Olivet, Dec 4/05                                    Fighting the Good Fight of Faith – to the Finish!                       Rev. Bob Popma

 

“Simeon and Anna: Strong Finishers”

Luke 2:25-38

 

          Did you see Jesus this week?

 

          Maybe you’re thinking, ‘Okay, the Pastor’s lost it. He’s not really all here you know.’ Nope, sorry, I’m here and thinking clearly I can assure here.

 

          Or maybe you’re thinking   ‘Oh he must be talking about seeing the baby Jesus in a nativity scene somewhere.’ No, not a statue, I mean the real Jesus.

 

          Let me rephrase the question: ‘Did you see evidence of Jesus’ or God’s presence this week actively involved in your day-to-day lives? Not sure? Have to admit, no you didn’t notice? The Bible says God is every where present. He dwells inside us by His Spirit. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. So if we didn’t notice God or Jesus’ presence we must have been totally absorbed in ourselves and our own world to have missed Him. We are all guilty at times of missing God’s presence because we’re not looking for Him. Even when we gather together on a Sunday morning.

 

          As we revisit the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, I want to look at two people who saw Jesus because they were looking for Him all their lives.  Why did Simeon and Anna, two senior saints, get to see Jesus face-to-face and know beyond a doubt that He was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God when others did not?

 

          Simeon and Anna are great examples to us of people who had a strong finish in the good fight of faith. That’s been our theme this year, Fight the good fight of faith. We’ve looked at a number of different ways from the Scriptures on how to stay strong in living the Christian life. There are a number of things we can learn from the people involved in the birth of Christ that will help us to finish strong until the day we too will see Jesus face to face.

 

          We only read about Simeon and Anna here in Luke’s gospel. God had a special purpose for these senior saints. Their highest moment in life and greatest ministry opportunity would come near the end of their life! Maybe God has that in mind for some of us. Too often when Christians get old they think they are done serving God because they can’t do what they used to. How do we know if God is done with us? When He takes us home. Ministry has very little to do with what you and I can or can’t do. Ministry is about God working through us, not us working hard or doing lots of stuff.

 

          So what spiritual qualities did these senior saints have that God said, ‘I have a big job for these 2 late in life”? They were . . .

 

Waiting in Hope for Jesus (2:25-27, 36-37)

 

          Those who finish strong are those who keep their hope in Jesus. This is what Luke emphasizes about them. V. 25: “Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel and Anna, who was a prophetess (one who declared the future promises of God), in v.38 told “all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel that their hope had come into the world.

 

          Anna and Simeon lived in difficult times. Israel is under Roman rule. The Emperor of Rome had no sympathies for the God of Israel. He worshipped many gods and believed himself to be a god. Rome placed an Edomite to rule over Israel – Herod, who called himself King. Herod was a murderer. Any whisper of treason or a threat to Herod was dealt with quickly and permanently. Then there were the religious rulers of Israel, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Sadducees were puppets of Rome, making sure no one rocked the boat. The Pharisees, Jesus would say later on, “load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, [yet they them-selves] will not lift one finger to help them” (11:46). There were so many rules added to the Word of God, how could one know for sure they were righteous?

 

          Simeon and Anna managed to see through all the smoke and focus on Jesus, their only hope. The Messiah was coming, they knew. And they were waiting for Him. How do we wait for Jesus to come?

 

Keep serving God and people (2:25a, 36-37a)

 

          Simeon was “righteous” and “devout”. Righteous indicates he did was right according to the Law. “Devout” has the idea of fearing God. He did what was right because He had a healthy respect for God.

 

          Anna was found at the temple ‘night and day’. She was there every day ministering to others. Simeon and Anna are great examples of how seniors minister to others without realizing it – they were where the people of God were, regularly. It’s called the ministry of presence. It’s the most basic way all of us minister – by just showing up. When we show up, people are glad to see us. When you walked in those doors today you ministered just by being here. Anytime we show up - Live Nativity  practise or at Bible study or at men’s breakfast or at ladies’ mission circle or the Tuesday night Ladies study – etc., it encourages other people. Seniors especially. Why? Because the older you get the harder it is to get out. And when we get together that’s when we have the best opportunities to serve each other.

 

          This is what the author of Hebrews said in Heb. 10:24-25:

 

Let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves.

 

          Yes, we can incite spur another to love and good works by phone, or letter or email, but the best way is face-to-face. People who are waiting for Jesus, like getting together with others who also

have their hope in Jesus. As well, People who are waiting or Jesus;

 

Continue in spiritual disciplines (2:25b, 37b)

 

          Righteous and devout people spent a lot of time in God’s Word so they can know what it means to be righteous and devout. Anna worshipped, fasted and prayed every day. ‘Night and day’ is a figure of speech for regular daily habits.

 

          Our hope for Jesus to come remains strong because we keep talking to Him everyday and listening to what He says. Fill your mind regularly with God. This week’s memory verse is very helpful that way:

 

          Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Rom. 13:14)

 

          Discipline your mind to think godly by filling your mind with God’s Word and those things that build others up. What else?

 

Those who wait for Jesus are Sensitive to the Spirit (vv.25-27, 38)

 

          Did you catch all those references to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon (v.25). The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon [repeatedly – the word is an imperfect] that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. V.27, Simeon was moved by the Spirit when and where to go and who the Messiah was. And of Anna we read in v.38 Coming up to them at that very moment”; coincidence? No, the same Spirit moved her.

 

          We don’t know HOW the Spirit revealed to Simeon that he wouldn’t die before he saw Jesus; maybe in visions, maybe verbally – maybe both. We’re not told HOW he was moved by the Spirit to go see Jesus. We’re only told that the Spirit revealed and led.

 

          Likewise, we can’t always explain how the Spirit speaks to us and leads us – but we can sense when he’s leading us the more we allow Him the control of our lives. Paul commanded us to be filled by the Spirit and not to be filled/drunk with wine. Too much attention to wine leads to it controlling you. The more we dwell on what the Spirit desires, the more His thoughts will control ours.

 

          Being led by the Spirit means to obey the inner prompting of our hearts to act on known truth. For example: we know the Word of God says about loving each other. There comes an opportunity to show love to someone, the Spirit takes the Word we know and prompts us in a specific situation to show that love by word or deed to someone. The more attention we pay to the Word of God, the more sensitive we’ll be to the Spirit’s leading to apply it. The more attention we give to our prayers, the more sensitive we’ll be to see how the Spirit answers them in front of our eyes.

 

          Since Simeon and Anna were both looking for the Messiah they would have been praying for Him to come. When the Spirit moves Simeon toward Joseph and Mary, affirming that the baby in their arms was the Messiah, he goes. People who are waiting for Jesus . . .

 

Believe and act on what the Word says (2:26-29a)

 

          Simeon was told he would not die until he saw the Messiah. He wasn’t told that he would see the Messiah as an innocent baby! Perhaps he thought he would see the Messiah come in power or through a great sign. But the fact that the Spirit moved Simeon to check out a baby boy – and to believe that this 40 day old baby is in fact the Messiah, would have taken great faith. Same with Anna, who at the same time responded in belief.

 

          Faith in the Word of God means obedience to the Word of God. If we know what the Word says, but don’t obey it, we really don’t believe it. James says we deceive ourselves (1:22). Sometimes we like to pick and choose what we believe because we don’t want to obey God in a certain area of our lives.

 

          People who are waiting for Jesus, staying sensitive to the Spirit in their life, connecting prayer requests and life situations and the Word of God together, . . .

 

Get Glimpses of Jesus (2:28, 38)

 

          Where were Simeon and Anna? In the temple. Hundreds if not thousands of people could have been in that place. How many recognized that the Messiah showed up? Only those few who were looking for Him and are seeking to live a righteous life. God is always communicating to us in different ways, yet too often we put God on hold or we’re busy doing other things while He’s on the other end of the line. As a result, we miss Him.

 

          The temple was the place where the glory of God is supposed to have dwelt It’s where all these religious guys in fine robes are making sacrifices and burning incense and praying to God – and they miss that God is literally in their midst in the flesh! If you’re not looking for God to show up in your life today or tomorrow, you’ll miss Him. But if you’re seeking to stay sensitive to God, if you really believe He’s right there with you right now, you’ll see God show up in the most everyday things.

 

          When we share these things with each other, what are we really telling ourselves? ‘I saw a glimpse of God working in my life today!’

 

          Simeon and Anna are surrounded by people in the place where you’re supposed to see God at work and most miss it. Yet those who do see God and Jesus in their life . . . like Simeon & Anna as well as you and I . . .

 

Are Blessed for Having Seen Jesus (2:28-35, 38)

 

          In what ways? The first thing Simeon does when he finds out the Messiah has come is to praise God, the Sovereign Lord; the God who is in control of everything. When we see the presence of God in our life it results in . . .

 

Joy (v.28, 38)

 

          For Anna too. When she understood the Messiah was in their midst she “gave thanks to God”. That’s how we express joy; praise and thanks. What a joy it is to know God IS really with us and sovereignly in control of our life. If we’re lacking joy in our life, perhaps it’s because we’re not watching for Him to show up in our life. How else are we blessed? We receive God’s . . .

 

Peace (v.29a)

 

          Simeon had lived a long time. He had received a promise from God through the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. How many years had he waited? We assume a long time. He’s been praying and watching for many years and now finally the day came and now he is at peace. Now that he’s seen Jesus he’s content to leave this world. What he believed by faith has been confirmed. Faith results in peace with God. Knowing God is present in our life brings us peace even in the most difficult circumstances.

 

          Another blessing we get when we’ve seen God working around us is greater . . .

 

Insight (vv.30-32, 34-35)

 

          God opens Simeon’s mind to understand more of what the Messiah will do. He knows that the Messiah brings salvation and he praises God for making that known to the entire world “which You have prepared in the sight of all people.” God reveals the Messiah to the Gentiles too, not just the Jews. The Messiah is the glory of God for Israel. He is the visible presence of God come in the flesh. Israel should have recognized the glory, yet many would not.

 

          He then tells Joseph and Mary that not everyone will accept Jesus as their Messiah. Simeon connects Is. 8:14 and 28:16, prophecies about the messiah being the cornerstone, yet many will stumble over Him. Some will rise because they accepted Jesus; many will fall because they rejected Him. Jesus reveals our hearts. We must decide what to do with Jesus. His rejection will result in His suffering and crucifixion which will be the sword that pierces Mary’s heart.

 

          God gave Simeon more insight on what salvation means and brings. The people who are looking for God naturally desire to know more of God and God gives us more insight to the work of the Spirit, the knowledge of His Word and discernment on how He’s working around us. Simeon originally only knew that the Messiah was coming and would bring salvation to Israel but it would come at a cost and suffering. Salvation was available to Jew and Gentile, yet not all would want it.

 

        When we see God’s presence at work in our life we are also blessed because we become an . . .

 

Encourager (v.33, 38)

 

          What another great affirmation to Joseph and Mary that their child was indeed the Messiah. They “marvelled at what was said about them.” Anna encouraged others who also were “looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem”. What an encouragement it is to hear people talking about how Jesus showed up in their life.

 

          So, let’s ask the question again: did you see where Jesus showed up in your life this week? Are you more prepared to see Him show up this week? Sometimes it seems like we have to wait a long time for Him to show Himself, but be patient. Wait in the sure hope of Jesus’ presence, and you’ll see Him when you least expect it even though others miss Him. Thank Him when He does and tell others who are looking too. Keep looking for Him and you’ll finish strong.

 

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If you have any questions or comments about this sermon please contact us at olivet@rideau.net