Summary: This sermon gives encouragement for facing difficult times.

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Have you ever faced a difficult time? Your difficult time could be: the loss of a job, death of a family member, a relationship problem with another person, disease in your family, a problem at work. All of us face difficult times. Some of these times are emotional, some are spiritual, some are physical and some are financial. The challenge is finding the courage to face difficult times. Where do we turn?

I want to use one of the very familiar parts of the Christmas story to find encouragement for difficult times. Look at Luke 1:26-30. “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (NKJV)

When this message was shared with Mary she faced a difficult time. Initially she did not know what to do. She faced the fear of people’s rejection. She faced an uncertain future. She faced ridicule. What should she do? God gave her courage and direction to face this difficulty. God knows when we face difficulties, trials and tests. Not only does he know, he wants to encourage us during such times. Look at the encouraging news he shared with Mary as she received the startling news that she, a virgin, would give birth to the Son of God. Initially this news was unsettling to Mary. In verse 30 we read that Mary was “troubled.” That phrase is translated in various ways. The Living Bible says she was “confused and disturbed.” The New Revised Standard says she was “perplexed.” The NKJV says she was “troubled.” Regardless of how you say it, she was facing a difficult time.

Ill- I read about the mother of four young boys who often had difficulty curbing their energy, especially in church. But when her minister preached on "turning the other cheek," the boys gave him their undivided attention. “No matter what others do to us,” he said, “we should never try to ‘get even.’” That afternoon the youngest boy came into the house crying. Between sobs he said he’d kicked one of his brothers, who then kicked him in return. "I’m sorry you’re hurt," his mother said. "But you shouldn’t go around kicking people." Still choking back tears, he replied, "But the preacher said he isn’t supposed to kick me back." That little fellow needed encouragement during that difficult time.

[Jane Vajnar, Tampa, Kansas. "Lite Fare," Christian Reader.]

(Contributed to Sermon Central by Mary Lewis)

God gave Mary courage to face this difficult time. I want you to notice three encouraging words the angel of God shared with her: “The Lord is with you”; “Do not be afraid”; and “you have found favor with God“. I want to look at those phrases individually. It may be that one or all three will be just what you need to hear from God.

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