Ministry Help for the Unexpected: A Surprising Lesson from Mary

Ministry Monday with Mary: Ministry Help for the Unexpected

Written By: Glenn C. Stewart

Ministry Monday with Mary: Ministry Help for the Unexpected

Have you experienced situations that are shocking, surprising, confusing, unexpected, and easily misunderstood? The evidence all seems to suggest something bad. People talk and they don’t use kind words. They assume, they judge. When you are genuinely doing right, why do things seem to go so desperately wrong? Can you relate? Do you know what it is to be stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place?

Everyone feels stuck or is surprised by situations at some point, be it in a ministry, a marriage, a job, or health. You wonder what God is doing and why He’s doing it or allowing it in your life. So, what now? What do you do? How do you handle it?

Mary’s Unexpected Circumstances:

Revisit and examine the story of Mary when she learned about Jesus. Like anyone else, she was going about her business, likely pursuing life plans and aspirations. But, she was surprised by the unexpected and unexplainable (what seemed just downright impossible) news she received.

Remember, Mary was in a betrothal period. And of course, an angel, Gabriel, appeared to her and delivered a message.

“Gabriel appeared to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!’ Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, ‘for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!’ Mary asked the angel, ‘But how can this happen? I am a virgin.’ The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God,’” (Luke 1:28-35, NLT).

Here’s what Mary knew and immediately had to process when she heard this angelic message.

  • She knew her status in society would immediately be different. She would be labeled an adulteress, that was the way it was in the Torah (the book of Jewish law).
  • She knew she could be stoned to death if the law was fully enforced, but certainly she would face public humiliation.
  • She had to wonder how Joseph, who was Torah observant, would respond. We know the rest of the story with Joseph, but at that moment Mary didn’t and the likelihood that Joseph would believe her and back down from legal action was either slim or none.
  • She knew if Joseph, who followed the law, divorced her, she would be left poor and alone as a single mother in a very intolerant society.

That was the reality of Mary’s world. She couldn’t have anticipated and wasn’t expecting the news delivered to her. Those thoughts were probably what flooded her mind as soon as she heard, “You will become pregnant…” Mary’s response was what was truly amazing.

“Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’ And then the angel left,” (Luke 1:38, NLT).


Ministry Help for the Unexpected: Lessons Learned

Even though Mary probably imagined the risks and challenges of the news, she said, “may it be.” How did she respond with such faith and certainty?

The answer is simple and significant. Mary knew God, was surrendered to God, and trusted God. Just as she knew the risks and could immediately project the worst-case-scenario, she also knew that God was merciful and would look after her. She knew He was a God of purpose. Even though the circumstance seemed contrary to human logic, her God could use the unexpected and the downright impossible to accomplish His good purpose in her and through her.

In times of uncertainty, cling to God’s purpose. Approaching life with openness, humility, and surrender to God enables the ability to move forward when He gives new direction.



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