Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Life of Belief

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You may be in a very obscure place and thinking, My life can’t really make any difference here. But the fact is, when you surrender your life, then He takes those little fishes and loaves of bread in that little boy’s lunch, He breaks them, He distributes them, and He causes a life in His hands to bless a multitude.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Tuesday, December 23, 2014.

The Christmas story tells us a lot about surrender. God the Son surrendered to the perfect will of the Father, and a young woman surrendered to God’s plan and gave birth under incredible circumstances. We can learn about faith and surrender this Christmas, and Nancy will show us why.

Nancy: I am so glad that God has given us in His Word examples of women that can be positive role models for people like me. In Mary of Nazareth, I find a great illustration of the kind of woman God uses to accomplish His purposes in this world. For many years, my life has been challenged and blessed by the characteristics out of the life of this special woman.

We’re looking at those characteristics, and we’ve seen that God chose this woman for a task that was humanly impossible. She was a virgin, but God said, “You’re going to have a child.” She understandably said to the angel, “How can this be?” The angel explained that it was the power of God that was going to come upon her and enable her to do the task for which God had raised her up.

We’ve realized that not only Mary, but we also have been chosen by God for the task of taking the life of Christ into our homes, our churches, our communities, and into this world. It’s a task that’s impossible if the power of the Holy Spirit is not upon us.

We want to continue today looking at some further characteristics out of the life of this great woman of God. I want to read in the Gospel of Luke a passage that will give us the context for this next point.

We read in our last session of the angel’s visit to Mary, and how the angel said in Luke 1, verse 31, “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.”

Then Mary asked the question, “How will this happen?”

The angel answered, in verse 35,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.

"I am the Lord’s servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her (vv. 35–38).

As I read this passage, I see that Mary was an available woman—an available, surrendered woman—willing for God to use her in whatever way He chose. Her response to this challenge is, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Some of your translations use the word handmaiden. It’s the word for the lowest form of hired servant. It’s someone who is a bondservant, a slave, whose life is totally at the disposal of her master. A handmaiden has no plans of her own, no life of her own. She exists to serve her master.

Mary is saying, “I have a Master. His name is Jehovah God, and I am His handmaiden. I am His servant. I have no reason for living other than to please God. So whatever He wants to do with my life—whatever He wants me to do with my life—I’m available. I’m surrendered to that call of God in my life.”

Now, for Mary to offer herself up in this way to God was a very costly surrender. Think about what she had to be willing to embrace if she was going to say yes to the plan of God. She was saying, “I’m willing to become pregnant. I’m willing to carry the life of this child within me, and I’m willing to endure the inevitable misunderstanding, the ridicule, of people who will never believe that this is God’s child. They know I’m not married. They will think that I’ve been unfaithful to Joseph, my fiancé, or that we have been involved immorally.”

There was no way she was going to be able to make people understand. In fact, in that culture, it was possible that she would be stoned if people believed that she had been immoral. So she was really saying, “I’m willing to give up my life.”

You see, we know the end of the story. We know the rest of the story. But Mary didn’t. All she knew was that God had sent this messenger to say, “I have a job for you.” And Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. I am Your servant. You say ‘Go;’ I will go. You say, ‘Do this;’ I will do this.” She was offering up her body, in a very literal sense, to be used by God for His purposes.

Just practically speaking as a woman, that meant the possibility of days or weeks or months of morning sickness. It meant going through those nine months of the pregnancy and experiencing those times of feeling fat and unattractive. Feeling that she couldn't find a way to get comfortable in those latter months of the pregnancy. It meant the sleepless nights. It was all the things that those of you who have given birth to children know are part of the process.

Mary as a young teenage girl was saying, "If that's what it takes to do what God has called me to do, I'm God's servant. I don't tell Him what my job responsibilities are to be. He tells me, and I just say, "Yes, Lord."

She was willing to endure the process of going through labor, to give birth to that child, and to go through the process of then carrying that child as an infant, nursing the child, and raising that child up in the ways of God. This was a huge responsibility—as it is, by the way, any time God asks a woman to have a child—but particularly so in this situation. And she just said, “Yes. I am the Lord’s servant. I am available.”

When the angel came to Mary on that particular day, we know for sure that this is not what Mary was planning on happening. Again, we can go back and read the story. It’s so familiar to us that we lose sight of the wonder of what took place.

Mary didn’t wake up that morning expecting to have an angel visit her, expecting to be the one who would give birth to the Messiah. She had plans. She was engaged. Like any engaged young woman, she was planning the wedding, planning to be married to Joseph and to live happily ever after. She had her little picture in mind of what her life was going to be like. When God sent this messenger from heaven, it threw a real kink in her plans. It wasn’t what she had been expecting. It wasn’t her agenda.

But she remembered that she wasn’t writing the script, that God was writing the script. Therefore, she was able to say, “Yes. I’m available. I surrender to this purpose,” even when those purposes were contrary to all that she had planned or expected for her life. That’s the attitude that I see in Mary throughout her life, this attitude of surrender: “Yes, Lord. I’m available; I’m willing.”

Now it was not only true of Mary, but it’s true of us as well, that there is a price to be paid if we want to be used by God. We face a choice when we become aware of that price. Will we say, “Yes, I’m available; I’m the handmaiden, the servant, of the Lord; I’m at Your disposal; You are my Master”? Or will we say, “Lord, I have my own plans; I hadn’t intended to spend my life this way; this is not what I intended to happen with my future”?

The available, surrendered woman is the woman that God can use.

Some of you are familiar with the name Betty Stam. She was martyred, along with her husband, as a missionary in China in 1934 at the age of twenty-eight. They had a little girl, and this couple who had gone to give their lives to the Chinese people ended up literally giving their lives as martyrs for the gospel of Christ.

Betty Stam wrote in a journal a prayer that I have found myself being challenged to offer up to the Lord many times. I’m so glad she wrote it down, and I’m so glad that I’ve had the privilege, along with many others along these years, of being challenged by these words. Here’s what she said:

Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, all my own desires, hopes, and ambitions, and I accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. I hand over to Thy keeping all of my friendships, all the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart. Fill me now and seal me with Thy Spirit. Work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost now and forever, for to me to live is Christ. Amen.

Many times over the years, I’ve found myself having to go back and evaluate, “Is that really the condition of my heart?” That’s an easy prayer to read. It’s a hard prayer to pray and mean it. God knows our heart. When He knows that our heart is to be available and surrendered. I believe He takes us up on that heart’s desire.

Several years ago I was asked to speak at a conference of college-age young people that was being held between Christmas and New Year’s. Now, that’s one week that I like to keep for myself and my family. It’s not a week that I like to be traveling. But in that particular case, I felt that the Lord was directing me to accept that invitation, and I went to speak to several hundred young college students. The subject I was speaking on at that particular conference was this matter of surrender—surrender to the will and the plan of God for our lives.

Sharing out of my own heart with those students, I told them honestly what I'd rather be doing that week. When God asked me to speak at this conference, if He had left it up to me, my heart's desire would be to be sitting at home in my house with my friends and sitting looking out at the river outside my house. It was not my plan to come and do a conference like this. But I told them how God had challenged me with the issue of surrender. He asked, "Are you willing to give up this week, this time for Me?" As the Lord's servant, I just had to say, "Yes. I'm Your servant, and I'll do whatever You say."

In the course of that message, I was feeling very pressed in heart that there were young people in that audience that God wanted to call out to vocational Christian service. I don’t often say it quite this way, but in that particular case, I said, “I believe that there are many in this room that God is calling out to surrender your lives to vocational Christian service.” I finished the conference and went home. I was thankful that God had given the grace to surrender to Him and obey Him in that circumstance.

About a year later, as I recall, I received a letter from a young woman named Angie. I’d never met her, but she said,

I was in that conference when you spoke a year ago. I was getting ready to graduate from college. [She had a particular major and was planning a career in a particular field.] When you said, "I believe God is calling many of you to go into vocational Christian service." I wondered, Who in the world is she talking about. I certainly didn't think I was one of those people.

When you talked about how you had surrendered to God’s call even to come to that conference, God began to work in my heart, and I began to say, "Yes, Lord. If You want my life, I will do whatever You want me to do.”

Now, a year later, she was writing to me to say,

I am now raising my financial support to go join the staff of a Christian organization where I will be involved in reaching other college students with the gospel of Christ. [Then she said—I’ll never forget this.] I’m so glad that you said yes to the Lord on that day when He asked you to leave your house on Christmas break and come speak to a group of college students.

She's still in vocation Christian service now, several years later, and being used by God in lives of people I will never touch.

As we look as look at each of these characteristics in the life of Mary, we've asked ourselves some practical questions to see where we stand on these matters.

I would ask, as we reflect on Mary’s surrender to God,

  • Have you made yourself fully available to God for whatever purposes He might want to use your life?

The danger is that we would tell God how we think God ought to use our lives. We look at someone else who is being used in a particular way, and we think, I’d like to be used that way. But God has said, “No. I want you to be the mother of these three preschool children. I want you to be a praying grandmother. I want you to focus on loving to Christ this husband who is far from God. I want you to be a single servant in My service.”

I talked yesterday with a woman who wrestled with the whole issue of singleness, unfulfilled longings for a husband. She said, "I wanted to be used by God, but I wanted it to be with a husband." She said, "God spoke to me and challenged me in this area of surrender and availability."

She's now on her way to the mission field where she's making herself available to be used however God wants to use her life.

  • Are you available for whatever purposes God wants to use your life?
  • And are you willing for Him to use your life at any cost?

There will be a cost, as we have seen, but let me say this: There is no sense of true sacrifice when it’s God asking us to give up something or to pay a price to be used by Him. It’s really not a sacrifice. Look at what Mary was going to experience as a result of saying yes to the Lord. She was going to become the mother of the Messiah.

I think there are so many blessings and ways that God wants to use us that we perhaps never fully experience because we’re still holding on to our lives, our reputation, our rights, our time, our convenience, our comfort. Jesus said that if you hold on to your life, you lose it. But if you’re willing to let it go—to die to your plans, to your agenda—and say, “Lord, I embrace Your calling and Your will in my life,” then that’s the life that will be a fruitful life.

You may be in a very obscure place and thinking, My life can’t really make any difference here. But the fact is, when you surrender your life, then He takes those little fishes and loaves of bread in that little boy’s lunch, He breaks them, He distributes them, and He causes a life in His hands to bless a multitude.

We’ve seen that Mary was an available and surrendered woman. I want us to look at another characteristic in Mary’s life, and that is that she was a believing woman—a woman who trusted God and took Him at His Word.

I’m going back to Luke chapter 1 and continuing in the passage that we’ve been reading. Luke chapter 1, beginning at verse 39:

At that time [having now just received the word from the angel that she was to have this child, and having surrendered herself to that purpose], Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.

Now, what precedes this is that her cousin Elizabeth, who was an older woman and was barren, not able to have children—God had supernaturally caused her to conceive. She was going to be the mother of John the Baptist.

So Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, and verse 41 tells us,

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed, "Blessed are you among women.”

Notice it doesn’t say that she was blessed above all other women but that she was blessed among women. That says to me that, though Mary was unique in God’s specific calling for her life, she’s not the only one who’s blessed. We can all be included in that number of blessed women if we have the heart attitude and response to God that she did.

Elizabeth said,

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear. But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

Here’s the verse I want you to notice, verse 45:

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!

Who’s the woman who is blessed? It’s not the woman who has God’s promises. It’s the woman who believes God’s promises. Blessed is the woman who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.

God sent His promise to Mary, but Mary didn’t have to believe the promises of God. Mary chose to embrace God’s promises, to exercise faith in His promises, and to believe that He was able to fulfill that which He had promised. She knew that she couldn’t do this, so if it was going to happen, the only way it was going to happen was by faith.

God loves to put us into situations where what He wants to do in us and through us cannot happen apart from faith. Faith pleases God. God loves to hear us say, “Lord, if You don’t do this, it’s not going to happen.” Mary believed God, and that faith activated the power and blessing of God in her life. As a result, God fulfilled His promise, and a Savior was born.

Listen: God will fulfill His promises. God will accomplish His purposes, regardless of whether or not you and I believe God. But I think there are many ways He wants to include us in that process—and that we may just be bypassed while God uses somebody else who chooses to believe Him. Mary believed God, and as a result, she became an instrument through whom God was able to bring blessing to the world.

So you say, “How do I know what to believe?” That’s where we’ve got to get into the Word to find out the promises of God, to find out what He has said to us, and then to take Him at His Word and believe that what He has said is true—to exercise faith in God’s promises.

I’ve begun to keep, in my own devotional journal, a list of the promises of God that God has particularly impressed on my heart. I write out the promises, and then I find myself going back to them again and again, reading them aloud, and saying, “God, I chose to believe that what You said here is true, and that You will keep Your Word.” I want to be a woman who walks by faith, a woman who believes in God.

So let me ask these few questions:

  • Are you exercising faith in the promises of God?
  • Do you even know what those promises are?
  • And are you claiming them to be true? 
  • What are you believing God for that is impossible, apart from His power?

We don’t often live in the realm of faith. So much of what we say we’re believing God for is something that we really could do ourselves. But I believe we all need to have things that we’re believing God for that are impossible if God doesn’t do it.

You may be believing God for the salvation of an unbelieving mate. You may be waiting on God and believing Him on behalf of a son or daughter who doesn’t have a heart for God. You’ve done what you could to create a context, to create hunger and thirst for God. But ultimately, you know it’s God’s grace and God’s wooing that is going to draw the heart of that son or daughter or grandchild back to God.

  • What are you believing God for that is impossible apart from His power?
  • How does your life demonstrate faith in the power of God?
  • How does your life show the greatness of God and the goodness of God in response to believing prayer?

Lord, we not only want to be available and surrendered women, but we want to be women who believe You. We want our lives to be a rebuke to the unbelief of the world around us. We want to live in such a way that we’re walking by faith, not by sight or by feelings, not by what we can accomplish, but by what You and only You can do in us and through us.

So, Lord, would You make us women of faith? May we know Your promises. May we believe Your promises, and may we hold firmly to them, even when we cannot see how You’re going to fulfill them.

Thank You that You keep Your Word. Make us women of faith, I pray, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss in a series called “Mary of Nazareth.” Each of us has a lot to learn from Mary’s example. Our specifics are different, but we’re all called to say “Yes, Lord.”

The Lord is working in the lives of women all around the world, accomplishing His purposes everywhere. Nancy’s here with an example.

Nancy: Leslie, that has been so exciting to see. When the Spanish version of Revive Our Hearts launched as a five-day-a-week program, we were praying it would spread throughout Latin America. But of course, God can use the program any way and anywhere He wants. Like in Germany. A sweet listener sent us a sweet voice message from Hanover, Germany.

Tabeta: Hi, I’m Tabeta. I’m so glad to greet all Spanish-speaking women listening to Aviva Nuestros Corazones. I lead a small group of Christian women in Hanover, Germany.

Nancy: She first sent this voice message to Aviva Nuestros Corazones, the Spanish version of Revive Our Hearts.  And then she sent us the voice message in English so Revive Our Hearts listeners could be encouraged as well.

Tabeta: The Lord has joined us together by His will and His grace to seek Him and share His Word and to help other women experience freedom and restoration through the power of His Word. Our ministry has been running for about eight years. A couple of weeks ago I discovered Aviva Nuestros Corazones on the Interent. I shared it with my group.

Nancy: This small group in Hanover started studying the Spanish translation of the book Lies Women Believe that they received from Revive Our Hearts.

Tabeta: We are very thankful for Nancy and for all of you who make Aviva Nuestros Corazones possible as it reaches the Spanish-speaking world. You are being used powerfully to bless so many women around the world. We have a dream that the program can be translated into other languages like German, French, Italian so that many women can be reached in Europe with the message of revival and freedom of Revive Our Hearts. We are just a handful of women, but we are all hungry for more and more of Jesus.

Nancy: Don't you love that? God is using this small group in Germany to reach out to other Spanish-speaking women right in their community. 

I’m so thankful that the Lord has chosen to use Revive Our Hearts to encourage these women in Hanover. We are able to provide them the online version of Aviva Nuestros Corazones thanks to friends like you who support the ministry financially.

As we near the end of 2014, we’re facing some significant challenges and opportunities as a ministry. Typically, about 40% of the donations we need for the entire year come during the month of December. So we are asking the Lord to provide this month so we can avoid cutting back on existing ministry outreaches and so we can continue moving forward into opportunities that the Lord is opening up for us.

We’ve been telling you about a matching challenge of $650,000 the Lord’s provided here in December. Some friends are matching the gifts of every listener up to that challenge amount. We're asking the Lord to direct friends like you to meet and far exceed that challenge so we can address those significant ministry needs that we've been mentioning.

Would you ask the Lord if He would have you to give for this need at this important time? If He prompts your heart to do that, give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks Nancy.

Do you ever treat God like a child complaining to a parent? Nancy will lead you through a discussion of that tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version 84.

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.