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Knowing the Will of God: Reflections on Mary, the Mother of Jesus

By Laura J. Bagby
Guest Writer - By looking at the life of Mary, the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we will see time and time again how God reaffirmed His specific will to Mary and how we, like Mary, can expect God to periodically restate His will for us so that we also know His ways and that the promises and provision He has for us are indeed true and will come to pass.

Often we Christians can get ourselves off track spiritually by listening to any wind of doctrine prefaced by these three little words: "the Lord says." And then without weighing those words, we do as the wise "prophet" has said, and inevitably hit a snag in the road ahead.

Maybe you truly believed God told you to marry someone, when in fact the person you thought was right might not have held the same opinion, might not have even held your same beliefs. Or perhaps you blindly went into some business deal after receiving a personal prophecy over your life, only to be stuck in a venture that has taxed you emotionally, spiritually, relationally, even spiritually.

You ask yourself, "What did I do wrong? Was I not following the Lord?"

Warnings Against False Prophets

Please hear what I am saying to you brothers and sisters in Christ. Be not fooled by those words that seem like they are from God but prove not to be, for even the Bible warns us that we have to be careful not to be taken in by the words of false prophets. In Galatians, Paul warns the brethren by saying, "I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who in his love and mercy called you to share the eternal life he gives through Christ. You are already following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who twist and change the truth concerning Christ" (Galatians 1: 6-7). Not everyone who calls forth the name of the Lord is truly hearing from the Lord, but only those who do the will of the Father.

In 1 Timothy 1, Scripture tells us more about those who teach false doctrines. Writes Paul to Timothy in verse 7, "They want to be teachers of the law of Moses, but they don't know what they are talking about, even though they seem so confident." From this verse, we can glean that just because someone is zealous and sincere in their desire to tell some good news does not mean they are in tune with the Lord and His ways; in the same way, just because someone is a member of your church, doesn't mean that everything that comes from his or her lips is revelation from the Lord.

So how do you know if the words another speaks over your life are true, or if it is the words of a false prophet?

Determining Whether a Word is From the Lord

First of all what is proclaimed in the name of the Lord must not ever, ever contradict Scripture, so you had better know what God has already said in His Word, the Bible. Beyond that, though, issues can get a little vague, a little gray. I mean, gosh, some of the things God told his own people were very specific. Like Noah. He had to make the Ark a certain number of cubits and out of a very specific kind of wood.

But, you say, those were the days before the Word became flesh. Now that Jesus is alive and living inside of us, how do we deal with those very specific personal words? How do we react to someone who tells us we will be getting married within the next year, or getting an amazing inheritance of some specified amount, or be some famous missionary in China?

God Confirms His Will to You

Here is my challenge and one of my standbys when someone tells me what they think God's will is for me and it just happens to be a very, very specific word. And this might help you weed out truth from error even within the Christian community, because we are not perfect, and unfortunately, we as Christians don't always hear the Lord correctly. So I challenge you with this thought: When has God revealed His will for your life that He has not confirmed it some other way, through your friends, through your family, by the desires already in your heart, by His Word? If something is God's will for your life, He will confirm it to you. And if you are abiding in Him as the branch does with the vine, then you will hear and see and know when that confirmation is bestowed on you.

Mother Mary: A Case in Point

Since this is the Christmas season, let me offer you some examples from the life of Mary and Joseph. Mary has been told first by an angel named Gabriel that she would conceive a son, although she was but a virgin, and give him the Name Above All Names, the name of Jesus, and he would reign without end forever (Luke 1:26-33). You can read the account from The Book and this should help you to see what I am trying to show you.

Okay, so Mary gets a prophecy from the angel of the Lord. But let's remember for a moment that although this is the first time Mary has heard anything as amazing as this by way of an angel, it is not really the first time she has been made aware. Sort of déjà vu, Mary, being Jewish and a God-fearing young girl, would likely have known some of the Scriptures of what we know today as the Old Testament. In Isaiah, for instance, chapter 9 foretells the birth of Christ. This passage reads, "For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David" (verses 6-7, The Book). For one familiar with the Lord, it wouldn't take too long to put two and two together and realize that God first spoke this word to Mary in His written Word.

God could have stopped with that Old Testament Scripture, but obviously Mary needed to know that that word was meant for her personally. Enter the angel Gabriel. From Gabriel she got a pretty specific word which reiterated some of what she knew from the words of the prophet Isaiah, like the idea of Jesus sitting on the throne of David and reigning forever as the Most High. But God didn't stop there. It was so important for Mary to know that this was truly God's will for her life that He let her know it was true through someone she respected and loved.

Remember when the angel told Mary that Elizabeth, who was considered to be barren, was in the sixth month of her pregnancy? Now we can just think that the angel told this to Mary to show her that God can do the impossible, that God was capable of doing miracles with Elizabeth just as He was able to work a miracle in Mary's womb. True. And this is a good word to us. But don't overlook a second point here: If the angel hadn't told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant too, would Mary have gone to see her? And if Mary hadn't gone to see her, guess what? We wouldn't have that amazing prophetic revelation straight from the lips of Elizabeth herself.

Not long after the angel left her side, Mary was on her way to see Elizabeth. When Mary finally came into the presence of her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth was overjoyed. It says in Luke 1:41-43, "Elizabeth's child < leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, "You are blessed by God above all other women, and your child is blessed. What an honor this is, that the mother of my Lord should visit me!"

What just happened? Elizabeth just confirmed to Mary what the angel had spoken, for later Elizabeth says, "You are blessed, because you believed that the Lord would do what he said" (Luke 1: 45). How did Elizabeth know that Mary had a crisis of belief not too long before visiting Elizabeth? I mean, Mary being but a teen wasn't quite sure how this whole virgin birth thing would be possible. That's a pretty big crisis of belief. But Mary believed and she gained favor with God and somehow Elizabeth knew this.

So how did Elizabeth know that the son Mary was carrying was in fact the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, we know from verse 41 that she was filled with the Holy Spirit before she spoke those goose-bump provoking words. Something inside of Elizabeth (and I am speaking about more than just the joyful leap of her infant John inside of her womb) said that Truth and Life just stepped inside the door.

This whole scene was instigated by God. Did you see it? It wasn't an accident that Mary went to Elizabeth and that Elizabeth proclaimed that, indeed, the Lord Jesus would be Mary's son. That was spoken confirmation number two.

First there was an angel who made specific what had already been predicted by the prophets; and then there was the Holy Spirit inspired word of a relative. Wow. Pretty cool.

But that's not all.

Now what could possibly be needed? Old prophet, angel, word of a relative. Okay, how about more human testimonies, maybe some people who didn't know Mary at all? It was done.

There were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. We sing it at Christmas, but realize, friends, that this really happened. While doing their usually daily tasks, this group of nameless Shepherds get a message from,yep, another angel. They realize that the Savior of the world has been born in Bethlehem and the angel even tells them what the Lord Jesus was wearing! How's that for undercover surveillance work : location and clothing! The shepherds embark on their holy journey to find the Christ child after an amazing encore from millions of jubilant angels. In Luke 2:17, it says the shepherds told Mary what the angel had told them.

So does Mary know by now that she was going to have the Savior of the world as her firstborn child? You bet!

What's the tally now? Let's see: angel, Old testament prophet, words of a relative, words of some strangers, second-hand account of the words of yet another angel. Phew!

But we still aren't done yet.

When the babe was officially named Jesus in Luke 2: 21, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, according to Jewish law. It just so happened that the day that Mary and Joseph were to present Jesus in the temple, there was a godly man named Simeon who knew from a prophecy over his life that he would see the Messiah with his own two eyes before he died. By the leading of the Holy Spirit, as it says in Luke 2:25- 28, Simeon went to the exact location where Mary and Joseph were waiting. And as he held up that little baby, Simeon said, "Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me, I have seen the Savior you have given to all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32)!

Truly amazing. God gave Mary a whole host of confirmations, which all said, "Yes, Mary, this is it. You are going to birth the Savior. And I am going to make sure that you don't forget that this is what I want for you. I love you enough to show you again in case you doubt anything already revealed to you along the way."

Angel, prophets of old through the written Word, prophets of her day through the spoken Word, a dearly-loved relative, some simple strangers who shepherded for a living, and some non-coincidental circumstances -- that is quite a testimony of God's hand at work.

How We Can Know God's Specific Will for Our Lives Today

My challenge to you as you have seen for yourself, as have I, about the gracious way God works is that you, too, would pray and wait and look for those confirmations from the Lord before you automatically conclude that something is truly and unarguably the Will of the Lord for you.

If we would but turn our ears to His words and our face to His glory and our knees to the Holy ground on which He treads, if we would but submit our thoughts to Christ for a still moment, a still hour, to just seek out His face, then God will show you the path, whatever it is, whether it be a general principle, or something as specific as what Mary was told.

Be blessed this holiday season by knowing that your God is not only faithful to His promises, as He was with Mary, but if you need a little extra help in knowing just how real those promises are, He is behind you every step of the way on the path towards His kingdom. All you have to do is wait for the bread crumbs along the way.

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