Joseph - The Preparation of Faith

Steve Viars December 9, 2006

- in the last few years our Christian school has begun playing public schools and other parochial schools in sports...
- we do that for a variety of reasons but one of them is that we never intended our school to be a cloister or a monastery where our students never had contact with the outside world...
- we want to have an environment where the entire educational process is taught from a Christ-centered world and life view...but then we want our students to have opportunities to live out their faith in ways that are genuine and real...so sports and fine arts competitions and participating in events like last week’s community Christmas parade---all of that fits right into our purpose and philosophy...

- a couple weeks ago we wrestled against Central Catholic, who we actually beat, incidentally...but that isn’t the point...what is significant is a letter we received a few days after the match from one of the wrestlers who was injured...it read like this...
- Dear Faith Christian,
After I had hurt my hand and I was walking out, one of your wrestlers came up to me asking if he could pray with me. No one has ever asked me in public to pray with them and that takes a lot of courage.  I was deeply moved by this and I never got a chance to thank him for what he did.
When I went to the hospital, as soon as the doctor looked at it, he said it was broken.  I had to get an x-ray to make sure.  With the results, the doctor looked a bit stunned to see that it was only a dislocation. 
I believe that in some way, because of your school’s wrestler praying with me, my hand was not broken.  I want to thank him and you, the school for the care—it was deeply appreciated.
[and then he signed his name].
- now, the people involved are not all wound up about the victory in the match---we’re wound up about the victory in the relationship.
- the fact that one of our wrestlers would have had the presence of mind to seize that ministry opportunity with an opposing wrestler gives evidence of faith that was prepared for action...
- and with so much foolishness that goes under the heading of sports and competition and the way opposing teams and fans and administrators relate to one another...a story like this gives you a lot of hope...

- a few days earlier, our junior high basketball team was playing over at East Tipp...
- the guys played a great game...and in this case, they lost by 3 points...
- when they were shaking hands after the game, our team invited the players and coaches to join them in prayer before they left the gym...
- it wasn’t a big deal...it would be led by one of our players, not one of the adults, and of course it was completely voluntary...
- Coach Grass said... All of the boys/coaches from each team joined at half court and took a knee to pray.  Caleb Dutton prayed – the entire gym was silent (you could have heard a pin drop) – and we praised God for the opportunity to compete, to be safe, and to build relationships.  After prayer the two teams again exchanged congratulations.  As I was walking out of the gym several fans/parents from East Tipp went out of their way to thank me for our team and playing them and displaying a great testimony/attitude.
- now, here’s the point...both stories illustrate the importance of being prepared...
- you never know when an opportunity to glorify the Lord might come...but you’ll never see them, and you’ll certainly never take them...unless you’re prepared to do so.

- can I ask you this...what does that preparation look like?...how do we prepare ourselves and others to possess that kind of faith?...
- whether it be preparation for the challenges you face...or the temptations you face...or the opportunities you face...
- what does preparation of faith look like?...regarding the purpose and the process and the outcome?...

- did you know that the Bible is all about faith?...from cover to cover God reveals Himself to people and then He invites men and women like you and me to believe Him, to trust Him...and to act on that belief...
- start making a list of people in the Bible who pleased the Lord and their story almost always involves their faith...
- that is why we often read in both the old and new testaments that... Romans 1:17 - ...The just shall live by faith.

- last week I mentioned that some might have wondered how we were going to connect our annual theme of gearing up for greater effectiveness with the Christmas story...
- the truth is, it’s fairly easy...and more importantly, doing so can really help us in the here and now...because each person involved in the Christmas story was able to function the way they did in the fullness of time...at just the right time...because they were prepared...
Gearing Up for Participating in Christmas
December 3rd – Mary – The Preparation of Purity
December 10th – Joseph – The Preparation of Faith

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to Matthew chapter 1?...page 1 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...page 1200 of our Chinese English Bibles...
- we mentioned last week that one of the noteworthy elements of the Christmas story was Mary and Joseph’s age...
- most conservative scholars suggest that Mary was probably around 14 years old when the angel appeared to her...it is generally believed that Joseph was about 16 years old...
- humanly speaking, the only way they could fulfill the roles God had given them was if they were well prepared...
- now, our knowledge of Joseph is limited, which is instructive in and of itself...
- we know about the angel appearing to him, and his presence when Jesus was born...
- we know about him taking Jesus to temple when he was 8 days old...and taking Mary and Jesus to Egypt when Herod was trying to kill him...
- we also know Joseph took his family each year to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover and so he was alive at least until the Lord was 12 years old...
- after that, you never read about Joseph again, and the assumption is that he died sometime before Christ began His public ministry...

- so we don’t know a lot, but what we do know about his story gives evidence to extraordinary faith...especially for someone his age...somehow he had been very well prepared for the role he was to play...
- let’s begin reading at Matthew 1:18...
- read verse 18...
- now, we probably need to stop there for several reasons, because the details here are very important...
- the gospel of Matthew presents Jesus to the nation of Israel as the King...
- as such, his birth line, or genealogy was very important...that is what the first 17 verses are about...
- if you compare this to the gospel of Mark, which presents Jesus as the servant...do you know what you find?...nothing about a genealogy at all...the birth line of a servant is not important...
- but when you think about Christ from the perspective of being the promised king who will one day sit on the throne of David...genealogy is crucial...
- now, if you just glance over the verses...you find a similar formula...so and so was the father of so and so...or if you have an older translation of the Bible...so and so begat so and so...it is primarily about the fathers---there are a few women mentioned—but always along with the husband and father...
- until you get to verse 16...read...
- already a careful reader knows there is something unusual about the birth of Christ...specific language is used to show that somehow Jesus was born of Mary...without apparent involvement by Joseph...
- how that occurred becomes patently clear in the next verses...but Matthew is already alluding to that as early as verse 16...
- now, the first verse we read needs some clarification as well...it told us that Mary was betrothed to Joseph...I realize you might say, what was that?...
- it was similar to our engagement period, but more formal and binding...
- after a couple was betrothed to one another, they still lived separately---they abstained from sexual relations...but they were actually called husband and wife at that point in the relationship...
- and to dissolve a betrothal, which would happen because of infidelity during the betrothal period, there actually had to be a divorce...
- now the verse also told us that during this betrothal period, which generally lasted 12 months, Mary was “found to be pregnant”...
- for those who were here last week when we studied Mary’s purity from Luke 1, where would that fit into this chronologically?...did the angel visit Mary before what this verse is talking about, or afterward?...
- the answer is – before...the angel was telling Mary about something that would happen in Luke 1...by Matthew 1:18, it obviously had already happened...

- now, let’s go a little further...read Matthew 1:19-25...
- the next verses tell about the visit of the magi, or the wise men...that occurred several months later and Joseph isn’t mentioned...but then he appears again in verse 13...[read 13-23].

- now, remember we are talking about a man who was probably still a teenager...yet his actions reveal an incredibly mature faith...and what we’re trying to explore this Christmas is...how was that kind of faith prepared?...
- and not just because we are interested in knowing that historically...we want to hold ourselves up to that kind of model and ask...are you prepared to serve God in similar ways?...
- with the time we have remaining, let’s think about 5 characteristics of Joseph’s faith that prepared him to serve God well.


I. Merciful Faith.


- there is a lot to be learned from the phrase in verse 19...
- verse 19 – Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her.
- essentially, Joseph had...
A. Joseph’s 3 options.
1. He could have appealed to OT law.
- Deut 22:23-24
- the penalty for this kind of apparent behavior during the betrothal period was being stoned to death.
- because of general laxity toward biblical law during this period of history coupled with the Roman influence on Jewish customs...there is no evidence that this penalty would have been carried out...but at least from an OT perspective, that is how important chastity was to be considered among God’s people...
- the typical approach would have been...
2. Public condemnation.
- there would have been some sort of public shame placed upon her...
- he was a righteous man...she had embarrassed him, or shamed him...at least it would have certainly appeared from his perspective...so this option would put the shame where some would think it belonged...so when the baby was eventually born, it would not appear that was involved and his reputation would be preserved...
- and when you think about the argument of the text...that is probably what you would have expected...Joseph was a righteous man...and he could not let this turn of events mar his testimony...but that is not the focus of the righteousness that is being discussed...
3. Private divorce.
- as we said before, even a betrothal could only be broken through some sort of divorce...but here’s the point...Joseph was not focusing on how he had been hurt, how he had been mistreated or betrayed [as it would certainly appear at this point]...that was not his concern...
- he did not want to disgrace the woman he loved...that’s merciful faith...it’s a tender righteousness...

- the Bible teaches....
B. The centrality of mercy.
- we of course don’t know the exact passages of Scripture that were motivating and directing Joseph to respond this way...perhaps it was...
- Psalm 18:25 - With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful...
- Psalm 25:10 - All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth...
- Micah 6:8 - He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
- we don’t know for sure what Scripture was guiding him, but we know this...somewhere, somehow, in advance of receiving this potentially devastating news about his fiancé, he had cultivated...he had prepared himself with merciful faith.


C. Implications to today.
- friend, as you think about what God has for us this Christmas, and what God has for us in the coming year...would mercy be an important element of that?...
- let’s flesh that out a bit...
1. If you are new to the Lord, and will be interacting with your family and friends for the first time as a Christian...van I gently caution you with this...do everything you can to avoid a harsh, judgmental, holier than thou attitude toward your family members who do know the Lord...
- respond to them with faith that is merciful...[could develop – but don’t want my kids to be around that...]

2. I want to thank those who served in CFE and so far in the LN...the important of serving each person with mercy...

[if time, could develop this on a community level – the regrettable “human debris” comment]

- now, what else can we see about Joseph’s faith?...


II. Cautious Faith.


- you can imagine what was going on emotionally...and by the way, one of the unanswered questions here was whether Mary even tried to explain all of this to Joseph...either she kept it to herself or she tried to tell him and he didn’t believe her---we simply don’t know...
- but the first words in verse 20 are very instructive either way...
- verse 20 – But when he had considered this...what does that tell us?...
A. He was not impulsive or flighty.
- you can imagine all of the things he wanted to say...or all of the steps he had wanted to take...the emotional component of this must have been incredible...
- but he was more than his emotions...he had his faith, his belief system, his knowledge of Scripture...and he wasn’t sure what to do, so he wisely did nothing...at least not right away...
- we sometimes refer to that as...

B. The holding principle.
- Romans 14:23 - But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.
- in other words, people who are concerned about pleasing the Lord are cautious, they are careful...that is an important characteristic of their faith...

- please think about all the opportunities the Lord will give you over the next couple of weeks...and on into the new year...
- you’re not one of those persons who acts first and thinks later, are you?...
- you’re not one of those persons who lives by your feelings, are you?...
- you’re not one of those persons who is impulsive and careless, are you?...
- perhaps part of what the Lord would want to do for all of us today is to remind us of the importance of being like Joseph...a man who possessed faith that was cautious...if it’s doubtful, don’t do it...

- you might say, can you give me some specific examples---sure
- James 1:19 - So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
- do you choose your words carefully before you speak?....
- when you become angry, do you slow down long enough to carefully think about whether the way you are expressing your anger honors the Lord?
- what about in the way you spend your money?....what about the way you make decisions?...what about the way to handle temptations?...
  - are you like Joseph, in that you possess cautious faith?...

- a third characteristic is that he possessed...


III. Confident Faith.


A. The testimony of the angel.
- the angel said what angels often said...
- Matt. 1:20 - ...do not be afraid...

- there was a lot more information about what was happening here than Joseph currently possessed...
- many times the fear melts away when you understand more of what God is doing, and what He desires...
- that is why waiting is often the best option if you are not sure what to do...and it results in peace...

B. The gift of peace.
- Isaiah 26:3 - You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
- see, don’t be afraid...you can peace even when you feel like the rug of your world has been pulled right out from under you...that is confident faith...

- now you might say, yes, I’d have that too if an angel came and told me what was happening, or what I was supposed to do...
- please remember this all-important idea...

C. God’s kind of faith is always grounded in His Word.
- that is what the angel does for Joseph in the following verses...
- he just starts connecting the dots...Joseph, this is of the Holy Spirit...
- your Son is going to be the Messiah...call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins...that is why the conception had to occur in this way...
- and Matthew reports in verse 22 –
- Matthew 1:22-23 - So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

- see, what is most significant here is not that an angel appeared to him, but that an angel appeared to him and helped him begin to view his circumstances through the lens of Scripture...
- that is why the apostle Paul said... Romans 10:17 - So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
- and that is one of the main points that we need to make this morning...if we want to be prepared as a congregation for what God has for us this Christmas, and on into the coming year, that comes through massive doses of the Scripture...
- if you want merciful faith, that comes through a greater understanding of God’s Word...
- if you want cautious faith, that comes through the Scripture...
- if you want confident faith, you receive that by the Word...
- can I ask you, as you think back over this past year...have you been feeding your faith?...
- is your knowledge of the Word, and understanding of the Word, and appreciation of the Word...greater than it was a year ago?...

- if so, get ready for a visit from an angel [develop...]

- now, let’s push this a little bit further...can I ask you this, has God put a person in your life who possesses this kind of faith....and if so, do you appreciate it?...
1. Kids who have parents who are merciful---maybe planning to spend less on Christmas so gifts can be given at CFE, or gifts can be made to the community center, VOH?....
- are you thankful for people around you who possess merciful faith?...

2. What about a spouse who is cautious?...perhaps we should pray about that purchase...maybe we need to take a closer look at our budget...are you thankful for that or do you ridicule that?...

3. If you spouse or parent wants to talk about Scripture, or study Scripture, or go to God’s house where you can hear Scripture---are you supportive of that?...
- if God gave you a Joseph [or Josephine] in your life...I hope you’re thankful...

IV. Obedient Faith.


- what clear message do we get from Matthew 1:24?...
- Matthew 1:24 – Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,
- apparently, there wasn’t a whole lot of time between when Joseph knew what God wanted him to do, and when he did it....
- is that true of your faith?....can you think back to steps you have taken this year where you took steps of obedience to God’s Word?...
- [cf. trusting Christ, being baptized, joining a church, growing, serving, worshipping...etc]

A. Finalizing the marriage.
- Matthew 1:24 - ...took Mary as his wife.

B. Taking Christ to the temple.
- we know from the gospel of Luke that Joseph followed God’s Word in the way Jesus was raised...
Luke 2:22-23 - Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD” )...
- Luke also tells us that each year Joseph took his family to Jerusalem to observe the Passover because that’s what God’s Word taught him to do...
- he had an obedient faith...
- [could talk to kids whose parents possess this kind of faith...]

- [develop also how young a father Joseph would have been....]


V. Courageous Faith.


- when Herod was trying to kill the Messiah, an angel told Joseph to move his family to Egypt...and that’s exactly what Joseph did...

- cf. “Point Man”....

- [if time allows, could discuss ways we train our children to be “future Josephs”....
1. Faithfulness – living for a cause.

2. Living by the book – Faith comes by hearing.

3. Not just discipline, but teaching [cf. Eph. 6:4]

4. Don’t sell out [cf. Proverbs, buy truth and sell it not.

5. Sacrifice for truth. [cf. CFE, Cap. Campaign....]

6. Cultivate faith with works.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video