Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist. In Luke 1:5-12 we see him presented as a godly, God-sensitive man. He is:
- Of Godly Character: It is recorded of him, and his wife Elizabeth, that they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord (Luke 1:6). Righteous very likely refers to their justified state on account of their faith. And they lived out their faith in full obedience to God’s commandment and statutes.
- Enduring Difficulty. His wife could not have children and therefore they had never had the joy of bringing forward a new generation to serve the Lord. Childlessness was culturally shameful as well and spoke of curse. The Word says that Elizabeth was the cause of their childless state (see v7). But Zechariah would not give her up for another. He was faithful to his commitment.
- Faithful He continued his ministerial call to be a priest in spite of the pain of having no children. Faith prevailed over his problems.
- God-sensitive. In v9-10 we see how Zechariah was granted the great privilege of presenting the incense offering in the temple. This was the high-point of his career. This could only ever happen once in a priest’s career and now he was undertaking it. Yet at that moment he was diverted by the intervention of God in the appearance of the angel. The remarkable thing is that Zechariah gave up his religious service to acknowledge that God had come. We observe how Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him (Luke 1:12). Experiencing the awareness of God was more significant than the high-point of his religious service. I fear many of us, and our churches, are more concerned with religious performance over and against a living awareness of the living God.
Pulling all this together here we find a man who was godly, persevering and faithful. Such people are sensitive to the workings of God. I wonder, and this is only speculation, if on previous occasions angelic messengers had appeared to an incense offering priest, but they had ignored such because of the thrill of religious service.
How easy it is for this to happen with us. Are we spiritually sensitive to discern the difference between keeping religious activities going, important as that might be in a church, and the Lord appearing among us?
Ultimately it is only those who are godly, persevering through difficulty and faithful in service that have the spiritual antennae to spot when God is coming through His Spirit. Oh that I might be of such a character.
As I mentioned here, one of the main experiences of depression, even in fact the one that surpasses all others, is that of feeling “I can’t cope”. Accordingly, whilst in the midst of suffering, there were times when I looked at situations and thought: I don’t know how I am going to get through this. There was a sense of feeling overwhelmed by what was ahead.
The experiencing of such perplexity has been painful, but has been beneficial in teaching me a vital lesson. That lesson is that I need to depend upon God in all situations in life. My testimony has been that when I faced those times of being overwhelmed I have cried to the Lord and he has met me in my need.
I want this lesson to be riveted on my heart. I want to be reminded of the Word of our Lord Jesus that apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5b). When faced with any situation in life I want to Nehemiah like who concerning a meeting with his boss King Artaxerxes said Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king (Neh. 2:4b-5a).
Oh Lord help me to depend upon You in all circumstances of life whether they be hard or easy. Help me never to think that I can cope with a situation on my own.
One of the lessons I have been learning through my being afflicted by depression is to depend totally on the Lord in everything. Alas, I have to confess it is my normal default position is to presume that I can handle a situation myself. I wrote here about the detail of my depression experience and how “I can’t cope” expresses the pervasive character of the experience.
Depression strips a person of a reliance on their own resources. So I have been taught I must rely upon the Lord; I cannot rely on myself or circumstances. I can think of times in the last few weeks where I have faced situations and thought that I don’t know how i am going to get through this. However, i look back and see how through the Lord’s grace I have been brought through.
In many ways this is such a precious lesson to learn because I am learning what should be at the kernel of our lives. To learn that I only truly live when God lives out His life through me is foundational to true living. It is what it is to live by faith; it means depending on the Lord.
Alas, I find it a common personal experience for me to feel frustrated if things do not work out in the way that I want them to. But surely if I believe in a sovereign God who is in control of all things then this is not a good response. Furthermore, when I consider that this God is my Father and in Romans 8:28 we are informed by Paul that we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. In the light of these things it is even sinful for me to allow the fall-out that circumstances to frustrate me.
Recently I was given encouragement from the Lord on this issue. I had, last month, been referred to the hospital by my GP for physiotherapy. On contacting the physiotherapy department last week, I was a little disappointed that I only could have an appointment in a month’s time. Happily on Tuesday someone sought to contact me to offer me an appointment for yesterday. Alas they could not contact me whilst I was out. They spoke to my wife and left a message. I immediately contacted them when I found out but I could not speak to the lady and all the appointments apparently had been taken. I was feeling frustration and starting to bubble up inside. However, I sought to take myself in hand in the context of believing in a Father who is sovereign over all. Why should I fret when such is the case?
On Wednesday morning I decided to telephone just really to clarify, with the person who had phoned the previous day, about what had happened and what I should do in the future. Remarkably the lady, who was most helpful offered me an appointment for that morning at 10.30am!
This was an encouragement from the Lord to my soul. Now I don’t want to be overly seeing cause and effect in this. However, I perhaps do discern that when I have been frustrated in the past that has not led to a helpful resolution of a matter and has led to disturbance of my soul.
So I turn to Psalm 37 and see statements like these in verses 5-8
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
he will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret – it leads only to evil.
Hey Philip be encouraged to stop fretting and start trusting!
—-nobody’s problems. But I know someone who is the solution to everyone’s problems. I must remember this as I deal with people. And in doing so I will realise that it is not my wisdom that will be useful to anybody, but that which is from the Lord Almighty; the eternally Wise One.
So I will always be wanting to speak biblically when i am approached for advise or counsel about a situation. Very often this might mean asking for time to consider the matter that has been raised.
Also, always I will be praying to the Lord. In doing this we follow the exhortation of James in James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. Not only will I be praying before i speak, I will be dependent on Him whilst speaking to people as well. “Oh Lord give me wisdom and the right words to speak” will be my prayer.
So don’t forget, Philip, you are the solution to nobody’s problems.
Here is our church newsletter for January 2019. Hope you find it to be of interest.
I was somewhat euphoric some little while ago as regards to the outcome of a certain situation. I have pondered a little on that subsequently and wondered about what is the substance of our lives. I muse on this because if my life is based on circumstances and outcomes, and generally upon happenstances, then I am living a very precarious life. This is so because as good days come, so do bad days. There are times where all seems to flow swimmingly and there are days when everything seems to be a mess. One will make me happy and the other will make me sad.
This is really how so many people live unless they impose upon themselves some stoic indifference to circumstances. The Christian though is called to a better way; the way of the Christian is the way of faith. Whether all goes well or all goes badly, I am called to trust in the Lord. This reminds me of the incredible truth of Psalm 112:7 where we read They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Here are people who are truly living in a bigger way. This is not a detached way because there is an awareness of bad news. However, it is a more secure way because it is a way not dependent upon my circumstances. Such a way is a way of settled trust and joy. It is so because I am looking away to the God who does not change; I am looking to the One who is in control of good and bad news.
I am looking to the Lord God who is overseeing overall and as my soul is enfolded with Him by faith I am established in a settled way. This way is the mature way. It is the way of peace and hope and joy. Circumstances bring temporary hope and peace and joy. The faith way brings settled joy in God’s eternal purpose in Christ. A circumstance based Christianity is an infantile Christianity. A faith based Christianity is a mature Christianity.