New Hope Notes
The Faith of Joseph
A Season for Christmas
Pastor Wayne Cordeiro
The Faith of Joseph
By Pastor Wayne Cordeiro
December 12, 2009
Today I am going to talk about the Faith of Joseph and how he struggled with his faith. He must have struggled desperately and wondered about his pregnant bride to be –knowing that the unborn child was not his.
I also want to talk about George Bailey, the sort of average regular guy character from our Christmas musical, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. In the story, George felt that he had lost everything. His life was in financial chaos and so he considered committing suicide until an angel came to show him the impact of his life on others in his community. God realizes how important each of you is.
Unfortunately, America is star conscious. If Paris Hilton goes to Mexico, it becomes a TV series. If I go to Mexico, it’s simply a church mission. So it is easy for each of us to feel unimportant even though we all are important to God.
But let’s talk about a “George Bailey” of the Bible; Joseph. In fact, he is introduced in the Bible as merely, “Joseph, husband of Mary”. However, we should always remember …
There may be invisible Christians but... there are no UNIMPORTANT ones.
As the story goes, Joseph struggles because he is engaged to a pregnant bride not pregnant by him. In those days it was very shameful and scandalous because lineage was very important and so the child would have no lineage or no lineage from him and everyone would know. When you read this story you will come upon the phrase, “after he had considered this”. You should stop and think because this is huge. Joseph must have been in deep despair. He must have considered getting rid of Mary. We do not know how long he considered before God sent an angel to reveal to him the truth.
As the Bible says, "But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from 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'" (Matt. 1:20-21).
So Joseph faithfully obeyed and kept Mary a virgin until the birth. We do not know how long he considered and struggled internally but we do know that he won. But he continued to struggle because when he went back to Bethlehem, his ancestral town, for a census he could not find a place to stay even though he must have had relatives there. Presumably it was because of the stigma of having a pregnant bride. But ofcourse he did find a barn in which to stay overnight where Jesus was born.
I think we all can understand Joseph’s struggles. We all go through struggles. We all hit an impasse from time to time. We suffer setbacks and relationship breakdowns and the battle goes on within on what to do. Everyone of us will struggle but we have to win. And just because we struggle does not mean that anything is wrong. Remember the faith of Joseph and that he did win in the end.
The phrase “after he had considered this” means that God is going to let you wrestle with your doubts, temptations, anger and even your lust. And you know …
WHAT MAKES THE BATTLES MORE DIFFICULT?
Sometimes I don’t know whether it is God or the Devil that is directing me, faith or my doubts talking, my desire or God’s spirit that is pushing me. Sometimes I just do not know. Joseph probably felt the same but he did win.
Sometimes I do not know if I want to obey God. I wish He would simply write on the wall my instructions to do this or that. But even if God did so, there would be another voice inside of us telling us not to comply because inside of us are two sides. Is our conscience guiding us or judging us, helping us or condemning us?
Apostle Paul from the New Testament put it this way, "I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway-I have discovered this principle of life-that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind" (Rom. 7:19-23 NLT).
I know that there are two conflicting sides of me and so I fight with myself. Sometimes my heart hurts. We do wrestle with our conscience. There is a battle going on in each of you but you must win. Joseph struggled but he did win. That’s what I like about the Bible. It is not neat and synthetic. It has stories in it that are raw and real. But here’s how to win …
1. Your CONSCIENCE
2. Your FAITH
3. God's SPIRIT
But what is a conscience? For a lot of us it is what our parents teach us. Each of us grows up with a base of knowledge that is inputted when young that forms our conscience. So is following your conscience good enough? Well, are your decisions Biblical? Your conscience may not be enough because it can get dulled or we can ignore it.
The Indians say that within the heart is a triangle with sharp corners. When we do wrong it turns or spins and so the sharp corners cuts at our heart and cause great pain. But it heals if we stop sinning. However, if you keep on doing wrong then eventually the triangle turns freely without pain because all that spinning has hollowed out your heart so that you no longer feel pain from the spinning.
So remember …
1. Your CONSCIENCE is a body of knowledge that justifies or judges you.
What you do may seem all right or all wrong depending on the body of knowledge given to you. As the Bible says, "They demonstrate that God's law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right" (Rom. 2:15). But what you do may not be right even though your conscience tells you so because things like speeding may feel right because that is what you learned when young. Even terrorism may feel right because of what you have been taught. But remember, the Holy Spirit uses your conscience so keep it in good condition.
I once tried to use a lawn mower that had not been maintained for years. When I tried to pull the cord it broke and I ended up flat on my back! So it is like that with the Holy Spirit and your conscience. The Holy Spirit needs to use your conscience but it has to be in good shape. And how do we keep our conscience in good shape?
o Your conscience will mature as your FAITH grows.
12:24) So read the Bible daily and remember, "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion" (1 Tim. 1:5-6).
You may go to church regularly but if you do not read the word of God, you will make bad decisions based on a faulty conscience. You will make bad decisions with your relationships because your faith has not matured.
If you need to navigate through business, school or marriage the Holy Spirit wants to guide you. But your faith needs accurate input from the Bible. Our conscience is not always right if not fed by the Bible. Our conscience can lead us or excuse us. So we need it to be in good working order.
We are going to struggle and consider wrong decisions and behaviors. So we need to grow our faith to keep our conscience good. But what if we are not there yet?
As it is written, "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak" (John 16:13). This means that truth needs a guide.
Similarly, when we went on a fishing trip, we caught tons of fish. But it was not because I was a good fisherman. I knew almost nothing about fishing. The secret is that we had a good guide who knew everything we needed to know about catching fishing.
The Holy Spirit will guide us in our journey through deeper and deeper faith and better consciences. So here’s a big tip: Make the Holy Spirit you best friend! The Holy Spirit will guide you in business, school and love. He will guide you into all truth and the truth will set you free. The Holy Spirit will help you to get the good stuff out of life while leaving behind the bad stuff. He will tell you which hill to die on and what to live for, and when to stop or go. The Holy Spirit will comfort you when you are afflicted and afflict you when you are too comfortable.
The Holy Spirit visited Joseph in the form of an angel. While an angel may not visit you, you can have the Holy Spirit everyday. I was considering making a huge investment in Arizona for my retirement years. But then I got afflicted. I felt troubled. When I prayed the Holy Spirit told me that while I was not doing anything wrong, that that investment would change my priorities away from God. So I immediately pulled out of the business venture and felt instantly better.
In the end God will not hold you accountable for what you have done as much as He will hold you accountable for how much you have done that he had asked of you. There is an assignment for your life. You must try to fulfill it.
There may be invisible Christians but no unimportant ones. Even Joseph considered his options and struggled. All of us have two sides to us that are in conflict. One side says to obey God and the other says no. In order to make good choices, we need to know the difference between conscience, faith and spirit. Your conscience is the body of knowledge that will justify or judge you. Your conscience will mature as your faith grows. The Holy Spirit will be you guide in your journey to a deeper faith.
1. Why are you important?
2. What has been your greatest recent struggle?
3. How has your devotions helped you in that struggle?
4. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you?
5. How can you mature your conscience?