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Scripture singles out two women as “most blessed” by God.

The first was Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, who was praised as “most blessed of women” for her courageous act of violently killing Israel’s—and God’s—enemy, Sisera (Judges 5:24).

The second, and far more famous, was, of course, Mary, Jesus’ mother, whom Gabriel addressed as “favoured one” (Luke 1:28) and whom Elizabeth declared to be “blessed … among women” (Luke 1:42). Catholics, of course, speak much of “the blessed Virgin Mary.” They honour her above all the saints and consider her to be “the queen of heaven.” Catholic teaching holds that Mary is “the blessed Virgin” both because she was privileged to carry God’s Son in her womb (v. 42) and because of her incredible faith (v. 45). They emphasise her great declaration of faith in v. 38: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

There is certainly a great deal to admire about Mary’s character and faith, and a great deal to learn from her. But as I was reflecting on Luke’s account recently, it struck me that she did not start full of faith. Indeed, her faith took a journey from disbelief to submission. It is a journey many of us can relate to, and one on which we do well to reflect.

Consider three stages in Mary’s journey to faith. And be encouraged that she was said to be “favoured” long before she reached her faith destination. This should instruct us that she was not unique, but that we can all join her on this journey of faith as those favoured by God in Christ.

First, observe that Mary’s journey began with consternation. When Gabriel first appeared to her, declaring her to be a “favoured one,” “she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be” (v. 29). She did not brashly embrace the greeting. She did not pump her fist in relief that God had finally acknowledged her faith. Her initial response was a mixture of fear and disbelief.

Can you relate? Have you ever looked at the work set before you with sheer consternation? You know instinctively that God will give you the grace for the work to which he has called you, but, honestly, it scares you. Mary knew the feeling.

Second, notice that Mary’s journey progressed to confusion. Once Gabriel told her why he was there—to inform her that she was about to conceive—she responded with a clarifying question: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34). Pregnant? How? We don’t sense mocking unbelief in her voice, for she did not receive a similar rebuke to Zechariah in the preceding section. But she had enough knowledge of human biology to know how babies are made. She knew that virgins don’t conceive. If she was, or would soon be, pregnant … well … how? Marital consummation was still some time off, but she sensed that the promised conception was imminent. How?

Do you know the feeling? Have you ever considered the task God has set before you and, while you believe that he will supply what he commands, you wonder how on earth it will come to pass? Have you ever lived in deep confusion as to what God is calling you to do? Those favoured by God—like Mary—are not immune to such confusion.

Third, Mary’s journey culminated in faith. When Gabriel told her how things would happen, even though it appeared incredible, she humbly declared, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). She was scared. She didn’t understand how it would all work out. But she believed and submitted.

I hope you can relate. I hope that you can cut through your fears and confusion to declare your willing submission, as Mary did. I am (obviously) not Catholic and I believe that Catholics revere Mary more than the text warrants. Nonetheless, all generations rightly call her blessed because she “believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (v. 45). Her faith was undeniably commendable. Would to God we would all share such faith.

God’s favoured ones don’t always respond with immediate, unshakeable faith, but we are all on a journey that should culminate in submissive faith, even if it starts with consternation and confusion. May God guide us on this journey.

Stuart Chase - 11 October 2022

Favoured Faith

BBC Shorts

God’s favoured ones don’t always respond with immediate, unshakeable faith, but we are all on a journey that should culminate in submissive faith, even if it starts with consternation and confusion.

From Series: "BBC Shorts"

Occasional pastoral thoughts from the elders of Brackenhurst Baptist Church.

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