"When the Going Gets Tough"
Intro: Did you hear about the little boy who came back to school the day after report cards were passed out and told his teacher, "I don’t want to get you worried, but dad said if my grades didn’t improve, someone was going to be in BIG trouble!"
Or then there is the story of the two twin brothers: the one was a complete optimist and the other was a complete pessimist. They were so opposite that their parents tried at Christmas to balance them out. To the pessimist, they gave every toy he had wanted. To the optimist the simply gave a pile of manure. Early Christmas morning the parents came downstairs to view their sons. The pessimist was sitting in a corner pouting. The parents asked what was wrong, and the boy said, "You forgot the GI Joe tank set!" They looked over at the optimist who was just running around the pile of manure laughing and shouting with glee. They said, "we dont’ understand, what are you so happy about." To which he replied, "I just know with all this manure there’s got to be a pony somewhere around here!"
What do we do when we are encountered by trouble, by difficult circumstances? There are many responses:
denial, depression, withdrawal, avoidance, blame, guilt, anger.
How do you deal with the problems you face in your life right now. This morning we are going to go on in the book of Matthew and look at chapter 2 to see that being like Jesus means encountering pain. Jesus was born into a less than perfect situation. We, too, are all born into some troubling circumstances, but we can face them with confidence if we learn the lesson of Matthew 2.
Let’s STAND to read the word of God.
The first thing I would have you to see in this chapter is
I. The Troubles associated with Christ’s birth
Jesus was born into anything but a perfect situation.
A. Scandalous reputation - As we talked about last week, Mary was pregnant, but she was not married.
B. Oppressive government - sometimes we get frustrated with our government. Yet look at Herod. He is greatly upset, and so is the whole city. Herod was not the rightful heir to the throne, so he had good cause to be worried about the appearance of a rightful king. Herod had already killed his wife and two sons.
*The people are all greatly upset, because they know if Herod is mad, it will affect their lives
They don’t want anything to rock the boat. Remember the slaves in Egypt-- Pharoah got mad so they had to make their own bricks.
*the whole city from Herod down should have worshipped - yet the city is in turmoil.
Foreigners are the ones who come to worship.
**that is typical of the church in America. It seems there is much turmoil in our nation, and often Christians don’t want to rock the boat. Yet it is foreigners who come to worship. The nation of Korea has for years now seen great growth. Korea is sending missionaries to the USA!
Bethlehem - city of David. Jacob buried Rachel nearby. Ruth met Boaz here. Judah=Judea
Magi - Medes, probably from near Babylon - studied astrology, dreams, wisdom books all nations
Magi come to worship despite their limited knowledge. Herod had scriptures, yet does not worship. Formal knowledge of scriptures is not enough. Many today are in church and headed for hell.
C. Death threats - We see Joseph is warned that Herod will search for the child and kill him. Many of us never really face the fear of impending death. We don’t really know what it means to live from day to day wondering if you will live to go to sleep at night.
I read a great book called "A Distant Grief" by a man named Kefa Sempangi about the uprising of Edi Amin in Uganda. People who lived from day to day under fear of death.
D. Homelessness - Joseph takes his family away, fleeing to Egypt. Many of us have never spent one night without a nice bed to sleep in and a nice roof over our heads. Yet in our nation there are thousands upon thousands who for one reason or another sleep on the streets, park benches, or wherever.
E. Genocide - Herod in his anger and fear orders all sons under 2 executed around Bethlehem. Jesus was probably about 6 to 20 months old at the time. Herod wants to make sure he does not miss killing this threat to his reign. Think about Hitler and the mass murder of the Jews. Now tell me you don’t think this happens anymore.
F. Cruelty - Herod dies in 4BC. Archelaus - son of Herod comes to reign - yet he is just as cruel as his father. He was a poor ruler and was banished for misgovernment in 6AD.
G. Social Outcast - "Nazarene" - Nazareth was a despised place, even to other Galileans. In Acts 24:5 the Christians are called a Nazarene sect, a name that is meant to insult them. [John 1:46; 7:42, 52] The phrase "He will be called a Nazarene" is never quoted in the OT. Many think that what Matthew really is saying here is the OT says Christ will be despised.
Yet, now that we’ve seen the troubles associated with Christ’s birth, let’s look at the
II. Triumphs associated with Christ’s birth
A. God provides calmness to his people
We see the angel of the Lord appearing again and again to give reassurance of the plans of God
We see dreams being given to assure people of God’s ways
We see God saving Jesus and his family from slaughter and cruelty
God will give his people peace. Ps 119:165
Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
B. God provides confirmation of his plan
We see over and over again the record of the fulfillment of prophecy. God records the fulfillment so that we can be assured that He is at work among us. Where has God worked in your life? Have you shared that with someone else? Are you looking for him to work?
C. God provides Counsel about his purpose
Joseph is told when and where to go in fleeing and returning. The Magi are directed about their route. When we know that God is leading us, we can engage any difficult situation.
D. God provides Courage for his people.
this courage comes from knowing that He is in control. Why would Joseph take a pregnant Mary as his wife? Because he knew that God was at work. When God assures us with his calmness, confirms His working, directs our ways, we can be bold and courageous in our actions.
What difficulties are you facing in your life? How is God at work?