At the beginning of Paul’s’ first missionary journey, right after John Mark deserted them (Acts 13:13) and shamefully returned to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas entered Antioch in Pisidia and began to preach in the local synagogue.  During his first major sermon, as he spoke of the resurrected Christ, Paul made a statement that has troubled me since the first time I read it.  In Acts 13:36 Paul says of David, in part:

“For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep.”

This is so convicting for me.  It states that David served the people of his own generation, and he did so by or through or in accordance to the will of God, and then, he died.  He faithfully served His God in the time and place His God placed him, and when God was finished with David, God brought him home.  He fell asleep.  He simply died.

This is how I want to live my life.

I want to faithfully serve my God in the time and place of today, in my generation, with all that is in me.  And when God is finished with me, when I have finished the race as Paul would say (2 Tim 4:7), I eagerly look forward to God receiving me unto Himself, that where He is I will be also (John 14:3).  Ah, this is the promise of the abundant life in Christ (John 10:10).  To be used by God for His purpose in the generation He sovereignly places us and then, like soldiers returning from war, He brings us home to Himself.

It is a joy to be found faithful in Him in the generation He has placed us in, is it not?

This Christmas Season

I am also mindful that today is the first Sunday in December and the trappings of Christmas are all around.  As I prepare my sermon on the birth of Christ the words of Paul echo again in my mind.  “David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep.”

I wonder if the statement about David and his generation could also apply to those in the generation of Jesus’ birth?  Amazingly, they do.

As a gift this Christmas season, consider how each of the following served God in the time and place sovereignly chosen by Him during their own generation, and relish in the truth that God has the same plan for you.  Regardless of your upbringing, your inherent advantages or disadvantage, your past failures or great triumphs, God still wants you to serve Him in the generation He has placed you.  Why?  Because this is the will of God for you.

Be blessed as we look into the lives of the cast of characters surrounding the birth of our Lord.

Zachariahs and Elizabeth

Zachariahs, whose name means God or Jehovah Remembers, was an aged, elderly priest of the division of Abijah who lived and faithfully carried out his priestly duties in obscurity in a small, remote town in Judea.  He was married to a fine woman named Elizabeth, meaning My God is an Oath, and they were both “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6).  Yet, in spite of their reverence and devotion to the Lord and their lifetime of service, God, for His own reasons, had not seen fit to bless them with children.  Elizabeth was barren.  Therefore they had no children, no offspring, no future, no one to carry on the family name and, being “well advanced in years,” no hope that tragedy would ever change (Luke 1:7).

Zachariahs and Elizabeth were growing older day by day, seemingly content with their lot in life, spending their lives faithfully “serving their own generation by the will of God”— until something marvelous happened.  Something so great, we still talk about it two thousand years later.

It was Zachariahs’ time to serve in the ministry of the Temple and he was chosen, by random lot, to burn incense at the altar.  This was a once in a lifetime event and marked the height of this old man’s priestly service.  It was something in Zachariahs’ life never to be repeated again.  It was his finest hour, his time of greatest joy, the cumulation, the reward of a lifetime of priestly service.  It was Zachariahs’ greatest time of honor.  It was the zenith of his life, the pinnacle, the mountain top experience of all.  Nothing, it seemed, would be greater than this.

His family and friends waited patiently outside, at the bottom of the Temple steps, as Zachariahs carefully and reverently entered the Holy Place.  To them, it was the crowning celebration for a life well lived in reverent service to the Lord.  They viewed this honor as the reward Zachariahs and Elizabeth earned for serving in the generation they were placed.  But little did they know what more the Lord had in store for this simple couple who walked blamelessly before Him all those years.

Suddenly, while preparing to offer incense, Zachariahs realized he was not alone.

Standing, at the right side of the altar of incense, was an angel, Gabriel, the heavenly messenger sent from God to this simple man (Luke 1:19).  Zachariahs was shocked, literally terrified, by what he saw and overcome with fear.  But the divine plan of our sovereign God was about to unfold and this old, faithful, loving man and his treasured wife were to become a vital, intricate part of it.  They were about to experience the beginning of the greatest move of God known to man, and they were to experience it center stage, with front-row seats.

The angel said:

“Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.  For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17).

The promised forerunner of the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, was to be born to Zachariahs and Elizabeth.  All those years of longing and hoping and praying and crying, those countless dark nights of unanswered questions and doubts and fears would now find their fulfillment and joy in holding and cradling their own baby boy— a son named John.

Zachariahs and Elizabeth had more service to the generation God had placed them.  Their time, even at their old age, was not yet over.  Retirement?  Out of the question.  They were to raise and train their son to someday proclaim the coming of the Lord of all.  They were entrusted with the earthly care of the one spoken about by Isaiah the prophet centuries earlier.  Their young son, a miracle from God Himself, was to be the one who is:

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’ ” (Luke 3:4-6).

No greater task had been given to such a couple, save maybe Joseph and Mary, the ones given the privilege of raising the Lord Jesus from a boy into a man.

What About You?

So what about you?  Have you come to the conclusion that your life of service to the Lord is just about over?  Are you convinced your best days are behind you and God cannot, or will not, do more through you than He has already done?  Do you feel like your spiritual ship has already sailed and you, somehow, missed the boat?  Are you drifting in neutral, just coasting along until the day He calls you home because you don’t think you have anything to offer the King or His kingdom?

“I’m too old for God to do anything through me now.  Maybe when I was young, but not now.”
“I’ve committed too many sins for God to use me.  He’s looking for someone else to use, not me.”
“I’ve wasted my life. God doesn’t want what I have left— which is next to nothing.”

Do not be deceived.  God will use whatever life is placed in His hands— including yours, as broken and wasted and worthless as you think it is.  All you have to do is trust Him and His sovereignty.

After all, he took an old couple, well past the age of child-bearing, and not only gave them the desire of their hearts, a son, but He also gave them a son that would grow to be, according to Jesus, the “greatest man who ever lived” (Matt. 11:11).

And what He has done for others, He will also do for you.

Be encouraged.  Your time of faithful service to your Lord and your generation is not yet over.  There is still much to do.

So let’s get about doing it, shall we?