Talk 2 |We’re In This Together
Let me begin with a story.
The year was 2001. I was a young father. Bene, my eldest, was still a one-year-old baby. I arrived home one night, frustrated and exhausted. I just came from working on my little business. But it didn’t seem to be working. I was frustrated because after telling people what a great product I had, no one bought. Not a single one.
I looked at my baby, wondering how I was going to feed him. Yes, I was receiving an allowance from the Ministry, and I was very grateful for that, but I also knew, long-term, it won’t be enough. I had to create a second- and thirdincome stream, but it was so hard.
Early in marriage, I wasn’t very adept at sharing my feelings with my wife Marowe. Today, 22 years later, I’m so much better and tell her right away. I now love to do it. It breaks in half the weight on my shoulders
But back then, I kept all my worries in my heart.
But my wife, being a woman, sensed my fear.
She sat beside me as we both looked at our sleeping son.
She asked, “How was your business meeting?”
I said, “It was okaaaaay, I guess…”
Which meant it was a disaster.
She put her arms around me and said, “We’re in this together. We’ll face the future together. If your business fails, we’ll budget. We won’t eat out. We simplify more. We’ll find a way. And I trust you. I know you’ll succeed.”
Gosh, I married an amazing woman.
Today, I want to preach the message:
“We’re in this together.”
Are you afraid? God is telling you today, “We’re in this together.”
By the way, I’m doing something crazy today: On Easter, I’ll be preaching the Christmas story.
But I think you’re used to The Feast now.
Later on, you’ll realize why.
Here we go: This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18 NLT)
Engagement was very different in first-century Israel. Today, it’s a bit easier to break engagements. Still bloody, but it’s possible. I know of engaged couples who sent wedding invitations to 600 guests, but at the last minute, called the wedding off. It happens.
Engagements Were Set on Stone
But back then, in ancient Israel, you can break an engagement in only two ways—divorce or death. That was the Law. That’s why Matthew says, in the NIV version: Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (v.19, NIV)
Notice how Joseph was already called “husband”? And how the word “divorce” was used? Engagements were pretty much set on stone.
Now Joseph could have brought Mary to a public trial, telling everyone he’s divorcing her because she’s pregnant, and the baby isn’t his. In front of her village, standing in the middle of the public square, she would be shamed and scarred for life. Mind you, the village was less than 20 to 30 houses. Where everyone knew everyone. Plus, they had a tradition of stoning women who commit adultery.
When Joseph learned about Mary’s pregnancy, I can imagine how angry he was: “How could you be unfaithful to me?”
But no matter how angry he was, vengeance was not in his heart. He didn’t want to get even.
Is this why Matthew said, “Joseph was righteous or faithful to the law?”
What in the World Does ‘Righteous’ Mean?
Face it. Joseph isn’t on our radar of big Bible characters. If the Gospel was a movie, Joseph was an “extra”. He was just a bit more important than a prop. He was a non-speaking actor who needed to stand beside Mary or there would be an empty space there.
But here’s an amazing fact that many don’t know: There were very few characters in the Bible called righteous. Many of the big shots in the Bible were not called righteous. The blokes who were called righteous were Noah, Job, Daniel… and St. Joseph. This guy is part of that very exclusive club in the Bible.
What does righteous mean? That Joseph followed the Law? Jesus said the Pharisees followed the Law to the letter. And He never called them righteous, but self-righteous. And a host of other not-so-nice names.
Because in the Bible, to be righteous is more about trust than obedience. Trust is the seed; obedience is the fruit. Righteousness is not the moral quality of one person– it’s always in the context of a relationship between two parties. So, righteousness is being in the right relationship with God.
For example, Joseph didn’t take vengeance. Why? He trusted in God. People who take vengeance take matters into their own hands. They don’t think God will vindicate them. But if you trust God, you leave vengeance in His hands. You don’t curse people. If their actions deserve to be cursed, the curse will come. You don’t take part in that. Joseph didn’t want to take part in cursing Mary.
…Which brings us to the next exciting part of the story…
Do Not Be Afraid
20As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (v.20-21)
Gee. What was Joseph afraid of?
If I find out that my fiancé is pregnant, and I’m not the father of the child,
I won’t be afraid– I’d be angry. And confused. And distressed.
But I guess that’s it. Fear takes on many faces.
It can take on the face of anger.
Admit it. How many times have you been angry because deep down, you were afraid?
My wife’s weakness was her temper. She’s grown so much in taming her temper. One realization that helped her was that her rage came from her fear. She had
a huge self-worth issue and it caused her to be angry.
But if you address the fear, you address the anger.
Fear can also take on the face of worry. Or distress. Or confusion.
Perhaps Joseph was afraid of the future if he got married to Mary.
Perhaps it was fear not so much for himself but for Mary. Perhaps he was
thinking that even if they get married, and people discover that the baby wasn’t his,
she’ll be bashed on Facebook.
But whatever it was, Joseph had fear.
And fear can prevent him from doing God’s will.
The Root of Fear Is…
Hey, don’t get me wrong. Fear is good. If I’m in front of a cobra, standing with its long neck, hissing with its vibrating tongue at me, looking at me with its green beady eyes, fear is very good. Fear will make me jump away like I was The Flash.
But how many times in my life do I face a hissing cobra?
As far as I can remember, never. I’ve been living on Planet Earth for 54 years now and the answer is zero. And I want to keep it that way. No cobras for the rest of my life, please.
But here’s the problem: When the “Cobra” is not just physical but pernicious.
The fear of failure. The fear of losing face. The fear of material lack. The fear of sickness. The fear of death. Ultimately, the root of almost all of these
non-physical fears is the fear of not being loved.
Human body, mind, and spirit can handle the fear of a cobra because it would last for 10 seconds. But we can’t handle fear on an on-going basis for many months. No wonder we get sick!
Here are three messages that God wants to tell you today…
Do you know why you’re afraid?
All fear comes from uncertainty.
We’re afraid because we don’t know what’s going to happen.
When I was a kid, I was afraid of the dark. Perhaps you were too. Reason: We didn’t know what was in the dark. That’s why a lot of people, even adults, sleep with the lights on. (Not healthy, by the way, because the body does not produce the natural chemical melatonin.)
I remember as a kid, I had a vivid imagination. I remember being so afraid when I’m in bed because I kept asking, “Is there a monster hiding under my bed?”
So, every night, before climbing on the bed, I would do the irrational step of peeking under it, so that I was sure that nothing was there.
So, if uncertainty causes fear, is knowledge the solution?
Truth: Knowledge is not enough.
It has to be something deeper. More than knowledge, it’s got to be Conviction. Knowledge fills your head. Conviction fills your heart. Knowledge is information. Conviction is transformation.
When God says, “Don’t be afraid,” He wants you to grow in your knowledge of Him. But not just knowledge, but personal intimacy.
Get to know His character.
He is faithful. He is dependable. He is trustworthy.
God says, “We’re in this together.”
This is the reason Matthew gives another name for Jesus: All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” (v.22-23)
I repeat: Righteousness is Relationship. You can’t be in a relationship with someone if he isn’t there.
How many marriages break down because the spouses are not present to each other? The physical separation is a factor, but I know of many LDR (long-distance relation) couples who are emotionally present to each other.
Friend, God is giving you the reason you should not be afraid. Because He is here. Right here, right now.
I’ve said this before. When the child in the room says, “Mommy, I’m afraid,” the mother doesn’t say, “Child, there is no scientific basis for your fears. There are no ghosts or monsters. 87% of paranormal experiences have been proven to be hallucinations of hyper-active, very impressionable imaginations…”
When the child says, “Mommy, I’m afraid,” she’s not asking for a lecture. She’s asking for love.
All Mommy has to do is give her a hug and say, “Don’t be afraid. Mommy is here.”
Today, God is embracing you.
He is saying, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here. We’re in this together.”
24When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus. (v.24-25)
Joseph obeyed. Which is why we think of righteousness as a moral quality of a person. We read this passage and say, “Oh, he was called righteous because he was obedient.” But righteousness is not just obedience. Righteousness is relationship. You obey because you trust.
But here’s something some don’t think about: When God tells you to do something, that means He believes you’ll do it.
He trusts us. He wouldn’t tell you to do it if He doesn’t trust you. Sure, He knows you’ll fail along the way. But He knows that over time, you’ll grow in obedience.
Friend, is there fear in your heart? God puts His arms around you. And He says, “We’re in this together. We’ll face the future together. Don’t be afraid, I’m faithful. I’m here. And I trust you.”