Summary: Are we at that place where we know our calling explicitly? Have we positioned ourselves for God’s plan to play out? God’s favor will bring upon you trials and test your faith and endurance. Are you ready?
Opening Illustration: Sundar’s call resembles that of Paul who had God’s favor. He was raised in the Sikh religion in India. All Sikhs have the same last name, "Singh", which means "lion." When Sundar received Christ at age 16, his Father poisoned him, but Sundar didn't die. After attending a Christian school he decided to present the Gospel to his countrymen in a cultural way that would be more acceptable to them. He traveled India on foot in the robes of a "holy man," preaching the Good News about Christ.
In 1929, against all his friends' advice, Singh determined to make one last journey to Tibet. He was last seen on 18th April 1929 setting off on this journey. Whether he died of exhaustion or reached the mountains remains a mystery. Some said that Singh was murdered and his body thrown into the river; another account says he was caught up into heaven with the angels. (Sadhu Sundar Singh, Wikipedia)
Introduction: Throughout Biblical history one common theme is repeated whenever God calls someone for a special ministry-submission. God never asks for our permission. Somewhere between vocational interest surveys, temperament type indicators and career assessment profiles we have lost both the sense of divine calling and humble submission. Vocational planning has adapted to the social scientific mindset that minimizes mystical experiences and promotes freedom of choices. Young people select their career options by matching their personality inventories to the potential financial rewards of a given career. At the dawn of the second millennium God appears to reveal his calling more often through a paycheck than an angelic revelation.
This attitude influences our decisions each and every day. We pray on Sunday morning "thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" but then fanatically strive to make our dreams and plans realized. We set our yearly goals and then asked God to bless our self-appointed plans. Mary stands as a prophetic witness reminding us that God has a plan for our lives. He does not ask our permission and he does expect our submission.
In an age of individual autonomy and self-expression this is an uncomfortable message. "Obedience does not square with the ideal of liberation ..." This generation pursues self-fulfillment with an insatiable thirst. We are told to assert ourselves, to seize our rights. Mary's response is viewed with scorn, as a denial of self that causes her to sacrifice her own unique identity. St Augustine offered a rebuttal "All strength is in humility, because all pride is fragile. The humble are like a rock, the rock seems to lie downwards, but nevertheless it is firm." Mary found her strength in humbling accepting her ordained role as the mother of God and discovered her infinite worth through submissive self-denial.
We may claim our rights on our job by insisting that people follow our plans. We have a right to expect conformity to our rules from our children. And in our church have the right to demand certain things in worship. We have a right to expect and argue for all these things but in our insistence how many arguments does it create? How many people get hurt? How much work really gets done or not done?