Do you find it hard to yield to God’s will? Is it challenging for you to give up your dreams and desires in order to obey what God has commanded? if so, you are not alone. Have you ever wondered why it is hard to obey God? I know I have wrestled with the question in my own life, but also in the lives of my kids. Often times we ask for obedience from them and when they don’t obey we ask them questions like “why don’t you just obey me?” To which they usually say “I don’t know.” Well, what we see in children, we also see in adults. In fact, I would say that much of the pain and the brokenness in the world that we see around us is caused by people who are unwilling to submit to God’s revealed will. Relational strife, divorce, abuse, racism, adultery, to some extent can all be traced back to person who has decided to be their own God and is unwilling to submit to what God has revealed. Is this not the beginning of the fall in the first place? All adam and Eve needed to do was obey God right? So why was it so hard for them to submit to God’s will? Well, i believe that what we are going to read and study today will be an example of how a person’s heart is postured to obey the will of God.
We are reading Luke 1:39-56
This picks up the story right after Mary is told by the angel that she will bear the savior. She hears from the angel that her cousin Elizabeth is pregnant even though she was thought to be barren. So we have two women meeting together neither of whom should be pregnant for totally different reasons. One considered barren and old, the other a virgin. Both miraculous pregnancies, one a little more miraculous than the other. So they get together and the first thing we see is that the clump of cells in Elizabeth’s womb left with joy at Mary’s greeting. So, sidenote here: how any person can call themselves a Christian and read scripture and think that at this point John was just a clump of cells is beyond me!!
So, moving on. When Mary spoke, John leapt, and the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth and she prophesied over Mary. She said that Mary was blessed by virtue of two things, the baby that was in her and that she believed that the Lord would fulfill what He said to her. Then we have this beautiful song that Mary sings which is known as the Magnificat. It begins with this beautiful phrase, “my soul Magnifies the Lord.”
Now, what I want to look at is this, in a sense, Mary has just been praised for her belief in God’s promise. Which is in some respects her submission to God’s will for her life. She believed that what the angel had spoken would come true and she said let it be as you have spoken. Now, what I want to look at today is what I believe is the answer to the question, not why is it hard for us to obey God, but why was it easy for Mary to Obey God’s will? I believe that the answer to that question can be found in her magnificat.
Mary knew her position before God: v. 48 He is Holy, she is lowly… For Mary to be in a posture of submission to God’s will, she first had to know where she was in relation to who God is. She understood her place. Humility is necessary for obedience because it acknowledges the actual order of the universe. God is God, she is not Him. This includes both fear, and affection. Fear from an understanding of God’s justice, and affection for the fact that the Great God of the universe has seen fit to know her.
Mary Understood God’s plan was bigger than her. In her song about what God is doing in her life, she explains an understanding of the transcendence of God’s plan. She speaks of generations twice, and says forever once. She understood that the plan God had for her life dis not terminate on her, but she knew that she had a role to play in the unfolding of history that would have ripples long after her life on earth was through. Because of her humility, she knew that God wasn’t taking a humble girl and making her a star, he was taking a humble girl and placing her into a humble place in history.
Now, I want to share a story of someone in our day who got this, they knew their place before God, and they understood that their story was bigger than them. Jamison and Kathryn are a couple from Minnesota. I wanted to share a letter that they posted on their blog about their decision to be missionaries.
“In our last post, Kathryne shared a bit of her story, explaining how God led her to embrace the idea of moving to Japan. We’ve received more comments and questions on her post than anything else we’ve written, so it seemed fitting to elaborate. Over the past five years, there have been a handful of specific moments when it seemed clear that God might actually be pleased to send our family to Japan. One of those took place on June 15, 2013. I (Jamison) wrote a letter to Kathryne. She calls it my second proposal, and she asked me to share pieces of it with you:
“You’ll remember the struggle that I had when we were dating before getting engaged. I desired to have you as my wife, but I felt called to missions in a way that you apparently did not. After months of prayer and deliberation, I felt that the strength of the Lord’s call toward marriage exceeded the call to missions. I was more convinced that I should marry you than I was convinced that God would send me to bring good news to the nations. Now as we near three years of marriage, I am increasingly certain that the Lord guided me to the correct decision–I could not be happier to have you as my wife!
Does that mean the call to missions has ceased or that my desire to go has waned? Not at all! I have come to believe that the Lord is indeed still calling me to missions–us to missions–to the unreached. In fact, I am becoming more convinced as the months go by. He continually opens doors, puts desires in my heart and thoughts in my mind to go to the nations. At times when I am ready to give up on the idea (and there have been many over the past years), he stirs up a new passion to go.
I do not know how things will turn out for us. As a husband, I feel obligated to lead our family toward obedience, whatever the end may be–whether it is life or death or discomfort or disappointment. It is clear that the Lord Jesus calls us not to an easy life, however he calls us. He bids us to take up our cross–just as he did–to suffer and die. Perhaps we will toil for years to raise support and never make it overseas. Perhaps we will go and utterly “fail” as missionaries from all worldly perspectives. Perhaps we will labor for decades without any visible fruit. Or perhaps through willing obedience, many will pass from death to eternal life.
I feel like the prophet Isaiah–a man of unclean lips dwelling among a people of unclean lips. We’re not worthy to speak on behalf of God. But, our God purifies the unclean and equips the unworthy. Then, he sends them out. The greatest hindrance to effective ministry is not a lack of knowledge or skill; rather, it is a lack of total dependence on the Lord Jesus for all things. I would rather go to Japan with a wife who says, “Jesus, I need you,” than one who thinks she is sufficient for these things. Beloved, our sufficiency comes from Christ who makes us competent. This is why I believe God is calling us to missions together.
God has given you the knowledge, the experience, the skills, gifts and heart to make a great name for him among the unreached; yet, you feel entirely unworthy. I take this as a good sign. You are aware of your weakness–Praise God! It is time to cast yourself upon the Lord for strength. I thank God for your hesitancies, because they have checked my over-confidence and caused me to reexamine my own weaknesses. I also am unworthy, and I do not think I would have seen this if I had not seen it first in you.
Kathryne, I am asking you to go with me. Let’s go…or at least let us do everything in our power to go. The Lord may see fit to keep us here, but if he does not, let’s go. It may cost us much, but would you have it any other way? Whatever we lose will be worth it if we gain more of Christ. I believe the Lord is sending us. I am asking you to trust me. More importantly, I am asking you to trust God’s sovereign guidance and care. He will be with us, and he will go before us. Surely, his goodness and mercy will follow us all of the days of our lives. We will dwell with him forever, wherever we dwell for this life. You will never be without your God and your Savior.
‘How soon will some few years pass away, and then when the day is ended, and this life’s lease expired, what have men of the world’s glory, but dreams and thoughts? O happy soul forevermore, who can rightly compare this life with that long-lasting life to come, and can balance the weighty glory of the one with the light golden vanity of the other.’ -Samuel Rutherford.””
And now, I want to tell you the rest of their story…
Last Sunday morning, at around 11:30, an entire family entered heaven together.
Jamison and Kathryne Pals and their small children were driving from Minneapolis to Colorado for final preparations as missionaries to Japan. They planned to leave in October. But in an interstate construction zone in western Nebraska, a semi truck rear-ended the family’s vehicle.
Tragically, the entire family died at the scene, including Jamison and Kathryne, both 29, and their three young children, 3-year-old Ezra, 23-month-old Violet, and 2-month-old Calvin.
The 53-year-old trucker was arrested and charged with five counts of felony motor vehicle homicide.
Today, the faith and obedience of Jamison and Kathryne Pals was celebrated at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. John Piper was asked to deliver the pastoral prayer. Here’s what he said.
O Lord, God of might and mercy and mystery, you have driven the arrows of your quiver into the breast of your people, your beloved. You have filled our throat with bitterness and gall. You have made our teeth grind on gravel, and laid us down with wounds in the ashes of dreams.
You have taken away our sleep, and replaced our gladness with groaning. You have covered us with the shadows of those we love, and we have reached out in vain to touch their bodies.
Happiness has left through the window where the rain pours in, peace has put her hand on the latch, and endurance wavers at the threshold of our soul.
A voice is heard, like Rachel’s — lamentation and bitter weeping. Where is the comfort for her children, because they are no more. You have spared us — us who have lived out our days through no merit of our own, who would happily have finished our course and taken their place, but you have not spared the children, or the valiant, young lovers and your most loyal servants.
O Lord, our eyes are on you. We do not look to another for hope. To you alone. To you we cry. Remember our affliction, remember the bitter wormwood and the gall! You have not made us drink this cup in vain.
This we call to mind, and therefore we have hope: Your steadfast love, O LORD, never ceases; your mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. You alone, O Lord, are our portion, therefore we will hope in you.
You are good to those who wait for you, to the soul who seeks you. You are good today. You were good last Sunday. We are waiting, we are looking for the salvation of the Lord. We are not running from the yoke of this dark providence, or throwing off the burden of your good sovereignty. But we are waiting, and looking, for the yoke to be made easy and the burden light.
You do not hide yourself forever. Though you cause grief, you will have compassion, according to the abundance of your steadfast love; for you do not afflict from your heart, or grieve the children of men.
We know your heart, O God. For there is nothing in the world more bright, more blazing, more terrible, more beautiful, more bloody, more hopeful, than the revelation of your heart in the death and triumph of your Son, Jesus.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
This is the great and glorious Rock where we stand — or lie prostrate — and on which we give thanks for the lives of Jamison and Kathryne and Ezra and Violet and Calvin, who did not count their lives to be more valuable than obedience.
We praise you that they did not snatch a few vain years of life on this earth in exchange for allegiance to their King, but set their faces, like flint, toward Japan and the finishing of their course and the ministry they had received from the Lord Jesus.
And we praise you that they did finish it — like your apostle Paul who wrote from Rome, “I have finished my course,” though he never got to Spain.
We stand on this mighty Rock of Christ, and his shed blood for our sins, and for the sins of the Pals family, and on his victorious triumph over death. And standing on this Rock we pray . . .
For these parents — grandparents, great-grandparents — who sit with pieces of thread in their hands from a fabric of life woven from the womb, and then consumed. Father, we ask that you would sustain in their hearts an unshakeable confidence that the countless hours of investment in Jamison and Kathryne and the children were not in vain. Because your promise in 1 Corinthians 15:58 that their labors were not in vain is built with a mighty “therefore” on the massive foundation of the greatest chapter in the Bible about the blood-bought resurrection of Christ and his people from the dead.
And we pray for these brothers and sisters of Jamison and Kathryne that in spite of the sudden and horrific severing of priceless sibling ties they will feel the unbreakable bond that binds them still through the brotherhood of Jesus, who said, “Who are my brothers and sisters? Here are my brothers and sisters! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Lord, cause this family to know and feel: This circle is not broken.
And we pray for these cousins — the children. O God, make the risen, living, reigning Jesus real to them. And as they taste what we could wish no child would have to taste, grant them to know and feel that in the arms of Jesus all are well, for he did not promise, “I will be with you to the end of your life,” but “to the end of the age.” In death and life.
And we pray for the young people who remain — in this church and throughout the world — that they may find the love of their lives — their Kathryne, their Jamison — and embrace together the second proposal Jamison made — to lead the family in obedience — “whether it is life or death or discomfort or disappointment . . . to take up our cross — just as he did — to suffer and die” (April 15). Lord, in the name of Jesus, and by the blood of these five, I ask, raise up — raise up! — a legion of replacements for the global glory of his imperial Majesty, Jesus Christ. Forbid that any of your children would hear of this news, and waste their lives on trifles.
And we pray, Father, for Tony Weekly, whose head is covered with shame and whose hands are stained with blood. The heart of this family is not a vengeful heart. We pray that Mr. Weekly will find the one and only remedy for shame and guilt, Jesus. And we ask that, in time, through Christ, he would make his way to heaven, and know the indescribable miracle of reconciliation with those already there.
And finally, we pray for Japan, that the great idols of gold and silver and material success would fall before the blood of this family — that these five, even these three little ones, who have now grown to the fullness of their glory and the perfection of beauty, not through the trials of three score and ten, but in the twinkling of an eye — that these all — all five — might be found among the champions of the victory of the gospel in Japan.
In the name of Jesus and for his glory, Amen