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A Heart God Can Use

Think you’re too young and inexperienced to be used by God?

Then think about Mary. She was a young teenager, probably between 13 and 15 years of age. No longer a child, but not quite a woman, Mary was living in her father’s house as she prepared and waited to marry her fiancé, Joseph.

Each day Mary awoke with the same sense of anticipation and trepidation that all young brides feel. On the one hand, she was excited about the wedding, becoming a wife and mother, and having a home of her own. On the other hand, she was so young. There had to be days when she wondered, “Am I ready? Do I know enough? Will I be a good wife and mother? Am I ready for all life has to offer?”

Truthfully, Mary wasn’t ready for everything that her life would bring. She didn’t have any special training or outstanding abilities that set her apart. She was just a young girl raised in a small town. She’d been raised to be a wife and mother. There’s no way she could have imagined that before she turned 20 years old she’d have endured the controversy of a pregnancy that seemed illegitimate, given birth to the Son of God, and moved not only away from her home and family, but into a completely different country. How could she know that her child would be sought out by wise men from the East or that King Herod would do everything in his power to kill her baby boy? What was God thinking as He chose to trust HER with the responsibility of carrying, protecting, and raising His Only Son?

For sure, He wasn’t thinking about her age or maturity. Instead, He was looking at her heart. Knowing Mary, He knew that despite her youth or lack of maturity, she would willingly obey any command He gave her. He knew that Mary was committed to Him and that He could trust her with this enormous responsibility. Perhaps it was even because of her childlike faith and simple obedience that God knew that Mary would follow Him no matter came her way.

Knowing that He could provide the wisdom and experience needed, God gave one of the greatest callings in the history of the world to a young, inexperienced, teenage girl.

Mary proves that no one is too young to be used by God.

Think you’re too old for God to use you?

Then read Luke 1 and look at the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Granted, to most of the people in their day, it appeared that Zechariah and Elizabeth’s time had passed. In fact, Luke 1:7 says point blank that they were very old.

But God didn’t see this as a problem. Rather, He saw it as an opportunity to do a miracle. You see, although Zechariah and Elizabeth were blameless and upright people, their lives were shrouded by the stigma that came from being barren. In those days being barren was seen as a curse from God. I’m sure there were many discussions around Jewish dinner tables about what Zechariah and Elizabeth did that God was punishing them. However, nothing could be further from the truth!

In reality, God didn’t allow Zechariah and Elizabeth to be barren because they’d sinned, but because He had a special plan for their lives that included having a child in their old age. All along, His plan was to use them to give birth to and raise John the Baptist, the forerunner to the Messiah. They just had to wait until it was God’s time for the Messiah to appear! As they got older and older, their lives weren’t ending. Instead, they were getting closer to their God-given purpose in life. Their opportunities to serve God weren’t winding down, they were just getting started!

Have you ever thought you were too poor to be used by God?

Nonsense! Just look at the young couple that God used to raise His Son. They proved that it doesn’t take vast amounts of money to serve God, only a heart that is willing to live on His provision as you follow His will.

As the Scriptures point out, money was tight for Joseph and Mary. How do we know this? The first thing that gives it away is the sacrifice they offered when they brought Jesus to the Temple. This was the smallest amount that was legally acceptable, designed specifically for poor people. For sure, Jesus wasn’t born into a rich family. This offering says they weren’t even middle class. They were a poor newlywed couple struggling to get by.

Even a few years later, after they’ve had time to settle and live in Bethlehem for awhile, we see that money was still an issue. That’s why God sent the wise men to visit them in their home in Bethlehem. He knew that the wise men’s gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh would supply the needs of this young family during their exile into Egypt.

As He does for all who are willing to follow wherever He leads and live on whatever He supplies, God didn’t see Joseph and Mary’s financial situation as a handicap. Again, He saw their hearts and their desire to obey Him regardless of their financial situation. He saw their willingness to depend on Him to provide their needs and do without their wants. Seeing their hearts He said, “I can use them, money or no money!”

After reading this, you may start to think that God prefers to use poor people. Perhaps there are some who are wondering if they are too wealthy for God to use. After all, didn’t Jesus say that it’s difficult for a righteous man to enter the kingdom of God?

However, that’s only because so many people who have money allow it to become the dominant force in their lives. They find it difficult to give their treasure to God to use for His purposes. But oh, how God can use the man or woman who willingly gives the assets He’s given them for His kingdom purposes!

For example, look at what God was able to do through the wise men that brought the gifts to Jesus. Out of their wealth, they willingly gave to Mary and Joseph. Because of their gifts, Joseph was able to obey God and protect Jesus from the evil Herod. These gifts paid not only for the trip, but for the young family’s living expenses in Egypt.

The gifts that the wise men gave were not just gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but protection, freedom, and financial security. When they could have used their knowledge of the Christ-child to gain favor and influence with King Herod, they chose instead to gain favor and influence with God by following His direction. Anyone with a heart like that can be used by God!

Have you ever thought you didn’t have enough education to serve God?

Take a look at Joseph. Joseph was a man with very little formal education. He wasn’t trained in religion like a priest or Pharisee. He wasn’t trained in the ways of Rome or Greek philosophy. He was raised to be a working class carpenter. His training came in the form of an apprenticeship in carpentry. Still, God chose him to be Jesus’ father and to teach Jesus God’s ways.

Have you ever wondered why? Why didn’t God have the Messiah raised by a priest of a scribe? Why didn’t He arrange for the family to live in Jerusalem where Jesus could have received formal religious training? Why did He choose a carpenter from the small town of Nazareth? Because God wasn’t looking for someone with a lot of head knowledge, He wanted His Son to be raised by a man who had an intimate, personal relationship with God.

That was Joseph. Joseph was the kind of man who believed it was an angel of God appearing to him in a dream telling him that Mary’s child was conceived of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t just believe, but he had the faith to act on what he believed and the strength to not care what other people thought. He knew what God wanted and he did it—end of story. God wanted Jesus raised by a man who could hear His voice and who would follow Him wherever He led. He wasn’t concerned about Joseph’s formal education. He saw his heart was the heart of a man He could use.

As you may be noticing, none of the main characters in the Christmas story were people that anyone in their day would have seen as prime candidates to be used by God. In fact, most of them were people that no one was paying any attention at all. Some, like the shepherds, were from a group that most people didn’t want anything to do with at all.

You see, in New Testament times shepherding was not considered a good livelihood. In fact, Jewish wisdom during the time of Jesus’ birth advised father’s against shepherding as an occupation for their sons. They were looked down upon, not trusted, even scorned. They were often peripheral to Jewish life and culture. Outcasts. Low-life’s. They were from the class of people you don’t invite to parties. They weren’t part of the ‘in crowd’ of synagogues or social groups.

Still, the shepherds were the only ones God invited to the birth of Jesus the Savior and Lord! They were the only group of people honored to hear the heavenly chorus of angels announcing, “Glory to God in the Highest”. Among all the crowds in Bethlehem, they were the only people that abandoned their prior commitments and went to the stable to worship Jesus. By extending this private invitation to the shepherds, God was saying, “Everyone is welcome in My kingdom. No one is too socially unacceptable to be used in My plan.”

Throughout the entire story of Jesus’ birth, we see God honoring and involving people that may not stand out in the eyes of the world, but they had outstanding character traits to Him.

Take for instance, Anna. She was just a young woman when tragedy changed her life.

She had only been married for 7 years when her husband died. Knowing the standard marrying age at this time, you can assume that Anna was no more than 21 years old when he died.

Widowhood in that society was very difficult. It virtually guaranteed a life of extreme poverty. Still, Anna didn’t use this tragedy as an occasion to be angry with God. Instead, she devoted the rest of her life to serving God. She literally moved into the Temple and devoted the next 64 years of her life to prayer, fasting and teaching other women the Bible. (By the way, her life is a shining example that you don’t have to be married to serve God. God can use a single women as well as a married woman to fulfill His purposes!)

Don’t think her years of sacrifice and devotion to God went unnoticed! One day while Anna was praying in the Temple, the Holy Spirit led her to the exact place where Mary and Joseph were dedicating Jesus.

What an honor this was for Anna! To see the long-awaited Messiah with her own eyes! No doubt, over the years she’s prayed that the Messiah would come and deliver His people, Israel. Now she was seeing the answer to her prayers.

What a privilege God gave Anna in allowing her to see the Messiah and tell her story to other people who were also waiting for the promised Messiah.

Why did God allow Anna to witness this great event? He was rewarding her for her many years of constant devotion to Him and to prayer.

You see, God doesn’t always view things the people do. We tend to admire the people that we see out in front doing great things for God. However, this is not the type of person that God chose to attend His Son’s dedication. Among all the great priests, religious leaders and kings in Jerusalem, Anna was one of two guests He invited because she exemplified the type of person God will always choose to use in His kingdom.

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 says it this way, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.”

When God is choosing people to work in His kingdom, He isn’t going through resumes or looking for all the right qualifications. He isn’t looking for a certain age, gender, or ethnicity. He’s looking for people who will love Him with all of their hearts, souls, and minds, and commit all of their strength to following Him. He’s looking for empty vessels that will say, “I may not have much to give, Lord, but whatever I have, You can use for Your honor and glory.”

He’s searching for people who will allow Him to change them into the image of His Son without reservation. He’s seeking people who will follow Him whenever, wherever, and do whatever He commands. He’s looking for obedience, humility, and a heart that is fully committed to Him. These are the traits exemplified by Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and Anna. This is the type of person God can use!

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