The Decision to Respond
Luke 1.35–38 NLT
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.”
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Week 4 of our series “6 Decisions That Will Change Your Life” is The Decision to Respond. Through the previous three messages I attempted to relay that the decision to follow meant following Christ wherever He leads; the decision for new life meant putting on Christ like a permanent garment that we’re never without; and the decision to mature meant being willing to participate in what God is doing in our life.
The decision to respond is best summed up in the text for today, from Luke 1.35–38. In this account, after having received life altering, almost impossible to fathom news, Blessed Mary says, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” The key word in Mary’s response is “may,” signifying a ‘letting’ or a passive approach to the work that is to be done, when at the same time we understand that this would require every ounce of trust and faith for the rest of her life.
Mary’s response is to let God work, to let His work unfold in life. It means that she—like our other decisions the last few weeks—will follow, choose new life, and mature. This is her response. She will walk with Christ, take on a new way, and grow in grace and truth through this process.
And like Mary, God is calling out to us to make these decisions, to put them together in a grand response that says, “Yes, Lord,” so that He may work. And the work that God is doing in our lives is holy work; a work that is setting us all aside for special tasks and roles in His kingdom.
Scripture is filled with examples of people who God calls out to for a response. I want to look at 3 today, starting with the apostle Paul. He was known as the great persecutor of the Church, but one day on his way to his next inquisition, he was quite literally knocked from his horse and onto the ground. In that bright and surprising moment, Jesus appeared, blinding Him and sending him to the care of quiet man of faith in a nearby town. Paul would later receive his sight and would respond in faith to that life-changing moment, following that call to a new life, where He would become the great builder of the Church.
The other 2 stories involve people called into new roles and tasks, both being found in very different places in life. The first is Isaiah, a man with royal connections who encounters God through a vision and worship. In Isaiah 6, we read that he receives a vision where he is worshipping in the temple and is in the presence of God. He confesses that he is sinful and God cleanses him of his sin and purifies his lips. He then is given the opportunity to respond, as the Lord asks those in the temple who will go from His court and speak to the world and Isaiah responds, “Here I am. Send me.”
It’s in worshipful contexts like this that many people hear God calling out to them to respond in faith. Just like today, we are surrounded by the seeking, by the faithful; by choirs, servants and ministers. We are immersed in song and singing, prayers and teaching, and our hearts know that this is the best and clearest place to hear God speaking because, yes, God is speaking especially on this day, this day of worship.
The other example is that of Jeremiah, whom God called at a young age to do a most difficult task. The story goes that Jeremiah says to God,
““O Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” The LORD replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken!”” (Jeremiah 1:6-8 NLT).
The Lord calls Jeremiah in his youth to speak judgements on the people. He has quite a terrible job before him, filled with revealing the people’s sin and calling them back to repentance. It’s a dirty job and he’s called a young’un to do it. I look back at my own calling at 16 and remember times when 1 Timothy 4.12 was all I had to hold on to when the gravity of God’s call fell on my heart.
Paul told Timothy,
“Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them” (1 Timothy 4:11-13 NLT).
The point of all this is that it doesn’t matter the circumstance—where you are or what you’re doing—because God is calling. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, left undone or already done, God is calling. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how young you are, or who you are. God is calling. And we are to respond to that call. Whatever the tug, prod, poke or nudge, we are to respond. If the phone is ringing in your heart and it’s God on the other end, it’s a life or death situation, because it’s either your soul or another’s soul at stake.
So this morning, make the decision to respond. Is God calling you? Is God calling OUT to you? Are you to teach, to preach, to pray, to read, to lead or guide, to serve, to go, to stay…either way, God is calling. Let us respond.