INDEX

WATCH THE VIDEO

 

Luke 2:22-27; Luke 2:36-38

Anna was a truly amazing woman whose happiness had been cut short at the death of her husband, after seven years of marriage. The normal tradition in those days was that she would return to the house of her parents or go to the household of another member of her family. It seems that this option simply wasn't available to Anna and we find her living in the temple grounds and serving there as a prophet of the Lord. She had been a widow for over sixty years and having the honour of being a prophet was rare for a woman, but she was happy to spend her time in worship, fasting and praying, night and day, speaking the word of God to the people. Like Mary she had "chosen what is better and it was not taken away from her". (Luke 10:42)

After living with her husband for just seven years, she had determined to focus on God, using worship as a tool to heal her heartache. She did not wallow in self-pity or depression; nor did she want to stay at home and become a burden to her relatives or friends. She had a strong faith in God and believed that He would use her for His glory - to reach out to others. She also believed that this decision would be for her own good. Anna fled to God. She dedicated her whole life to serving God, praying, fasting, witnessing and speaking prophecy in the temple. Her whole focus was on what He wanted rather than her own personal needs. In effect, she "died to herself" and devoted her entire life to serving the Lord.

Serving God

We have been created to give ourselves to God. (Isaiah 43:1-21) In return, He gives Himself to us. We can give ourselves to Him through praise and worship, by spending time with Him and using our time and reosurces in His service. Anna gave sixty or so years of her life to serving God "with fasting and prayer, night and day". At the end of that time, God sent the promised "messiah" ("anointed one") as the Saviour of the world. What might happen in our own lives if we were to give ourselves to Him wholeheartedly? Would there be a mighty revival? Would we see Jesus coming again to meet His faithful children in the air? Much is said in the Bible about serving God.

  • The tribe of Levi was set aside, "to stand before the LORD to serve and to pronounce blessings in His Name". (Deuteronomy 10:8)
  • "The boy, Samuel, served before the LORD under Eli." (1 Samuel 3:1)
  • "The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the LORD." (2 Chronicles 5:13-14)
  • "My soul glorifies the LORD and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour." (Luke 1:46-55)

Being a servant

We are saved primarily because God wants us for Himself. He wants an exclusive love relationship with each one of us. All too often, we think that we have to repay God for all His goodness to us by doing things for Him. Our focus is on what we can do rather than what we can be. We can never repay God for His grace and blessing in our lives and He doesn't ask us to do that. He simply wants us to be servants: ready and available to do as He asks from time to time. God has chosen us to be involved in what He is doing. More often than not, He calls us to be part of a team: to play our part in His overall, far-reaching plans. He doesn't expect us to go off on our own, following our own bright ideas without any reference to what He is doing. If we want to serve God, we have to start simply by being prepared to sit in His presence and wait on Him; to be a servant.

A living sacrifice

Human beings were made to worship and we all do - in one way or another. But how much do we value worshipping God? To worship anything or anybody else is idolatry. In order to find out who (or what) we worship, we just need to think about who or what we think about most and we shall have our answer. As we follow our thoughts to the end of the trail, we shall find a throne on which is seated the person (or thing) that we worship! That could be ourselves, our money, our family or anything else. Who (or what) is sat on the "throne" of our thoughts?

King David was once offered a threshing-floor, together with a team of oxen and some threshing-sledges, for a ready-made offering. David urgently needed to offer a sacrifice in order to prevent the spread of a plague. The owner offered it for free but David replied: "I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing". (2 Samuel 24:21-24) The apostle, Paul, said that we need to offer ourselves to God as a "living sacrifice". (Romans 12:1-2) That was certainly Anna's choice. For us, it may mean some hard decisions when our friends are going shopping or to have coffee or watch a film and invite us along, but we know that God is calling us to spend time with Him. Are we willing to set aside our own agenda and be obedient to His call? (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

Real worship follows when Jesus is at the centre of our lives and we exist just to worship Him - not for ourselves or our own comfort. Abraham had his heart set on God when offering his son, Isaac, so God provided an alternative sacrifice. (Genesis 22:5) People who have "laid themselves down" so that all they do is an act of worship to God, find that amazing things happen.

How do we serve God?

We can answer that with one simple phrase: "when we serve Him with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength". (Luke 10:27)

All our heart

A "heart offering" is something that God will awaken in us if we ask Him. He takes out our hearts of "stone" and gives us hearts of love and obedience instead. (Ezekiel 36:25-27) We just have to pray: "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right, persevering and steadfast spirit within me". (Psalm 51:10) God created us and knows us intimately, so He certainly knows how to resolve any problems that have been caused in our past through bitterness, anger or unforgiveness. We can also pray: "let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my [firm, impenetrable] rock and my redeemer". (Psalm 19:14 - Amplified version)

We love Him because He first loved us. God knows how to draw us to Himself by His grace and mercy. He knows where we are; not just geographically but emotionally and spiritually. At times, we may be conscious of His presence close beside us and, at other times, we may feel that He is nowhere near; He seems to hide Himself from us. At such times, we have to keep going by faith, holding on to God, regardless of how we may feel. God Himself has said, "I will not in any way fail you, nor give you up, nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake you, nor let you down, nor relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!" (Hebrews 13:5 - Amplifed version) Speak this out loud and let it burn into your spirit until you have faith and believe (trust in, cling to and rely on) what God has said. We cannot help but love someone who shows us such amazing love and mercy. When we see this love, all fear will go! (1 John 4:18)

All our soul

The soul is a collective word for our mind, our will and our emotions. Serving God has to begin by tackling our "stinking thinking": the sinful way of thinking that we have inherited from Adam's original sin. We need to "take every thought captive to Jesus Christ". (2 Corinthians 10:5) God wants us to be in agreement with Him and to see things from His perspective. Then we are in a position to serve His and not our own purposes or emotions. We must learn to worship the Lord and wait in His presence until He commands us to move, not when we feel like it!

We can be kept from God’s best by our own busy-ness. It is presumptious of us to think that we are full of good ideas and do not need His guidance or inspiration. We need to surrender our will to His almighty control. Our work for (or with) the church family must flow firstly from our service to God; then it will be eternally effective. Our inherited nature urges us to do stuff, but the Spirit leads us to be - ready and waiting on Him. When we are walking in the Spirit, we shall not be taken up with our own urges and desires. The apostle, Paul, puts it very well in his letter to the Ephesians, when he says: “Be very careful how you live... making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms and hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:16-20) What a picture of real Christian life in the way God has planned it to be!

All our strength

Using all our strength means what it says: simply putting all our effort into our relationship with the living God. Every day, we need to ask God what He wants done in and through us. Then, we need to obey Him, picking out the right course through the day. Mary of Bethany illustrates this well. Whilst Martha was distracted by practical preparations, Jesus told her that her sister, Mary, "had chosen the better part" by sitting at His feet.

At the time of Jesus’ birth, when Anna was serving God at the temple, the whole country was in depression, oppressed by an occupying power and desperately in need of a saviour and redeemer. Having seen the Christ, the Saviour, Anna has to tell everyone. She knew that everyone in Jerusalem was looking for a redeemer, hoping to see Him in their own lifetime. God did not let her down and rewarded her faithfulness by making sure that she was in the right place at the right time. Together with Simeon, she was allowed to see the child and worship Him. Let us, too, pray without ceasing, wherever we happen to be, for Jesus' return. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-9)

Brokenness

Truly to follow Jesus as His servant is likely to lead us into "brokenness". This is not easy to define, but can be clearly seen in the reactions of Jesus, especially as He approached the crucifixion and His death. It is something that may be applied to us in any of the following ways.

When doing the will of God means that even my Christian family does not understand me, I remember that “neither did His brothers believe in Him”. (John 7:5) I bow my head to obey and accept the misunderstanding. This is brokenness.

When I am misrepresented or deliberately misinterpreted, I remember that Jesus was falsely accused but He “held His peace”. I bow my head to accept the accusation without trying to justify myself. This is brokenness.

When another is preferred before me and I am deliberately passed over, I remember that they cried: “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas”. (Luke 23:18) I bow my head and accept rejection. This is brokenness.

When my plans are brushed aside and I see the work of years brought to ruins by the ambitions of others, I remember that Jesus allowed them to lead Him away to crucify Him. (Matthew 27:31) He accepted that place of failure. I bow my head and accept the injustice without bitterness. This is brokenness.

When, in order to be right with my God, it is necessary to take the humbling path of confession and restitution, I remember that Jesus “made Himself of no reputation” and “humbled Himself... unto death, even the death of the cross”. (Philippians 2:8) I bow my head and am ready to accept the shame of exposure. This is brokenness.

When others take unfair advantage of my being a Christian and treat my belongings as public property, I remember that “they stripped Him... and parted His garments, casting lots”. (Matthew 27:28-34) I bow my head and accept “joyfully the spoiling of my goods” for His sake. This is brokenness.

When someone acts toward me in an unforgivable way, I remember that, when He was crucified, Jesus prayed: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. (Luke 23:34) I bow my head and accept any behaviour towards me as forgiven by my loving Father. This is brokenness.

When people expect the impossible of me and more than time or human strength can give, I remember that Jesus said: “This is my body which is given for you...” (Luke 22:19) I repent of my self-indulgence and lack of self-giving to others. This is brokenness.


Click on the button below to load the QUESTIONS for this study in a new browser tab. You can opt to print the question sheet or simply follow the questions and write down your answers in a notebook or a separate file on a computing device, such as a laptop or mobile 'phone.

QUESTIONS

INDEX