In this note, we will diverge for a bit to bring you a story of Christmas during this special time of year. There is a story of courage that took place at the first Christmas. We often miss it because our focus is on a young mother and a baby. But the character I want us to focus on during this trek was in the story too.
He heard firsthand that his bride-to-be was pregnant, and it was not his child. This was difficult for him to deal with, but he wanted to handle the situation properly. As he thought about what to do, he experienced a personal message from God because of the extraordinary event. He stood by the manger where the baby was laid. He provided protection for the mother and child during the early years of the child’s life. The man’s name, of course, is Joseph.
What can we learn from Joseph? Let’s read his story from Matthew 1:18-25.
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
1. God gives courage to ordinary people.
In the midst of the story of the miraculous birth of Jesus, we find an ordinary man by the name of Joseph. Many of us don’t view biblical characters as ordinary, do we? Many times we attribute to them almost super-human powers. But folks, that is not the case. They were people just like you and me. They had problems, fears, doubts, and worries just like you and me, yet God is able to use them. In fact, that is a major theme of the Bible.
“God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”
Look at how Paul states this fact in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”
Joseph was an ordinary man, but He was a man God could trust to be strong in the midst of crisis. He was strong and resilient enough to protect his family. Matthew says it this way, “He was a good man.” In other words, he was a man of honor. Did he have concerns? Yes, but he was a man, as the Scriptures tells us, that was “good.”
Let’s read the first part of this passage again.
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
Joseph was an ordinary man, yet he was a good man. What that means is that Joseph displayed moral courage. Joseph displayed the character of God in his own life. That’s tough to do sometimes, isn’t it?
In the movie Cinderella Man, we meet a man like Joseph. It is a story that takes place during the Great Depression. The father is a boxer who has lost everything, and the family is starving to death. His son steals a loaf of bread to help his starving family. The father rebukes his son and makes him apologize to the storekeeper. This God-fearing father may not have been able to fill his family’s stomachs with food, but he was able to nourish their spirits. Joseph was a man like that. He was an ordinary man but a man with moral courage.
As we reflect on Joseph, we see that he was ordinary but good. He was also a very courageous man that would have to remain good in the face of ridicule and slander. We should all endeavor to be like Joseph in our lives.
2. God gives us the courage to overcome our doubts and fears.
We can only imagine how Joseph must have felt when he found out that Mary was pregnant. His natural response would have been that she had been unfaithful to him. He knew the child was not his. She must have been unfaithful. What emotions do you think he would have?
Shock, disappointment, embarrassment, sorrow, anger…Probably a mixture of all. Yet Joseph’s character enabled him to keep a rein on his emotions. His love for God and for Mary compelled him to seek a way to protect her. You know the scripture says in 1 Peter 4:8, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
And also in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
Joseph faced down his own emotions and courageously chose to protect Mary. Can you imagine rumors that must have spread through the community? The neighbors would have thought that they had broken the law. Obviously, the neighbors thought that they were having a sexual relationship.
Regardless of what others say or think, we must do what Joseph did. It is always the right time to do the right thing. God gives us the courage to face our own doubts and fears and also the rumors of others.
The third point I want to explore with you in this courageous story of Joseph is…
3. God gives us the courage to face the future.
It would take unrelenting courage to deal with the life that Joseph had to face. In the case of Joseph, he was given a vision – a dream to help reinforce his faith. He knew the neighbor’s opinion of him would change. He knew the rumors would be flying. But he also knew that God had spoken to him in a special way. The scriptures say, “As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.”
Does God always give a vision to people? No, it does not appear to be frequent today since we have the full revelation of Jesus Christ in God’s Word. But sometimes He does. Sometimes God will give you a vision. Does God always give a vision to people? No, it does not appear to be frequent today since we have the full revelation of Jesus Christ in God’s Word. But sometimes He does.
Sometimes God will give you a vision. Sometimes He will speak to you in a dream. Sometimes He will lead you to a verse in the Bible and show you how that verse applies to your situation. He does not do that every time, but sometimes He does. But you know what He will always do? If you are Christian, if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, if you have the Holy Spirit living inside you, He will never, never, never leave you or forsake you. He will always be there. That is a promise.
Hebrews 13:5 – Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”
This fact gives me the courage to face the unknown as described in Romans 8:31, “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”
When we face doubts, when we face fears, when we face an uncertain future, we are tempted to avoid the wilderness. We like our comfort zones. If we are approaching an area of the unknown, we try to find another way around or to make a U-turn to avoid it. We are afraid of the wilderness. There might be Giants there. There might be bullies there. There might be rumors and teasing. There might be hardships and struggles. But it is only by a journey through the wilderness that we will reach the Promised Land. And if we make the journey, God will be with us. Think of what Joseph had to endure and remember, “It is only by a journey through the wilderness that we will reach the Promised Land.”
God gives courage to ordinary people like you and me and Joseph.
God gives the courage to face our doubts and fears.
God gives the courage to face the future.
Trust in God. Believe in Him. No matter what you are going through He will be there with you.
What a marvelous story of courage that we find in this ordinary and humble man, Joseph. Dare to be a Joseph. Dare to be ordinary, but good. We can be courageous and remain good in the face of hardships, ridicule, and slander. We should all endeavor to be like Joseph in our lives.