Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Our Hope in Adversity

A post for the Christmas season written by Chris Vlachos, who ran CCM's bookstore in Provo, UT.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manager, because there was no room in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

In this passage, we see a simple but striking account of God’s hand providentially working in the affairs of men to bring to pass His ultimate and glorious purposes. The emperor, Augustus, just prior to the birth of Jesus Christ, sent forth a decree requiring that all Roman subjects be registered in a census. This census was for tax purposes. It was necessary for each person to return to his hometown to be enrolled. Joseph, a native of Bethlehem, travelled with his pregnant wife back to his home city, and while they were there, Mary gave birth to her son, Jesus.

In the Old Testament book of Micah, it was foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. In order to bring this to pass, God moved the heart of the emperor to issue the census decree. What seemed to be a routine affair in the governmental workings of the Roman empire was in reality God sovereignly steering history’s course of events to bring His plans to pass. In reality, it was not Caesar, but God who issued the decree.

Can anything be drawn from this event? Is there anything that can be applied to our lives as we think about this incident during this coming Christmas season? Yes, there is, and it is this: if God sovereignly rules all events according to His purposes, then those of us who are His people can take comfort when seemingly unfortunate events come our way. Joseph and Mary had to make a 70-mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Times couldn’t have been worse for the couple. Mary was due to give birth. Joseph would have to miss valuable days from work at a time when he would soon be supporting a child. We do not know if it was with bitterness that they made their trip; however, most of us would have to admit that there would be seeds of resentment within us if we found ourselves in similar circumstances.

But what seemed to be “hard knocks” turned out to be for good! What seemed to have served no purpose had a great purpose. How much time and energy we spend moaning about the events that we later see had a beneficial purpose.

As we are reminded this season of the birth of Christ, may we recall that God has a plan for the lives of His people, a plan that He brings to pass through His sovereign ruling of events. Next time, rather than grumble at our circumstances, let us thank Him and trust Him!

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

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