We are in the middle of the series, “Touched By An Angel” for this Christmas season. We have been looking at the events of the four different angels who came and visited the main characters in the Bible who were involved with Christ’s birth.
There is a story of courage that took place at the first Christmas. We often miss it because we focus in on a young mother and a baby. But the character I want us to focus on this morning was in the story too. He heard first hand that his bride to be was pregnant and it was not his child. He experienced a personal message from God because of the extraordinary event. He stood by the manger where the baby was laid. He provided protection for the mother and child during the early years of the child’s life. The man’s name of course is Joseph.
What can we learn from him?
Matthew 1:18-25 (NKJV)
“Now 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. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But 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. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ’God with us.’ Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.”
We can learn from the life of Joseph in this Christmas story. Joseph was a man of courage. I believe it was “God-given” courage to endure any ridicule or judgement. Courage to protect the Son of God. Courage to believe what the angel told him.
What we can learn from Joseph’s Courage
1. God gives courage to ORDINARY PEOPLE.
In the midst of the story of the miraculous birth of Jesus, we find an ordinary man by the name of Joseph. Many of us don’t view biblical characters as ordinary – do we? Many times we attribute to them almost super-human powers. But that is not the case. They were people just like you and me. They had problems – fears – doubts – worries – just like you and I – yet God is able to use them. In fact that is a major theme of the Bible.
God uses ordinary people to do EXTRAORDINARY THINGS.
Look at how Paul states this fact:
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (MSG)
“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ’the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God.”
Joseph was an ordinary man – but He was a man God could trust to be strong in the midst of crisis. He was strong and resilient enough to protect his family. Matthew says it this way – “He was a just man.” In other words he was man of honor. Did he have concerns? – Yes, but he was a man, as the scriptures tell us, that was “just”.
“Now 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. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.”
Joseph was an ordinary man – yet he was a just man. What that means is that:
Joseph displayed MORAL COURAGE.
He displayed the character of God in his own life. That’s tough to do sometimes isn’t it?
In the movie “Last Ounce Of Courage” we meet a man like Joseph. It is a story that shows the courage of one man and his family standing up for what they believed in. The Mayer put up the nativity scene and a Christmas tree in the city center. It was a tradition every year. He was criticized, lost his job, and put in jail all because he stood up for his rights as a U.S. citizen and for standing up for what he believed in. Who would have thought 50 years ago that today we would have opposition from putting up Christmas decorations in town? I am sure our founding fathers never would have expected that.
Sometimes God has us stand up for what is right even though it is not “Politically correct!” We have to stand up for what is morally right. If we don’t, who will?
“I would define true courage to be a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to endure it.”
2. God gives us courage to overcome OUR DOUBTS AND FEARS.
We can only imagine how Joseph must have felt when he found out that Mary was pregnant. His natural response would have been that she had been unfaithful to him. He knew the child was not his. She must have been unfaithful. What emotions do you think he would have had?
Shock – Disappointment – Embarrassment – Sorrow – Anger; probably a mixture of all. Yet Joseph’s character enabled him to keep rein on his emotions. His love for God and for Mary compelled him to seek for a way to protect her. For we know the scripture says;
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 (NKJV)
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)
3 reasons why Joseph might have sought divorce
a. Jewish and Roman law both demanded that a man divorce his wife if she were found guilty of adultery. (In fact, Roman law actually treated a husband who failed to divorce an unfaithful wife as a panderer exploiting his wife as a prostitute.
b. Because others would assume that Joseph himself had gotten her pregnant unless he divorced her, his reputation was at stake for the rest of his life.
c. Joseph could have profited financially by divorcing Mary publicly. By taking her to court, he could have impounded her dowry – the total assets she brought into the marriage – and perhaps even gotten back the bridal price, if he had paid one at betrothal.
Even though Joseph was going to take the least painful route to terminating the relationship, God sent an angel to reveal another option.
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
After learning about Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph was faced with a tough decision. Joseph was not unrighteous for wanting to divorce Mary. In fact, the manner in which he chose to proceed shows that he was a righteous man. (Matthew 1:19) Joseph planned to privately divorce Mary.
But, the angel gave Joseph a message that changed his plans.
Joseph faced down his own emotions and courageously chose to walk in obedience and protect Mary. Can you image rumors that must have spread through the community? The neighbors would have thought that they had broken the law. Obviously the neighbors thought they were having a sexual relationship.
It is always the right time – to do the right thing.
Joseph not only did the right thing by staying with Mary, but he loved her and the baby she gave birth too. He was obedient to what God wanted him to do.
God gives us the courage to face our own doubts and fears.
He gives us courage to face the rumors from others.
The third point I want to leave you with this morning is…
3. God gives us courage to face THE FUTURE.
In the case of Joseph – he was given a vision – a dream to help reinforce his faith. He knew the neighbor’s opinion of him would change. He knew the rumors would be flying. But he also knew that God had spoke to him in a special way. The scriptures say:
“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream,” Matthew 1:20a (NKJV)
Does God always give a vision to people? No. But sometimes He does. Sometimes God will give you a vision. Sometimes He will speak to you in a dream. Sometimes He will lead you to a verse in the Bible and show you how that verse applies to your situation. He does not do that every time but sometimes He does.
You know what He will always do? He will never, never, never leave you or forsake you. He will always be there. That is a promise.
Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV)
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
This fact gives me the courage to face the unknown.
Romans 8:31 (NKJV)
“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
When we face doubts – when we face fears – when we face an uncertain future – we are tempted to avoid the wilderness.
We like our comfort zones. If we are approaching an area of the unknown we try to find another way around or to make a U turn to avoid it.
We are afraid of the wilderness. There might be Giants there. There might be bullies there. There might be rumors, judgements, and criticisms. There might be hardships and struggles. But it is only by a journey through the wilderness that we will reach the Promised Land. And if we make the journey – God will be with us.
God is a faithful God. He has been faithful in your past and He will be faithful in your future. Draw on the times God brought you out of hardships and trials. Remember how He provided. Tell yourself that “He was faithful before and He will be faithful again.”
We can trust God with our past, present, and future knowing we are not alone and He walks every step with us.
1. God gives courage to ordinary people like you and me.
2. God gives courage to face our doubts and fears.
3. God gives courage to face the future.
Trust in God – believe in Him. No matter what you are going through He will be there with you. Have the courage to know God is fighting your battle. Be strong and courageous like Joseph during this Christmas season and beyond.
Your sister in Christ,
Pastor Kris Belfils