PRAISE UNDER PRESSURE

PRAISE UNDER PRESSURE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

PRAISE UNDER PRESSUREWe are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning I am preaching a message from Luke 1:46 titled, “PRAISE UNDER PRESSURE.” It is easy to praise God when things are going great – no bills, no pain, no bad news – but it is very hard to praise Him when things are tough. Many of us become obsessed with our problems, get discouraged, destroy relationships, and make bad decisions. But, when we deliberately choose to praise God, we not only please Him but we open the door for Him to take charge and work all things together for good.

Luke 1:46   And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. 49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is traditionally known as the “Magnificat.” It comes from “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” which is the Latin translation of “my soul magnifies the Lord,” the first line of Mary’s hymn. This song has been a part of liturgies, music, and art for centuries. Sadly, we have lost the real meaning and purpose behind it. Mary wrote it at a time when she was going through extreme doubt, worry, and fear. This was her song of praise and submission to God’s will.

Here’s the gist of the message – During times of pressure, you can either continue in doubt, worry, and fear or you can turn to God in praise. You can either get angry with people and be down at your circumstances and indulge in some destructive habit or you can “lift up your eyes to the hills – from where comes your help.” You can say with the psalmist, “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” When you do that, you open the door for God to step into your life and take charge of the situation. After all, He allowed it to come for a reason. When you praise Him, you invite Him to switch seats from the passenger to the driver. But let me also warn you – just because you praise God in the midst of pressure doesn’t mean your problem will disappear. It only means that God will steer your life to bring glory to His name.

Application: What trial or pressure are you facing this morning? How are you handling it? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Without Him you can try to be positive, optimistic, and even pray but you are lost like a sailboat in a storm. You need Him to be your Savior.

Let’s look at Mary’s song and see how we can praise God under pressure:

1. CONTEXT OF PRAISE

Luke 1:39   Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.

Background: When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be pregnant with a child who is the Son of God, she was afraid and full of worries. A baby was growing inside of her and she had nothing to do with it. How would her family deal with this? She’s not married but engaged to a good man. How will Joseph deal with this? She comes from a priestly family. How will her community deal with her? Will she be stoned to death? So the angel suggested that she visit her relative Elizabeth who was also pregnant. Mary left immediately from her home in Nazareth of Galilee and travelled 80-100 miles to the hill country of Judea, South of Jerusalem. It probably took her about 3-4 days in journey. You can only imagine how exhausted she was. I doubt she had a full night’s sleep since the week before. Now she came to Zachariah and Elizabeth’s home. How will they treat her?

Picture – Mary, a young girl who was emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted.

Application: Have you ever been in that situation? Maybe it wasn’t as intense but it was exhausting. Maybe you are in that situation right now. How are you handling it? Are you getting angry? Are you discouraged? Are you afraid? Are you praying? Luke 18:1b “men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” The antidote to losing heart is prayer.

How did Elizabeth greet her? 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Meaning: No condemnation, criticism, and condescension but only uplifting, encouraging, and faith filled words.

Application: Let me ask you – When people get around you, do they feel uplifted, encouraged, and faith filled. I guess the deeper question is – “Are you filled with the Holy Spirit?” “Is your life under His command and control?”

2. CONTENT OF PRAISE

Luke 1:46 And Mary said:

Background: Let me stop here for a moment – Some people mistakenly think that Mary immediately launched into her song of praise when Elizabeth finished saying verse 45Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” It is as if Mary was like – “I’ve been writing a poem all the way from Nazareth to Judea. It’ll make a great song one day. Tell me if it rhymes.” This is my opinion – I don’t think Mary wrote this song of praise until sometime in the last month of her three months with Zachariah and Elizabeth. It was after day after day and week after week of listening to Zachariah and Elizabeth that Mary began to jot down her thoughts and prayers.

Spiritual growth does not happen overnight. It grows in the crucible of suffering and pain. Some of the greatest melodies and lyrics were written when a person was going through a time of loss and pain. Charles Spurgeon said, “Pain makes every note come out with great effort, yet I believe God bends down His ears to hear such singing as that. I have known birds in cages sing better than those outside—and the Lord sometimes puts us in a cage on purpose that He may hear us sing the sweeter.”

Now listen to her words of praise – it can be divided into three sections:

  1. She focused on God – “My soul magnifies the Lord…

Meaning: This was not a song of self-determination and resolve. It was a song that magnified God. How do you magnify God? How do you make God great? It’s not like you put God under a microscope. It’s more like walking up to the Washington Monument and realizing how immense it is. Magnifying the Lord means drawing closer to Him and realizing how great He is in everything. It begins by thinking upon Him and His many attributes. Sometimes we focus so much on our problem that it is magnified more than it needs to be. Instead, the more you magnify God, the more you want to magnify Him. You may start to magnify Him in a whisper at the bottom of the hill but as you start climbing up and draw closer to the top, you find yourself shouting praises to His name!

When was the last time you focused on how great is our God?

  1. She returned to the basics – 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

Meaning: As Mary begins to magnify God, she does not get into the deep things of the Christian life. She does not talk about pneumatology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. She does not get into the various views of sanctification. She goes back to the fundamentals. She rejoices in “God my Savior.” No matter how deep you grow in your knowledge of the Bible and no matter how much you understand the deep things of the Christian life, you never get too far from “God be merciful to me a sinner.” You might say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven” and that’s wonderful. At the same time, this same Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:15 “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” At the end of the day, I’m just a sinner saved by grace.

When was the last time you got on your face before God and said, “God be merciful a sinner.” Do you know what that does? It takes the pressure off of us and puts it upon God.

  1. She was grateful to God for everything:

- First, for her own self. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

During trials it is good to look back and thank God for how far He has brought you.

For e.g. Visiting a lady at the hospital and how she encouraged me to be thankful.

49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.

Meaning: When God shows His grace, He does not compromise with sin. Don’t ever think that grace means God overlooks your sins. It only means that God looks at Jesus instead of you.

- Second, for all people. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.

Anytime good things happen to people, it is God. He is the source of all good things.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. Meaning: The wicked rich He has sent away empty.

- Third, for God’s people. 54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

Meaning: There’s a difference here in how God blesses all the people in the world and how He especially takes care of His people.

For e.g. If I see a child hungry, I’ll find a way to feed him/her. But, if it is my child, I don’t wait till I see him/her hungry. I have a purpose for his/her life.

Application: Are you going through a time of pressure, have you praised God? Have you thanked Him for what He has done for you, for others, and for His people? What are you magnifying in your life? Are you grateful for being saved?

3. CONSEQUENCE OF PRAISE

Luke 1:56  And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

She had to go back. We live in a time where people want to run away. Nobody wants to go back. Everybody wants to move somewhere else.

But, how did she go back – reluctantly, bitterly, or angrily? We get a glimpse of her new personality after the shepherds came to visit the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Luke 2 17 Now when they (shepherds) had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it (crowd) marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Another translation has it – “And Mary was pondering all these matters, trying to put them together in her heart.”

Meaning: She did not lose heart, bail out, get angry, feel sorry for her self, and wish she had another life. Like a servant, she knew that her Master knew best and she submitted willingly.

Application: How are you dealing with your pressures? Do you know Jesus?

WHEN YOU NEED THE HUMAN TOUCH

WHEN YOU NEED THE HUMAN TOUCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When you need the human touchWe are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels called – “WHAT IF GOD LIVED NEXT DOOR?” This morning I’m preaching a message titled – “WHEN YOU NEED THE HUMAN TOUCH.” Nicole often tells me the story of her little brother who was scared to go to sleep. Their dad told him that God was with him and angels were guarding him and he had nothing to be afraid of. He replied, “I know but I want someone I can touch.”

Luke 1   26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!…31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS…36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren…39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is very familiar, especially during Christmas season – The angel Gabriel comes to Mary with the news of Jesus and she is shocked but he comforts her and she happily submits. All that is true but when we step back and look at this account in its overall context, we find a greater truth just beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered. The account of Mary’s encounter with Gabriel is couched between the accounts of Zachariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. Luke 1:5-25 tells us how the angel Gabriel came to Zachariah and Elizabeth, a couple who was righteous and blameless before God. Then, Luke 1:26-38 is about how the angel Gabriel came to Mary and gave her the news that she will be with child whose name shall be Jesus. We just read it. Then, Luke 1:39-80 is about how Mary went and stayed with Zachariah and Elizabeth for three months until John was born. Meaning: Zachariah and Elizabeth were very important in Mary’s life and the birth of Jesus. For e.g. Like a sandwich that has meat between two pieces of bread, we have eaten the meat but left the bread. Oh, we got the meat – Jesus – but we missed the sandwich.

This morning, the point of the message is – God’s Providence, God’s Promises, and God’s Presence are vital for us to go through life but so are God’s People. God wants us to connect with godly people who will bring wisdom and encouragement in our life.

Application: Do you feel like you are doing your Bible Study and having your prayer time and even going to church but there’s still something missing? Are you connecting with godly people? Do you have spiritual connection with other believers? Some people say, “Oh I go to church.” Unless you have the right connector, you are going in vain. Jesus is the connector. Without Him our churches are nothing but a club or a hangout.

This morning we will see how along with God’s Providence, Promises, and Presence, we also need His People:

1. GOD’S PROVIDENCE

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,

Background: In the 1800s many scholars denied the existence of Nazareth because there is no mention of it in the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, or Rabbinic writings. This all changed when archaeology revealed there was indeed a small town named Nazareth in Galilee. (Now there’s a reason why I’m dealing with this now and it will make sense a little later.) Nazareth was a very small village, probably just a caution light. As they say, if you blink, you would miss it. It had a population of 150-200. It was located in the hills of Lower Galilee and it was not a stop on any major route. When the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom, they did not even bother to mess with it. Who lived in this small town? Archaeologists found some inscriptions claiming that it was a settlement for Jewish priests in the third and fourth centuries BC. Hence, Mary was probably from a priestly, Aaronic lineage. And, how about the name Nazareth? It comes from the Hebrew word “Netzer” which means “a shoot.” It’s a reference to Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse…” referring to the Messiah. Maybe, this small group of priests believed that the Messiah would come through them. Maybe, some of them had been connected to the lineage of David. How did other people think of them? Do you remember when Philip invited Nathaniel to come and meet Jesus? John 1 45 …“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” This was Nazareth. But, God in His providence saw Nazareth and He sent His archangel Gabriel to Mary.

Application: This morning – you might be in a Nazareth. You feel small, insignificant, forgotten, and isolated. But not in the eyes of God – He sees you. He knows your every problem. He is aware of your every need. His providential care is upon you. God knows and He cares for you. He hasn’t abandoned you. Trust His providential hand.

2. GOD’S PROMISES

28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” 29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.

Background: These people considered themselves to be the shoot of David. They thought they were the ones through whom the Messiah would come. But when it actually began to happen, fear came upon her.

Isn’t that how it is for us? We want God to use us, bless us but when He actually starts, we get scared. On second thoughts, “God – I don’t want to be used. Use someone else.”

The angel Gabriel starts reminding her of the promises of God – 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Isn’t it wonderful how the promises of God give us the courage to face life?!! Just when you think all hope is gone, the promises of God shine through like the bright sun on a dark cloudy day. For e.g. Adoniram Judson was a missionary to Burma. They hung him upside down for sharing Jesus. As human waste rolling down his back, someone asked – “So how does the future look?” He said, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”

Application: What promises are you claiming in your life this morning? The scripture is filled with them. Unless you know Jesus as your Savior, these promises are nothing but words on a page. Get to know Him and then claim His promises for your life.

3. GOD’S PRESENCE

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” By the way, there’s a big difference between Mary’s doubt and Zachariah’s doubt. Remember, Zachariah said, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Mary was just a young girl and Zachariah was a priest before God. It’s one thing for a newborn Christian to say – “I don’t know how God can help me,” but it’s quite another for a church going, Bible toting, mature Christian to doubt God.

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

Background: Gabriel promised her that the Holy Spirit Presence would take care of her.

Do you know that as a Christian you are never alone? Jesus said in John 14 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

Application: Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life? The only way to have Him is through Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, then pray and ask His help in your life.

4. GOD’S PEOPLE

Mary in Nazareth36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” This is probably the most neglected verse in the Christmas narrative. Why did he do that? Was he just making small talk? No. In this small village of 150-200 people, it wouldn’t take long for people to figure out what’s happening and start talking. Can you imagine what they would do to Mary? Gabriel was telling her to leave and go to the godly couple Zachariah and Elizabeth. What happened when the angel left? 39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah…” This region was to the South of Jerusalem about 80-100 miles from Nazareth. It would have taken Mary about 3-4 days to get here. But she had to go.

Listen to what happens when she gets to Zachariah and Elizabeth’s home –

41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.Nazareth to the Hills of Judea

  • Godly people have the Holy Spirit controlling their lives. They are not led by their emotions, evil motives, and secret agendas.

42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

  • Godly people have a sense of spiritual discernment. This was no chitchat about the weather in Nazareth and how long it took.

43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

  • Godly people are constantly aware of God’s greater plan around them.

44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

  • Godly people are not ashamed to share what God is showing them.

Mary with Elizabeth45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

  • Godly people ignite and fan our faith in the promises of God. By the way, this is the first Beatitude in the Gospel.

Luke 1:56   And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

Mary stayed until John was born and then she headed home. She had a difficult road ahead of her but now she was prepared.

Application: Do you have such godly people in your life? I go to church will not cut it. It is knowing Jesus that joins us together. Do you know Him as your Savior?

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