2/14/06

Encouragement for Today

(Principle #1)

 

“Sacrificial Love”

Glynnis Whitwer, Senior Editor “P31 Woman Magazine,” Proverbs 31 Speaker Team Member

 

Key Verse:

Matthew 1:24-25, “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (NIV)

 

Devotion:

Although Christmas was a few months ago, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, there are more lessons about love to be learned from the Christmas story.   One is about the amazing, scandalous love that Joseph had for God, Mary and then for Jesus.

 

The Christmas story is well known.  Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married, but while Mary was still a virgin she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph’s initial intent was to break the engagement quietly, but then an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him to go ahead with the marriage, and that the baby would be the Savior of God’s people. 

 

Joseph obeyed and took Mary home to be his wife.  Read in the context of today’s cultural morality, we don’t fully understand the risk and sacrifice it took for Joseph to continue his engagement with Mary.  We may think, “How nice.  Joseph did what he should have done.”

 

However, in Joseph’s day, Mary was considered an adulteress, and according to the Law of Moses, should have been stoned to death.  This created a big problem for Joseph, because he loved the law.  He had carefully lived his life to obey God’s commands and thereby earn the respect of the religious leaders and other men in his community.

 

Faced with this dilemma, his first reaction to break the engagement blended Joseph’s obedience to the law, with mercy and kindness to Mary.  That would have been more than anyone expected of Joseph, but then God asked him to take the next step of love.   God asked Joseph to sacrifice his hard-earned reputation for Mary and her unborn child – God’s son. 

 

Verse 24 shows us Joseph’s true character, “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”   No delay, no questions, no arguing.  God asked Joseph to prove his love for his wife, his son and his God even though it meant losing what mattered deeply to him – his reputation.

 

This Valentine’s Day, when our thoughts are full of romantic love, the Christmas story reminds us that true love involves sacrifice.   We are the beneficiaries of God’s great sacrifice of love.  And now, Scripture is clear that we are to love others like God loves us (John 13:34).  As we look to Joseph’s example of this type of love, we might be called to sacrifice things of similar importance.  Perhaps we might sacrifice our time, reputations, pride or finances. 

 

The truth is, while others may overlook our sacrifices, they never go unnoticed or unappreciated by God.  Joseph lived his life in the shadows of the scandal surrounding the birth of Jesus. He never regained his reputation, and quietly lived a life of righteousness.  And yet, we know today that Joseph received the honor of being the earthly father of Jesus, of kissing Jesus’ sweet face, holding His hand as they walked to the Temple, and sitting around a dinner table with Him.  God honored Joseph in life, and for eternity.  What unbelievable joy!

 

As we take pleasure in the fun of Valentine’s Day, let us remember that sometimes, true love involves giving up something of importance – and that God always honors our sacrifice.  While Joseph gave up his reputation, he gained the greater distinction of serving God, honoring his wife and loving his and God’s Son.

 

My Prayer for Today:

Heavenly Father, You are worthy of all I can sacrifice.  I praise You and thank You for Your great sacrifice for me.  Thank You for choosing Joseph to be Jesus’ earthly father.  May I learn about humility and a heart of service as I read of Joseph’s great love for You and his family.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Application Steps:

Identify a sacrifice that you need to make for someone you love.  Name what is holding you back from making that sacrifice.  Commit to obeying God in this area.

 

Reflection Points:

What can we learn about Joseph’s character in how he responded to the dream?

 

What can we learn about faith from Joseph?

 

As God called Joseph to a higher level of obedience and sacrifice, has God called you to a higher level of obedience and sacrifice?  How?

 

What has been your response up to now?

 

Read John 15:13.  What does to “lay down his life” mean to you? 

 

Power Verses:

John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (NIV)

 

John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  (NAS)

 

Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (NIV)

 

Romans 12:10-13, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”  (NAS)

 

Additional Resources:

Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed by Lysa TerKeurst

http://proverbs31.gospelcom.net/newresources_radicallyObedient.htm

 

Becoming A Woman Who Listens to God by Sharon Jaynes

http://proverbs31.gospelcom.net/newresources_becomingAWoman.htm

 

P31 Woman Magazine

http://proverbs31.gospelcom.net/woman.htm