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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.

Look at the first phrase: “The Lord is with you.” That is the essence of faith. God is not some uncaring, far off and distant God. He cares about you! He loves you! He knows when you are going through difficult times.

Many believers, we read about in the Bible, had the confidence that God was with them.

-David as he faced Goliath

-Gideon as he was called to lead (Judges 6:12)

-Strugglers who go through the valley of death Ps. 23:4

-Sometimes we may feel alone.

Example: Standing at the grave side of a

loved one

-Sometimes you may stand alone.

Example: At work you may be seen as the bad

guy…enforcing discipline and rules.

-Sometimes people may disappoint you.

Example: A mate who divorces you

Consider the verse “If God be for us, who can be against us.” Rom. 8:31

Ill- Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed from the neck down while still a teenager, wrote, "You don’t have to be alone in your hurt! Comfort is yours. Joy is an option. And it’s all been made possible by your Savior. He went without comfort so you might have it. He postponed joy so you might share in it. He willingly chose isolation so you might never be alone in your hurt and sorrow.

(Joni Eareckson Tada, Christian Reader, Vol. 32,no. 2. Contributed to Sermon Central by Mark Beaird)

What will the assurance of God’s presence do for you?

1. It will give you new confidence.

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