Uncomfortable Obedience by Pastor Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2018)

Manger NativityIntroduction: Thank you once again for being here this evening. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, using our gifts in his service, and leading someone to Christ. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our comfort zones. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable?

Matthew 1     18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a justman,and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”which is translated, “God with us.” 24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on how Jewish weddings took place in first century Palestine:

  • A Jewish girl in that time was usually married somewhere between 13-16 years of age. Based on how Mary wrote her song of praise in Luke 1, I would say that she was closer to the 16-year mark, maybe even 18 years old. Also, based on the depth with which she wrote her song (Magnificat), she must have grown up in a spiritually strong home. A Jewish young man at that time would marry at the age of 18 or 20. Both Mary and Joseph were in their teenage years or close enough.
  • A marriage was a 2-step process: Betrothal and the wedding ceremony. Betrothal was more than just an engagement. It was a formal exchange of consent before witnesses. A year later would be the actual wedding. The betrothal was legally binding and could be broken only by death or divorce. The girl was that man’s wife even though they would have to live separately for a year. According to the custom, Joseph and Mary must have seen each other at the betrothal but Mary still had to live with her parents and Joseph would use that time to get his house together. He could not get near her, especially under Galilean customs.
  • Mary’s father must have had to give a dowry to Joseph’s family. This would have included personal items such as jewelry and clothing. Sometimes, it may also include property.
  • A year later, the wedding would begin with the taking of the bride from her father’s home to the groom’s home on a carriage or a litter (stretcher). This was usually accompanied with a lot of music, singing, and dancing. The feasting would last a week, sometimes even two weeks. Then under a huppa, the bride was blessed with a benediction that she will have many children.
  • At the marriage ceremony, the marriage contract was made which listed the husband’s obligations to his wife to provide, protect, and take care of her.
  • If the contract was broken, the groom had to pay a sum of money to the wife. But, not so, if it was because of adultery. By the way, he didn’t even have to return the dowry in that case. He was expected to divorce her.

Although, both Joseph and Mary were in a difficult predicament, I want to focus only on Joseph today (next Christmas Eve, we may focus on Mary). He was in a very difficult predicament for 2 reasons:

  1. Mary was pregnant and it was not his child.What a shock. Furthermore, she was not claiming that she was raped. She was not admitting to any guilt. What a shame. What a scandal. What’s even worse is that the word on the street was that she was claiming to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Joseph must have gone through a range of emotions: Shock, embarrassment, disappointment, anger, and even hate.
  2. They were still in the betrothal period and he was not officially married to her. Even though she was his wife technically, he still had the option to walk away from her. He was not the bad guy in this. No one was blaming him. They knew him better. In fact, they were expecting him to divorce her. Not to do so would be admitting to personal guilt.

Joseph gets a visit from the Angel of the Lord telling him that what Mary is saying is true. Plus, he had to stick around and name that child. Joseph chose to obey God instead of his emotions, his culture, or his family and friends. What would you have done?

How could he do that? The only way we can obey his commandment is if we love him unconditionally.I John 5:3“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Joseph loved God.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others opinions, and even common sense.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?



(First published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson, on March 29, 2014)

It’s that time of the year when wedding announcements start appearing in the newspaper and invitations start arriving in the mail. I can’t help but think of the pastor who asked the children what God said about marriage. A little boy answered, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Isn’t that the truth?!! Frankly, I prefer funerals to weddings. They pay more and last longer! Okay, I’m exaggerating a little…but I wish couples would invest just as much in their marriage as they do in their wedding. Here are some questions to consider:

1. Do you understand God’s plan of oneness in marriage? Many couples just have the urge to merge. They claim to have body chemistry…that typically turns into toxic waste. God’s plan for marriage is that a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”(Gen. 2:24) That means being connected with your spouse in mind, body, and spirit. It is the opposite of isolation. Many marriages are just roommates living under the same roof. Nicole and I take time weekly to cultivate the oneness that God desires for us.

2. Do you know the role of the husband and wife? The husband is called to lead and the wife is called to follow. Sometimes I am tempted to ask the groom to take the ring out of his nose and put it on his bride’s finger! I’m not suggesting that “Bubba” should prop up his feet and demand his beer. To the contrary, the man should lead by serving his wife “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” (Eph. 5:25) As to the wife, she shouldn’t belittle her husband but respect him. (Eph. 5:33) Don’t forget – the greatest desire of a husband is to be respected and the greatest desire of a wife is to make her husband happy.

3. Do you know how to fight? Anytime I hear a couple say – “We’ve never had an argument,” I think – “Very soon, one of you is going to get tired of giving in.” No marriage is without its share of conflicts. Remember to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (James 1:19) Avoid throwing ultimatums like “If it happens again…” or keeping grudges overnight. Take every conflict to God in prayer and allow Him to bring healing and maturity. By the way, some conflicts are just not worth it. As someone said, “A bulldog can whip a skunk any day, but it’s not worth it!”

4. Do you know the difference between an instructor and a photographer? Maybe you heard of the student pilot who was waiting for his lesson. A man jumped in the cockpit with him and said, “Let’s head towards those mountains to the south and then fly as low as you can over the lake.” The student took off and the man started taking pictures. After a while the student asked, “Do you always take pictures when you give flight lessons?” “Flight lessons? I’m just the photographer for the newspaper.” The student replied, “If you’re not the flight instructor, then you probably can’t tell me why these red lights are flashing. Can you?” So also in marriage, some people are just photographers. Be careful of their advice on marriage. Find godly, mature, and time-tested couples to help you navigate through the storms of life.

Well…I have more questions but my word count is up. Here’s just one more – “Do you have Jesus on the invitation list?” He is known to go to weddings and do miracles! He will take your ordinary life and make it extraordinary with His power. He did it for us.

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