In Luke 1, Mary’s world is disrupted by a Heavenly call. She had well-laid plans and dreams. Love, engagement, marriage, and a future. She had a good name and a gracious character. But God shattered her world with “His will.” You know, that fearful interruption to “our plans.”
Why are we so scared by those terms—”God’s will?” Why does the unknown of God’s intentions bring such paralysis and self-protective instincts to the surface of our psyche? Why do God’s interruptions threaten us? And what does Mary’s response teach us about the will of God? Let’s consider it for a moment…
First, Mary moves through three phases in processing and responding to the “good news” of God’s will for her life.
Phase 1—Fear. She’s terrified by the angel, just as you and I are terrified of “what we know God wants us to do.” Granted it’s scary—but God says to Mary and to you, “Fear not!” In other words, “Get over it, I’m God—let’s move beyond your lying emotions as quickly as we can…”
Phase 2—Confusion. In the next position, she’s perplexed, “How can this be…” She’s looking to human intellect and rationale to explain the supernatural. So God says, “Nothing is impossible with me.” Again, “I’m God, I can do anything—let’s move beyond your minuscule intelligence and reasoning and into the realm of the supernatural.”
Phase 3—Surrender. In the final position, when fear has failed her and logic has reached its limits, Mary has but one choice—run or reverence. She’s past the point of panic and perplexity, and she’s finally reached the point of peace. “I’m yours. Be it unto me according to your word.” “Ok God, I give. I yield. Do with me whatever you want.” She’s moved from anxiety and hostility and disorientation to PEACE. This is exactly where you will be when you fully surrender.
What are the takeaways?
1. God’s Will is Always Disruptive—Just accept it, if you belong to God, His plans for you are bigger than your present context. His will is outside the boundaries of your imagination. Which means, when it begins to be revealed to you, it will be disruptive to your small world. It will be fearful, unsettling, and far from your comfort zone. But fear not—the disruption is only momentary. It eventually fades into the peace that passes all understanding.
2. God’s Will is At First Fearful and Confusing—Once you accept the disruption, your second instinctive response will be to calculate the “how.” We tend to jump quickly into the math, trying to figure out “how to do” what God has clearly called us to do. Again, this is a mistake. Don’t expect the math to work out. It won’t. Just as “the call” is supernatural, so is “the how.” When God disrupts your world with a call, don’t start calculating, just start trusting and following! Obey what you know, and He will work out what you don’t know! He will show you the “how” and you will look back and say, “That was impossible!”
3. God’s Will Invokes a Personal Crisis—God’s will brings my agenda into conflict with His. God forces us to choose Him over self, His purposes over idols (even “good” stuff!), His unknown for our “known.” It’s a gut-wrenching process. It’s a funeral for my future—the future I had imagined, and it’s a mournful, groaning process. What gets you through that funeral is the knowledge that God’s intentioned future for you is more perfectly crafted to give Him glory. Chances are, your imagined future brought YOU more glory than HIM. So when He kills your future and gives you His, you can safely assume His magnifies Him more and you less. And that’s a great place to be! This death of self is a crisis you will survive, but the sooner you just have the funeral, the sooner you can really begin to live.
4. God’s Will Compels Bigger Calculations—Hang with me on this one, I need to build the case. We usually calculate God’s will in terms of “cost to me.” We view His call in light of “what I must give over, surrender, or yield.” We call it “sacrifice.” But that’s a very one-sided, narcissistic perspective—it’s narrow and self-focused. Even in surrender, we pat ourselves on the back like we’ve really made a major contribution to God by yielding all of our plans to Him. How silly. He doesn’t need me. I need Him to rescue me from myself! That’s what the gospel and grace tells us over and over. So our calculations are small, narrow, self-focused and petty.
What we don’t calculate—can’t calculate—is the eternal and monumental benefit, not to ourselves, but to OTHERS because of our surrender.
Consider who was “blessed” by Mary’s surrender. First—she blessed God. She magnified Him, glorified Him—she made Him more visible, more accessible, more beautiful to mankind. That’s what it means to glorify God. Mary made God more clearly and accurately seen to humanity. Second—she blessed all the players in the Christmas story. Joseph, shepherds, wise men, Ana, Simeon, and all those who believed her story. Third—she blessed the tens of thousands of people who saw, heard, and were touched by Jesus personally. All the healings, all the miracles trace back, to some degree, to her surrender. Fourth—she blessed all the millions of lives from the first century church forward who have been changed by the grace and love of Jesus Christ. It’s amazing how one decision of surrender by one seemingly random Jewish girl in a 1st century village over 2,000 years ago still ripples outward in blessing to millions.
I would say, as for Mary’s surrender, the return was considerably higher than the sacrifice—wouldn’t you?
Point is—if you’re holding out on God’s will, you’re requiring, on the back side, a MUCH HIGHER cost than what God is asking of you up front! A lot of people are negatively impacted by your fight to hold on to your personal world. If you win, countless others lose. If you lose, countless others win. Count the cost—not to you, but to others. Consider to high price of resisting God. Do you really want to persist in fighting Him for such a trivial thing as “your way?” Do you really want to finish this life like Frank Sinatra singing, “I did it my way!” In light of Mary’s surrender and the measureless providential outcomes, that sure seems like a waste of a life and call.
Another point—if God is calling you and you’re resisting, the longer you fight, the longer you put off the unfolding of the blessing (to OTHERS.) We’re talking about others. Forget the blessing to yourself—that’s real, but it’s secondary, and somewhat inconsequential in comparison. YOU following God’s will is VITAL for someone else! There are people you’ve never met who are waiting for you to OBEY God so they can be blessed by the grace He intends to give them through you. Think of all the blessings Mary could have disrupted by doing anything other than surrender.
Your rebellion is costly—to a lot of people you’ve never met. Your fear and hesitation and confusion is requiring a higher price that you realize. The perpetuation of your comfort zone is insuring that a lot of others never experience His comfort.
Strange how narcissistic we can be, even in considering the will of God. We think of it this way: What’s the cost to ME? What’s the return to ME? What are the implications for MY FUTURE? What do I stand to gain or lose? What’s the angle here that best blesses ME? We’re a sad lot!
God’s will for you isn’t so much about you. It’s about others. It’s about getting His grace to others. It’s about you being the conduit of God’s blessing upon others. So when you fear or fight, you plug the conduit. You prevent the blessing. You stop the flow of grace. And for what? The flow of money? The flow of personal stability or security? The flow of safety? The flow of personal dreams and personal pleasure? Not worth it!
So, yes—Mary teaches us a lot about God’s will. Her surrender speaks fresh to me every single year—”Be it unto me, according to thy Word.”
God’s will—scary? Confusing? Sure. But go for it! It’s a wonderful, supernatural journey that blesses a lot of people you may have never met!