Sometimes challenging messages come to us in a difficult circumstance (Luke 1:11-12)
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
We may look at the entire story of Zacharias and Elisabeth and think how cool it is, but at this moment Zacharias was terrified. In that moment that the angel appeared, this man did not know what was about to take place. Fear saturated him in that moment. Just because your circumstance is at a crisis point, does not mean God does not have a Word for you right now. Don’t think that, because the situation has gotten worse, that God’s Word to you is farther away. It might actually be closer than you think.
In 1Kings 17, Elijah the great prophet was traveling to a town called Zarephath. In this town there was a widow, who had a little boy she was raising. In that day it had not rained in a very long time. The drought was so bad that the widow had almost nothing left to feed her and her little boy. In fact, she explains later in the story that, when Elijah shows up in her town, she is getting sticks to make a fire that will bake a small cake of bread that will feed her and her son one last meal. Things are so bad that she explains to Elijah that it will be their last meal before they starve to death.
So, it is no small thing then that Elijah asks this woman to get him some water and something to eat. The widow is disturbed and appalled, but she cannot refuse a man of God. What she does not know that, in the darkest moments of her life, God is about to do one of the greatest works she’s ever known. As she obeys the request of Elijah, and God, unlimited oil and flour are provided until the drought ends and rain returns.
If we can learn anything from the appearance of Gabriel in Scripture, it is that sometimes God’s life changing messages appear in our most difficult circumstances.
Sometimes these messages arrive with difficult content (1:13-17)
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
When we read God’s Word, and He gives us direction, the content of that message is not always easy. When we pray and seek God, and He prompts us and directs us by the Holy Spirit, the content is sometimes difficult. This past week I was reading through Matthew 16. In that chapter, we have Jesus speaking to his main 12 disciples. In the beginning of the chapter, he asks them who they think He is. They answer with great success.
Later in the chapter He begins explaining to them a far more difficult set of information. He begins explaining his betrayal, arrest, and death. This is rather difficult for them to hear. So much so, that Peter tries to get Jesus to stop talking about this death. Jesus rebukes Peter for his efforts. As difficult as the content was in the message that Jesus shared with his disciples, it was necessary.
Sometimes the messages arrive through difficult concepts (5.18-20)
18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
Zacharias would head out of the temple and be unable to explain what just happened to him. The way ahead for him would seem awfully uncertain and difficult to describe. The concept of naming his son John (when no one in the family was named John) and trying to explain why he could no longer talk was extremely difficult.
Just because a spiritual concept is difficult for you, will you quit trying to understand it? What if God has some great victory or spiritual progress for you, but you must spend the time and effort in His Word and with His church to fully understand it? Sometimes the difficult concepts are necessary for real progress.