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"When God Intervenes..."
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Posted on Mon, Dec 4, 2006
When God came to earth through His Son Jesus Christ, He intervened like never before or since. Before Christ came though, God intervened in many peoples' lives. Does God still intervene in people's lives today? Have you experienced and indentified his intervention in your life? This series of four Advent messages are prepared to help each of us understand how God intervenes in our lives similar to the way He intervened in the lives of the people in the Christmas Story.
“When God Intervenes....”
Scripture Texts Luke 1:5-25 and John 20:24-25
When you think of the advent season, what is foremost on your mind?? What does advent mean to you?? You probably think about all the preparation that needs to take place; and no doubt, you think about preparing for the coming of Christ. But how can you prepare for the coming of Christ, when in reality, He has already come?? If you stop to think about it, preparing for Christ’s coming is just a bit late on our part, it’s kind of like getting ready for a parade that has already gone by, or like getting ready for visitors to come after they have already left!! Jesus has been born, why get ready for His birth over and over each year?? Why does each December find you and I getting ready for Jesus to come??
It’s very easy for you and me to spend a great deal of time getting ready for Christmas, only to miss the nearness with which He comes not only on Dec. 25, but throughout the new year as well.
This advent season, I want to take you on a journey, a journey of expectation, a journey that may actually enable you to not only be prepared for Christ’s coming, but to know it’s Him when He comes. You see Jesus comes to you and to me more often than we realize. If we fail to know when He comes near, we miss the opportunity to know Him better. So I invite you to join me through this series of messages on God’s intervention in the lives of His people….
The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is a story of great hope for anyone who is waiting on God to a special work in their lives. Here is a couple that had dedicated themselves to serving their Lord. Vs. 6 says both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandment and regulations, and how did they do it??--- blamelessly. It is obvious from scripture that both Zechariah and Elizabeth lived their lives serving their Lord.
When you serve God you should live in expectation, right?? For Zechariah and Elizabeth this expectation included praying for children. How this couple must have longed to hold their own child in their arms. Their prayers were centered on worship, exaltation, and expectation. Yes, they wanted a child of their own, --- perhaps more than anything in the world!! Perhaps you are, -- or have been in the same place as Zechariah and Elizabeth?? You have prayed and prayed and prayed some more, but the answer to you prayer seems to be dangling in space somewhere. The most difficult part of prayer is the waiting. It is hard for you and I to understand and accept why it sometimes seems to take so long for our Heavenly Father to answer our prayers.
Here is a couple that was devoted to God and yet they were unable to have children. Even after their prayers seemed to go unanswered, they did not give up on serving their Lord.
In Zechariah's day being barren was looked on as a judgment of God against the couple. It must have been very hard for Zechariah, --- think of him, serving in the temple on a regular basis, yet he had no son, and no daughter. What must have been going through his mind during all those years when they were praying and waiting for a child to be conceived?? What did the people think about Zechariah and Elizabeth’s misfortune?? And how do you respond to a couple that doesn’t have any children?? This story should remind you and me to be kind and compassionate when talking with a couple that have no children. You and I can wrongly assume that it is by their choice that they are not having children, and when we do that we can cause a lot of hurt without realizing it. Many couples struggle with having a baby, and the light hearted joking from you oe mw can cause deep and prolonged hurt in the couple. As the years passed by Zechariah and Elizabeth probably learned to accept the fact that they could not have children. In fact it would seem like Zechariah had given up on having a child... after all they were both beyond child-bearing age.
You know its funny how God brings opportunities into our lives to help us put the things we want most, on the back burner. You know what I’m talking about,-- you may have wanted something so badly, but because you received something else, you could kind of forget about the thing you wanted most. Christmas presents can be like that. Sometimes you don’t get what you really wanted, but what you do get, -- satisfies you so you don’t long for the thing you wanted as much as you did before.
On this particular day Zechariah was chosen to be the priest who would get to bring fresh incense before the altar inside the holy of holies. What a privilege to be chosen for this special task!! You could be a priest all your life, and not be chosen for this special duty!!
Zechariah must have been excited, here he was well along in years, and finally he gets the opportunity to go into the holy of holies. It’s a day like no other in his life!! Zechariah was so excited at his once in lifetime opportunity that his mind was consumed with his duty
And then it happened!!!---Vs. 11 an angel appeared standing on the right side of the altar!! God intervening in time and space!! The people worshiping in the temple were waiting for Zechariah to bring a word from God. You need to understand that the word from God that they were expecting was nothing like they were about to receive. A word from God was rare at this point in time. The space between the last Old Testament Writing and this was approx. 400 years. Talk about a long silence---and now on this particular day, at this particular moment, God intervenes!! And who hears the first words from God after an incredibly long silence?? It’s Zechariah!! However Zechariah was not expecting God to intervene, it seems as though he had given up on his fervent prayer for a child. Zechariah experiences much the same thing that you and I experience when God intervenes in our lives.
When God intervenes in my life…
1.Vs. 12 I am SURPRIESED and fearful
It seems ironic to me, that part of Zechariah’s duties that day, was to bring a word from God to the people waiting outside. I don’t know what Zechariah was expecting to tell the people he heard, but when God actually spoke, Zechariah was caught in unbelief. Have you ever wondered what you would have done if you were Zechariah?? How would you have responded to the angel that day?? Would you be like Zechariah and doubt the message??---And, has something similar already happened in your life??? But because you were surprised and fearful, you missed it?? Now you’re probably thinking, if an angel appeared before me I would know it;---not necessarily! The Bible tells us to be careful how we treat other people because we may be entertaining an angel and be unaware of it.
When God intervenes in your life he often comes when you least expect Him. You may have prayed for something for years and years, and them given up. You may have even kind of forgot about your prayer. Then suddenly one day, God intervenes and your prayer is answered. Will you be caught in unbelief?? Will you be surprised and fearful??
One of the ways you can know God is near is that God’s presence brings fear.
There is something about a Holy God coming nearer to a fallen creature like you and me that naturally causes a sense of fear and awe. The Bible says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an almighty God. You can know God is near because His holiness speaks even louder than his message. Which simply means we can miss the message, because we get caught up in the fear. Your Lord wants you to pray, and even more than that, He wants you to be ready and expecting Him to respond.
There is a profound sense of expectation that needs to be a part of every prayer you pray. But oh how you and I miss it. And because we don’t pray big enough, we don’t expect big enough from our Lord, and we often do one of two things we are overrun with fear or our fear turns to doubt (as it did for Zechariah) and God’s intervention in our lives results in silence. Doubt overtakes Zechariah’s expectation, kind of like someone giving you a gift, but you refuse to open it, because you doubt it will be anything of value.
Which brings us to NO.2
2.Vs.13 God says “I'm not kidding”
Can you imagine the look on Zechariah’s face when he sees the angel?? What kind of look would be on your face?? Have you ever been surprised by God?? Zechariah was filled with doubt, because the years of his life had surpassed the years of his prayers. He no longer believed in the impossible, because he had become content with the possible. So his doubts were greater than his prayers. Have you ever prayed big enough prayers that required you to stretch your faith, your expectation and your hopes?? When you pray “stretching prayers” they change your expectancy of what God is going to do. You and I are far to content to pray prayers that are easily answered. We pray prayers for today and tomorrow, but we seldom pray for the impossible. It’s when we pray for big things, that our Lord shows himself even more faithful than we had ever thought.
Zechariah is surprised by the angel, he even doubts the angel’s message. The angel says, “You don’t believe me?”--You just Wait and see! God’s not kidding. Jesus wants to bring reassurance to your life, He wants to assure you that he is who he says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do. When was the last time your prayer was answered, and God seemed to say to you, “I’m not kidding.”
Your Father in heaven wants to give you the assurance that He is with you, no matter what happens. It is during those times when we are the most desperate for Him that He comes the nearest to us. Jesus wants to hold your hand through whatever you are dealing with in your life. He wants to bring assurance to your life, that’s why it is so important for you understand as He intervenes in your life.
You might ask “how can I recognize God’s intervention in my life?? How can I know God is really with me??--- He comes near us in many different ways---The short answer is you need to discover that for yourself. Our Lord works in your life in the way the He knows best. Some of the ways He intervenes are …Bible, Prayer, Meditation, the circumstances of your life—accident, death in family, job change etc. He intervenes through angels, and through other people.
My dad’s funeral last week was a military funeral; they had a 21-gun salute and they played “Taps” in his honor. As I was listening and standing there with my dad’s casket immediately in front of me, I felt weak in the knees, and for a moment over-whelmed with grief. Then I looked to my side and there just a step away was our district minister, Roger and Pastor Wil. Most of the people there saw two men coming to support another man in his grief, but, I saw Jesus. Roger and Wil brought the presence of Christ to me that day. It was Christ intervening in a moment when I needed it most, and He did it through two colleagues in ministry. They brought the presence of Christ ever so near when I needed Him the most. I didn’t just see two colleagues in ministry, what I experienced was Christ intervening and strengthening me.
Did you know that our Lord can work through you to intervene in another persons life?? That’s right, you could very possibly be the person God uses to intervene and make a difference in another person’s life! I believe there is a process, as you learn God’s intervention in your own life, our Lord can then equip you to have the joy of intervening in another persons life on his behalf. That’s why I’m teaching on God’s intervention this advent season. My hope is that you will “expect” God’s intervention, and so be an interceder for God.
Where will you see Jesus this Christmas?? Will you be expecting Him to intervene??
You and I sometimes have a real struggle seeing God; really experiencing Him as He draws near and even intervenes in our lives.
Which brings us to NO. 3
3. Vs. 18 I rationalize the situation.---
Did God really come near to me?? That couldn't have been God!!
When Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, what was Zechariah’s response?? His first response was fear, and his second response was doubt. How can this be?? Sometimes our doubts get in the way of our praying big prayers, and sometimes our doubts get in the way of our recognizing the answers to our prayers. When God intervenes we have a tendency to focus on the things we easily understand instead of accepting the thing we don't. It’s almost like we don’t really believe God has or will intervene.
Two weeks ago, as I was driving down Hwy. 83 in the dark, suddenly, there was a deer on the side of the road. Praise God the deer never moved!! It surely would have caused major damage to may car..or worse. However, after that close call, I began to pray earnestly that God would keep the deer off the road. That He would protect me from serious injury because of oncoming deer. Soon after I prayed that our Lord would protect me from deer, I noticed an image that seemed like it was running along the shoulder of the road about 20 feet ahead of the car. How would you react to something like that?? I tried to rationalize the image I saw. Certainly it must be my eyes, maybe my glasses needed cleaning, and maybe the image was simply a reflection from the lights of the car shining into light mist that was falling. Or maybe it was an angel, responding to my prayer, running along side the shoulder of the road chasing the deer away. What do you think it was??
Why do you and I rationalize those times in our lives when God comes nearer than usual? When God comes near, we learn from Zechariah that we need to accept God’s message at face value. You need to put aside those doubts and fears.
Thomas, one of the 12 apostles should have been expecting Christ’s intervention, after all, Thomas had been a student of Christ’s for 3 years. Jesus had taught them about his death and resurrection. Still, even after the other 10 disciples had tried to convince him, Thomas still would not believe unless he “could see” and “feel” Christ’s injuries from the crucifixion. It wasn’t until Jesus physically appeared to Thomas that he confessed “ I believe, help thou my unbelief” To this Jesus responded “you believe because you see, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Do you believe that Jesus Christ wants to intervene in your life??
4. Vs. 25 God always comes through.
When God sends Gabriel to answer Zechariah’s prayer, there is an assurance that what God says will happen,-- will indeed happen. When God intervenes in your life, He will carry it through to completion. You need not have any doubt about it. The doubts of Zechariah resulted in the loss of his ability to speak. For Zechariah there was a long period of silence. Imagine all the people waiting in the temple for Zechariah to come from the Holy of holies with a word from God. Have you ever wondered what word they were expecting to hear?? Most likely they were expecting Zechariah to bring a word of blessing (Numbers 6: 24-26). Oh what a message he brought!! A message of silence!! God spoke more loudly through Zechariah’s silence that day, then He could have possibly spoke if Zechariah would have shouted through a sermon. When God intervenes, God always comes through. Sometimes God intervenes through His silence.
The anticipation of Christmas is perhaps the greatest part of Christmas. It’s the excitement that leads to the “big day” and that is what really gets us going. We spend so much time getting ready for the big day, and when it comes it goes far too quickly.
Have you ever given thought that our expectation of Christ’s coming doesn’t need to stop after Christmas day?? Just as God came to earth through His Son Jesus to intervene for your sins and mine today, Christ wants to come near to you. What’s keeping you from recognizing his appearing?? Is it fear of the unknown?? Is it unbelief?? Or perhaps you rationalize Christ’s intervention as just another one of those uncommon experiences.
Perhaps you find it easy to rationalize what your feeling. It’s easy to put aside spiritual for the physical simply because you are human. The Joy of Christmas is the very fact that in a moment of time, at just the right time, God came near—Immanuel - God with us.
Jesus wants to draw near to you; -- will you let Him intervene?? If you already have Jesus living in your heart, will you let Him come near and make a difference this Christmas?? Will you see him near you, when the crowd sees silence??
Will you be praying big enough prayers; will you be expecting big enough answers to those prayers??
If you have never experienced Christ in a real way, you may be experiencing some fear, some surprise at what you are feeling right now, please don’t rationalize that feeling away, Christ may be wanting to intervene in your life, to bring you to the saving knowledge of Him.
If you would like to ask Christ into your heart, if your desire is to have Christ intervene in your life right now, right at this moment, you can invite that to happen by praying this prayer…
Dear God, I’m a sinner, I’m sorry for my sin, please forgive me. I want to turn away from my sin. I receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior; I trust Jesus alone for my salvation. Please come into my heart and be Lord of my life. From now on I want to follow Jesus, and to invite His intervention into my life. Please come Holy Spirit enter into my heart. In Jesus Name I pray Amen
May this Christmas find each of you, not only preparing for a day on the calendar, but may this Christmas find you REALLY preparing for His intervention.
Christmas is more than expecting presents; it’s really about expecting His presence!
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