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Summary: Mary is described in this passage as highly favored by God. But this favor didn’t result in an easy time. We need to understand God’s thoughts if we are not going to struggle in life.

Confused by God’s favor – by John Appling

Luke 1:26-38

26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

34"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

35The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called] the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God."

38"I am the Lord’s servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. (NIV)

Why is it that we so often associate God’s grace upon us as the same thing as worldly blessings?

Wow, the Lord sure has blessed you!

You have health, wealth, and prosperity – everything is going your way. You have no problems – you have no difficulties in life – your car is running smooth, your children are obedient and well-behaved, your business is going great – and on and on we go. The Lord sure has been good to you!

The prosperity teachers love to use the verse in 3 John, - quoted in the KJV to make it sound better for them - 2Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

It sounds here like John, the Apostle – his greatest wish for the people of God is that they may be healthy and wealthy – but not necessarily wise.

What I want to say to you this morning, and what I believe our passage from Luke teaches us – is that God’s grace, God’s favor, is more often – associated with trials, difficulties, and hardships than it is with ease, lack of troubles, and good times.

The Bible says that an angel was sent from God to a virgin, pledged to be married – and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Last Sunday night, we watched the film, The Nativity – and saw just how wonderful a blessing this announcement was for Mary. Think about this for a moment – if your wife, if your daughter, if your future daughter in law, if your single female neighbor became pregnant – would you believe them if they told you, “I never had sex with a man – I’ve lived a completely pure life”?

Of Course NOT!!! – Mary lived at a time when the penalty for this behavior was death by stoning – if her fiancee wanted to press the issue.

Mary lived in a very small town – really a village, where everybody knew about everybody else’s business – this was not something she could hide.

And in addition to this – she was out of town visiting her cousin Elizabeth for the first three months of her pregnancy (hmmmm – the neighbors all thought – we know how and where you got pregnant!)

This morning I want us to learn 4 truths so that we may better understand what it means to have God’s favor rest upon us.

First, God’s plans are not our plans. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts!

Isaiah 55, verses 8 and 9 tell us this truth that we so often forget.

8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.

9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God’s ways, God’s thoughts, God’s plans are not the same as what the world has to offer. What the world wants, and what each us us in our worldly ways want is often at war with what God wants.

Many of you have heard the story of Job. We sometimes talk about having the patience of Job. Job, the Bible tells us was a righteous man. There was no fault in him. But, God allowed great tradegies and hardship to fall on him. He lost all his wealth, he lost all his children, he lost the respect of the town, his wife urged him to “curse God and die” and his three friends spend most of the book telling Job that none of this would have ever happened if only he hadn’t been secretly sinning.

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