Christmas can be complicated. One of the definitions for the word complication is… a difficult factor or issue often appearing unexpectedly and changing existing plans, methods, or attitudes.
- You had plans to buy this person and that person a gift, but a complication changed your money situation. Now you either are not going to buy anyone anything or you are going to go into debt.
- You had looked forward to another Christmas with a loved one, but they are no longer here. Death complicated matters.
- You had hoped that your spouse and children could begin building family traditions around Christmas, but you find yourself separated as a family. The separation complicated matters.
- You had hoped to be able to travel and visit some family, but a sickness for you complicated the trip.
Christmas can be complicated. But even in the midst of your complications God has a plan for you, He has a purpose for you, and He has a mission that you were designed to fulfill.
Today, we are going to take a look at the shepherds and learn some valuable principles about God’s mission for your life, even in the middle of the mess that’s going on in your life. So, what does God say about your mission?
Your mission will come suddenly
Number one, your mission will come suddenly. You will be doing your normal thing, working at your job, going to school, mowing the yard, working on your car, cleaning the house, and doing whatever it is you do and then one day God will interrupt your life and change it forever. This is what happened to the shepherds. Look at Luke 2:8, “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them…” (NLT). A couple of things.
The shepherds were doing what shepherds do. They were staying in the fields and guarding their flocks. This was a normal night for them. They were doing what they normally do every evening. Sometimes, when you least expect God to show up in your life that’s when He is there.
- Nehemiah was doing his normal job of a cupbearer. He would taste the drinks or food of the king before the king would eat it to make sure it was not poisoned. He was sort of like a body guard for the king. One day when Nehemiah was doing his normal job that he does every day standing near the king listening to all these people come in one by one giving various gifts or reports to the king God used one of the reports to grab Nehemiah’s heart and send him on a mission to restore the walls of Jerusalem for God’s people and God’s glory.
- Moses was tending to his sheep and one of them wanders off up into the mountain. Moses goes after it. He has done this type of work for 40 years, this is a normal day and he is doing a normal task. He goes up into the mountain looking for the lost sheep and God shows up in a burning bush and changes His life forever.
- The apostle Paul, at the time known as Saul, was persecuting the Christians. Having them either stoned to death or imprisoned. He was going from town to town and village to village on this crusade. At this point in Paul’s life this was normal. One day he was on the road to Demascus and God showed up. Blinded him to get his attention and to give him time to think. His life would never be the same.
- The woman at the well, she was going to get water at noon, like she did every day and Jesus showed up and changed her life.
Your mission, a new direction for your life, can come suddenly.
Your mission will begin with concern
Number two, your mission will begin with concern. Sometimes when God shows up in your life it can be scary. You were just minding your own business. Working five days a week, clocking in and clocking out. You were going to school, doing your homework, going to church. You are retired and doing what retired people do and then God shows up and everything changes. When you first encounter God, and you know He is speaking to you about something in your life. It can be unnerving. Take a look Luke 2:9, “Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (NLT). At first they didn’t realize what was going on and God had a message for them. So at first, they were terrified. They were terrified by what they were seeing. They were seeing an angel that was surrounded by the Lord’s glory.
But the principle is still true. When God shows up and you know He is speaking to you it can be scary, unwanted, and cause some uncertainty. When God first shows up it can be scary, because this is something new for you. Mary was afraid when God spoke to her. The Roman soldiers were afraid when Jesus was resurrected. The apostle Paul was afraid at first when Jesus showed up on the road to Damascus.
Throughout the Bible God has gotten the attention of people through miraculous moments like this one or through tragedy. At the time it is scary because what God is doing is confusing to you, it’s scary because God is getting your attention through a loss in your life or a crisis in your life or through a miracle in your life. At first you don’t know what to do with it. This takes us to number three.
Your mission will continue with knowledge
Number three, your mission will continue with knowledge. God does not change the direction of your life or give you a mission or an assignment without giving you greater knowledge or more information. Your mission in life will always be followed up with more information. This is what the angel did in Luke 2:10 where the angel tells the shepherd, “But the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said, ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’ Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’”
So the angel explains what is going on. The shepherds don’t understand everything, but they were given enough and understand enough that they followed up on what the angels had told them.
The same is true for you. When God gives you a mission or when He gives you an assignment, He will give you enough truth and understand to do what He would have you to do. He will speak to you through His word and He will speak to you through godly counsel. Your mission will continue with knowledge. He doesn’t want you worshiping or ministering to others out of ignorance.
Your mission will be with others
Number four, your mission will be with others. God may show up in your life and move your heart to get involved in a ministry or to bless someone, but it is rare that God calls people to do something alone. Most of the time, others are being called to do something similar. Notice Luke 2:15, “When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’”
The “shepherds said to each other” and then they went together to see this thing that has happened. When you look at the Bible, it is extremely rare to find anyone doing ministry by themselves.
- Jesus had the twelve disciples.
- Paul had Barnabas and Timothy.
- Noah had his family.
- Nehemiah had the help of the king.
The same is true for you and me.
- When God decided to start Genesis Church, it was not a Jeff Stott thing. It was several of us with the same idea and the same mission.
- When God calls you to be a part of something you will discover that God is calling others to be a part of that as well.
- When God calls you to help someone, you will find that others have been called as well to that person. You don’t have to do it all.
Your mission will involve others.
Your mission will require a quick response
Number five, your mission will require quick response. When God calls you to do something, start doing something about it. Don’t drag your feet or procrastinate. Luke 2:16 says, “They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby lying in the manger” (NLT). We are not given a lot of details here. We are not told how many shepherds there were. We are not told how long it took them. But if they were good shepherds, they didn’t neglect the sheep. They made sure they were safe in some way and then all or most of the shepherds went to see what they had been told about.
When you get a mission from God, it doesn’t mean neglect your responsibilities. Drop everything and go, but it does mean take care of what you need to take care of in order to do what God has called you to do. Your mission will need to begin quickly. Don’t drag your feet when it comes to obeying God.
Your mission will bless others
Number six, your mission will bless others. When you are a part of what God is doing then you are a part of blessing many people in some way. Even if what you are doing appears to only bless one person or one family, there is always a ripple effect in ministry. There is always a domino effect when it comes to blessings. When one person blesses you, it affects you, and you bless someone else (even if you don’t know you are doing it.).
So take a look at Luke 2:17, “After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and though about them often.”
The shepherds had an encounter with God. They received some incredible news from God. They received a mission from God. They went and saw this miraculous thing that had happened. They told everyone what they had experienced and heard. The people were astonished. And Mary, she needed to hear this, because she kept it close to her heart.
A few years ago, I was pastoring a church outside of Branson, Missouri. We had some people who wanted to go Christmas caroling. We arrived at this senior adult ladies home. She was a widow. Her husband had ran a mom & pop gas station, which they had turned into their home. She lived by herself and while we sang these Christmas carols she began to cry. She was lonely and she needed that touch of love and attention that night. Later one of the men who had come along, only because his wife made him, told me that he didn’t want to come, he thought caroling was stupid and useless. And He said, “It may not mean much to me, but it meant a lot to her. I’m thankful I came and by blessing her, I became blessed.”
When you do what God has called you to do, you will be a blessing to others.
Your mission will bring you joy
Number seven, your mission will bring you joy. Notice Luke 2:20 which says, “The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.”
- Notice “the shepherds went back to their flocks.” They went back to their normal life. Most people are not called to be international missionaries or to pastor a church. But every believer is called by God to do ministry within their normal life. To bless others while they are going to school. To encourage others while they are working. The shepherds didn’t stop being who they were and stop being shepherds. God uses people in the middle of their every day lives. He will do the same for you.
- Also notice, the shepherds were “glorifying and praising God.” They were full of joy because of what they had seen, heard, and experienced. This was a spiritual high for them. Sometimes, when you obey God, things go so well and are so awesome that you simply want to glorify and praise God with those who were there with you.
So, what is your mission? What is your assignment? Who should you bless this month? What good news do you have to share with someone? If God has called you to do it, then don’t waste time. Do it.