of our own “flesh,” negative reports, and comments made by others.
3) Spiritual warfare: Vulnerable people whom the devil uses to disrupt what God is doing (sexual temptation, drugs, alcohol, new job offers, relocation, accidents…).

How did Mary fight these opponents?
• She drew close to those who were like-minded.
• She depended on God to convince those who weren’t (Joseph).
• She left an unbelieving and even dangerous atmosphere to spend her first trimester (3 months of pregnancy) with people who shared her capacity to believe for such a miracle.
• She experienced powerful, confirming “anointings” of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:41-56).
• Only after she had been strengthened in her faith and the child was fully developing within her did she return to Nazareth and stand with Joseph against the criticism while “pondering in her heart” the things she had seen and heard (Lk 2:19, 51).

Like-minded people
We should not overlook the fact that God never let Mary be totally alone. There was always someone who would stand with her in faith, someone who was going through their own miracle or someone to whom God had spoken about her miracle. When she needed help, Mary went to the effort to be near them, so she could walk through her miracle with them. In fact, you might say they were an important part of her miracle.

Mary’s faith
What did God promise to Mary? What did He ask her to believe? Let’s hear it again: “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 name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end… The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the Holy Child shall be called the Son of God’” (Lk 1:30-33, 35).

Mary had to believe: 1) that though she was a virgin (v34 “How can this be since I know not a man”) she would miraculously conceive a son; 2) that she should name Him Jesus; 3) that He would be the “seed” promised to her ancestor David a thousand years before (2Sa 7:12-16; Isa 9:6-7); 4) that He would reign over God’s people forever; and 5) that her child would be called the “Son of God,” not as a mere title but because the power of God would conceive Him. And those who were like-minded joined her in believing these things. We still do!

1) If you had to stand in faith for a miracle, who do you know that would have the faith to believe with you? Why did you choose that person?
2) Why did God send Mary to spend time with Elizabeth and Zacharias?
3) Do you know someone who is trusting God for a miracle? What could you do that would strengthen their faith and encourage them? 

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