Thursday, February 10, 2011

Am I Really Trusting You.

This is the lesson for youth group tonight.  I thought I would share it.  It is a bit long.  I apologize for the length.  In general it is good to keep blogs short, excuse.  I am breaking the rule.  ;P

Am I Really Trusting You
Matthew 1:18-25

“I’m praying for you.” 
“I’m just trusting God to show me the right way.” 
“God is in control.”
“Have faith.  God’s in control.”
“God bless you.”

Unfortunately, many of us use Christian lingo but in reality we don’t really mean what is being said.  It is a lot like when we see each other for the first time for the day and we ask the question “How’s it going?”  We don’t really expect an answer to the question.  In reality we are using the phrase as a greeting.

I remember there was a time in my life that I used “praise the Lord” a lot.  It started out as a sincere expression on my part for what God was doing in the lives of people, but there came a point where I got so used to saying it that it didn’t really have any meaning. 

One phrase that we use a lot is “I trust God.”  We usually use it at the end of a conversation concerning some uncertainty in our lives.  The conversation might go something like this…

“So how’s school going?”
“It’s alright.  I’m struggling a couple of classes.”
“Oh yeah.  Which classes?”
“Science and math.  My science teacher is a real pain in the butt.  He practically expects us to memorize the entire book.  Anytime I turn in an assignment I get it back with a bunch of remarks in red.  He expects everything to be perfect!!  And math…I just don’t get a lot of the concepts.  I sit in class and see the teacher do it on the board and it seems to make sense but when I go to do my homework I just don’t understand any of it.”
“I’m sorry to hear about it.”
“Oh well.  I’m just trusting God to get me through.”
“Yeah.  I’ll be praying for you.”

The problem here is how many people really are trusting God and exactly how is a person trusting God.  For example, in this situation just how is a person to trust God.  The fact that a person is not doing good in school may have nothing to do with uncontrollable circumstances.  The fact could be that the person just isn’t a good student and is not devoting the time to their studies that they need to be.

We are continuing with our study of Matthew.  We are in chapter 1, a familiar passage that we probably most often hear around Christmas time.  Let’s read starting at verse 18.

Let’s get a bigger picture here.  Joseph is betrothed to Mary.  What this means is that Joseph went to Mary’s father and after some discussion came to an agreement on a “mohar” or price he would pay to have Mary as his wife.  After they agreed on the price Joseph would have paid the father and at that time established a marriage covenant which basically said he and Mary were husband and wife, but, according to custom, they waited to consummate the marriage.  Both would have a year to get things in order.  Joseph would concern himself with preparing a place for his wife to live.

So during the betrothal period (a year) Mary and Joseph had not been physically together.  When she became pregnant there were obviously two possibilities.  She and Joseph had been together or she had been with someone else.  Both would have been seen as being improper and if she had been with someone else she would have been guilty of adultery.  Adultery is punishable by death.

The text tells us that Joseph was a “just” man.  This is kind of an odd description given what he was planning on doing.  In Judaism the lawful thing would have been to have her stoned.  Moses did allow for divorce though and being that no a lot of people would have known about his betrothal to Mary he was going to take care of everything quietly.

This passage also tells us that he considered these things before making his decision.  There was a lot to think about.  He probably had his family and what friends knew about the situation telling him to do all sorts of things.  He obviously wanted to do the right thing.  If he went ahead with the marriage it would have been highly inappropriate.  There would have been a lot of questions being asked.  Was he marrying her because of sex outside of marriage?  Did he have sex with her before the year was up?  Was she unfaithful to him during their betrothal?  Such questions would have led to assumptions.  Assumptions color how we look at people.  He would have been labeled, many things and given an undeserved reputation for the rest of his life.

But God appeared to him.  He told him that the child within Mary was from the Holy Spirit.  Mary had not slept with anyone.  How do you explain this to people?  You try to tell them the truth that God had formed this child in her womb and they would just look at you like you were crazy.  Some would think you were just a liar trying to cover up your sin.  Talk about a new kind of pressure.

This added a whole new dimension to the problem.  It was devastating that Mary became pregnant during the betrothal period, but not too many people would have known that it was Mary he was betrothed to.  He could have handled things quietly, but now it is revealed to him that there is something much greater going on here.  Something that is simply unbelievable and yet it is the truth.  Joseph knew truth that others did not know, and because they did not know it they would not believe him.

Joseph had a choice.  Trust God even though he didn’t completely understand why or how God was doing what he was or he could go ahead with his original plan and save himself a lot of grief.  Joseph chose to trust God.

We say we trust God, but when we examine our life how much of it is really lived in trust?  What kind decisions are we faced with every day?  If we were to live the way God wants us to what would others say?  What kind of a reputation would we develop?  These are the questions Joseph had to deal with!  What he was dealing with is no different then what we deal with on a daily basis.

We have a truth that the world does not know and is not able to see.  The only way we are able to know God’s will is to have a relationship with him (Romans 12:2).  We can’t expect the world to understand when they don’t have a relationship with God.  Because of this lack of understanding we are constantly living under pressure to conform to the world’s standards.  It is so much easier to go with the immediate flow, especially when we can only know part of an omniscient God’s will.  But that is the key to our dilemma.  God knows the future.  He has plans that we don’t fully understand, and because he is God he knows what is best for us.

Joseph could have told God no because he couldn’t see too the full extent that God can.  Yes God revealed a piece of his plan to Joseph, but what Joseph saw was a highly unusual situation that would leave he and Mary as societal outcasts.  Even though he didn’t understand why God had asked him to do it this way he trusted God and did what God told him.

We don’t always understand why God tells us to do things.  What’s wrong with getting drunk?  What’s wrong with having sex before marriage if you are careful?  What’s wrong with disobeying your parents if the end result doesn’t get you hurt?  What’s wrong with telling a little lie?  What’s wrong with cheating on a test?  What’s wrong with doing something that doesn’t seem to lead to anything too bad and gains you acceptance in the world’s eyes?

What would have happened if Joseph went through with his plan and divorced Mary quietly?  He would not have been a part of God’s bigger plan.  He would have been out of God’s will and he wouldn’t have received the ultimate blessing God had for him.  It’s not about getting stuff though.  It’s about pleasing God and trusting him.  God tells us to do certain things for a reason.  He knows what is best.  When we ask “What’s wrong with…?” we are only looking at the immediate end result of the action, but actions often have the tendency to do much more than what can immediately be seen.

Do we trust God?  God gives us his word so that we might have a standard to live by.  He tells us what good things to do and what bad things to avoid.  We can’t earn God’s free gift of salvation, but we can show God we appreciate what he has done and that we love him by trusting him and doing what he says.  Just like Joseph.

Are there things in your life that you need to really trust God about?  Are you caving in to what the world tells you to do?  What kinds of things do you need to stop doing?  How can you show God that you trust him?

Small Group Discussion

Today’s small group is going to involve a lot of trust.  We need to make a covenant with each other that what is said in our small group today will not go outside the group.  We also need to trust God.  God says to confess to one another.  Most of us, if not all of us, are tempted to not open up in these small groups.  Satan doesn’t want us to open up to each other.  He scares us with fear.  “What is everyone going to think of me?”  “Are people going to say stuff outside of youth group about me?”  Or you may be tempted to say “I don’t really do anything that bad.  I’m not hurting anyone.  Why should I say anything?”  Don’t allow Satan to have the victory over you.  Tonight is an opportunity to start trusting God by opening up and talking about what things in your life you are not trusting him with.

(Read the following)

Am I really trusting you…
When I do what the world says and you say not to?
Am I really trusting you…
When I follow my family’s will for my life even when it is contrary to your will?
Am I really trusting you…
When I give into my friends’ “no alternative” decisions even though you say no?
Am I really trusting you…
When I do as my flesh craves even though you have deemed it not good for me?
Am I really trusting you…
The way Joseph trusted you when you told him to take Mary as wife?
Am I really trusting you?

Most of us probably say we trust God.  Do we really though?  Let’s take a closer look.

In what ways are you doing what the world says to do instead of what God says?

In what ways does your family expect you to act or things they expect you to do that you feel may be contrary to what God wants?

What kind of things do you do because your friends don’t really give you any alternative but you know God has said no to?

In what ways are you continuing to give into your flesh even though you know God says they are not good for you?

Joseph trusted God.  He went against his fears, the expectations of family and friends, the pressure of culture…to do what God commanded him.  What is one way you can trust God this week?  It probably involves changing some habit in your life.

Spend time praying for each other.  Specifically pray that God helps each of us to trust Him and follow through with making the change each one of us identified.

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