3 Lessons the Wise Men Can Teach Us After the Christmas Season Is Over

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” — Matthew 2:9-10

Last week, I posted an article on the wise men and announced via Facebook that I would not be publishing any more this week on my blog as I was exhausted from all of the demands of trying to make Christmas happen.

And then when a family member got sick, and I found out on the morning of Christmas Eve that I would need to step in and host Christmas day at my house, I figured that writing was out of the question — for several more days.

I would be lying in a coma somewhere in my house with my children running around unsupervised, and I would need at least a week to get functional enough to write.

I certainly would not be penning any holiday-themed posts again until next year. Or so I thought. As I expressed to God in my quiet time, I was just. so. tired.

Falling into bed after midnight for the third night in a row feeling too worn out to string a coherent sentence together let alone a blog post, I woke up a few hours later refreshed with a list of thoughts in my head. A list of thoughts in my head about the wise men.

Turns out, I wasn’t quite done writing about them.

I was given a few more observations about the magi’s story that are pertinent for any time of the year that I would like to share before we move past the holiday season.

1. He speaks our language.

As Matthew Henry notes in his commentary, God spoke to the wise men in a language that they could understand. They were most likely astrologers and sorcerers, well-versed in studying the heavens and reading signs. God lead them to his Son by announcing His birth with a star. He revealed Himself to them in a way that they could understand.

God does that with us, too. He promises to be found by those who seek Him, and He speaks your language. He knows what exact questions and doubts you have, gifts, struggles, conflicts — He fashioned your very brain. He knows what will draw you to Him.

My pastor once gave an example of when he plays hide-and-seek with his children. He knows how to hide in difficult places, but because his kids are small and give up easily if he doesn’t give them hints as to his hiding places, He lets them find Him.

With God, it is the same way. He doesn’t remain hidden if we look for Him. I am a words person. I never really thought about it before, but that is how God primarily communicates to me. Through words.

I sometimes get around people and have a specific word flash into my mind. I get ideas for posts throughout the day or at night, and it will just be a download of thoughts. Oftentimes, a stream of words will come to me after watching a movie or reading a book. And I know it’s from Him.

Others have different ways of experiencing God. Some get pictures in their mind, or feel Him best when they are running or out in nature.

There are a thousand ways God pours out Himself so we can find Him. It is because of His great love for us that He does it in a way that will communicate to us personally.

2. He chooses unlikely candidates.

As I mentioned in a previous post about a widow and the prophet Elijah, God chooses unlikely candidates. The wise men were astrologers from a far away Arabian land. There were several more pious men closer to the birth place of Jesus that God could have chosen, but God instead selected these particular magi.

In fact, the rather embarrassing reality is that these magicians were searching for Jesus when the Jews weren’t even looking for Him. The Jews knew of the prophecies and the predictions, and yet it was these magi that God used to follow His star to His Son.

God chose not only the wise men, but some unlikely subjects in the shepherds (Luke 2:15), and Simeon and Ann (Luke 2:38) to come and celebrate his son’s birth. The fact that He selected persons from all ranks and walks of life makes one message abundantly clear: The gospel is for everyone. The gospel isn’t just for church people — it wasn’t just for Jews, His chosen people. It was for common shepherds, sorcerers — everyone.

Although Christ is exclusive in the sense that He offers a narrow path of salvation — Himself — He extends this offer to all.

Again, we see through his placing of the star for the wise men to find, a Creator who greatly loves His creation. Not only does He let us find Him when we are looking, He initiates the search by coming to pursue each one of us.

3. The star isn’t just for the Christmas story.

I used to think that the star was just a unique feature of the Christmas story — something God deposited in His narrative to make the backdrop of his Son’s birth more beautiful; however, one thing I mentioned in my previous post and I feel is worth mentioning again is that the star didn’t just guide those men on their journey. As Henry notes, the “day-star arises in the hearts” of all who seek Him.

I used to worry and sometimes do still worry that I will miss God’s will for me, but the truth is that if I am abiding in Him and walking with Him, I will know the way to go. Just like the star guided the wise men to Jesus’ home, by making Jesus at home in my heart and seeking out His guidance on a daily basis, He illuminates the way for me.

He shows me the path I should take by surrounding me with resources that answer my questions; by speaking directly to me during my quiet time through Scripture; by speaking through pastors and other mature Christian friends through sermons and conversations; by filling my mind with dreams that warn me of future events — these are all ways God leads me like a kind shepherd. As Isaiah 30:21 says:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ “

Since launching a blog, I have experienced a whole lot of pressure. I have readers looking to me for new content every week and these questions fill my mind at times: What am I going to write about? How will I know what to say?

Without fail, when I spend time with Him — my mind floods with inspiration related to the Bible passage or devotional I just read, or the lesson He is currently teaching me. My biggest problem is not having something to say but being diligent about writing down the thoughts when they come.

When I get lazy and don’t record them — I have to ask God for them again because I can’t remember what He told me.

Interestingly enough, the wise men’s star stopped once the wise men reached Herod — and they didn’t get discouraged but instead took it upon themselves to inquire about the child. And once they did, the star rose again for them.

As Henry notes, if we are doing what we have in our power to do — God graciously shows us the next step and makes his star reappear when we need it (Matthew 2:9).

The wise men observed the star with great joy when it showed up again (Matt. 2:10), and so it is with us on our journey with God when we are seeking answers, and He reveals what we have been seeking so we can take the next leg of the journey.

Just like He was faithful about guiding the wise men to Christ, He is faithful about guiding me.

A few days ago, I was flat-lined from holiday preparations. It wasn’t until God wakened me from my sleep to re-energize me and whisper His thoughts that a blog post began to take shape.

Just like the wise men were happy when the star that had disappeared showed back up in the sky, I got pretty excited when God gave me fresh illumination and direction for a piece I was too weary to write.

When I look for Him — He will show me the way.

As Jeremiah 29:13 says, “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart.”

Related Bible Verses:

James 1:5: “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask Him, and He will gladly tell you.”

Proverbs 8:17: “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.”

Deuteronomy 4:29: “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

More Posts

Christian Service: What Does God Want Me to Do?

When my family and I started the process of helping to launch a new campus of a church, I got involved in everything. I sang on the worship team, greeted newcomers in Guest Services, volunteered in the nursery, involved myself in more than one life group — and helped in other capacities. Hardly a Sunday passed by where I wasn’t called upon to do something.

I felt pretty good about all the help I was giving God, but the truth was I wasn’t really satisfied. I had dreamed of having more time to serve in church ministry, but when I actually quit my job and cleared my schedule to do it, I felt like something was missing.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that God isn’t interested in my random acts of service: He’s only interested in my obedience to the task He has called me to for a particular time or season. Having a fuller schedule or volunteering in every area of my church doesn’t make me a better Christian: it actually makes me a more ineffective one because I am so busy “doing something” for God I have no energy or time left over for the task(s) He has specifically crafted for me to do. I can look really spiritual doing ministry and be completely out of God’s will.

If I wanted to be honest with myself, the thing He had called me to do specifically in that season really wasn’t 18 positions of church work — and so I chose to ignore it for while. It didn’t look or feel like my idea of ministry, and it didn’t fit in to what I really wanted to be doing.

You see, He had called me to a period of reaching out to some people from the past, including some of the families of my former students and discussing with them how I had reached a new turning point in my Christian walk and confessing where I had come up short as a teacher. He called me not to a spotlight where I was the key vocalist on the worship team or the best greeter on a Sunday. He called me to a season of making amends, growing my spiritual character, and supporting others who were in all of those prominent positions I longed to be in myself.

And, if I got even more honest with myself, much of the service I was doing was motivated by what others would think of me — spurred on more by my personal agenda and establishing myself at a new campus then it was about trusting God that His promises about using me in ministry would come true at the proper time.

Consider what author and pastor Steve McVey says in Grace Walk: “Trying to do something for God may sound admirable, but it produces damaging consequences.” And further, “For much of my life I dedicated my abilities and my efforts to God. I tried hard to do something for God. However, the New Testament model of a Christian is not one who dedicates His work to God. Rather it is the story of God Himself doing the work through a person yielded to Him.”

The problem with allowing Him to have His way and work through us the way He wants is that we have to give up control. We have to surrender and trust Him even when the road He takes us down leads us in a way that we don’t think is right or logical. And that is the real sticking point for many of us. I know it was for me.

We’ve adopted the idea somewhere along the way that we are the ones that know how to best run things — and as long as our work looks like good Christian service that we have God’s stamp of approval. We have somewhere determined that we can tack God onto our projects, and He will be pleased that we have accomplished something for Him.

McVey notes that Abraham and Sarah got into quite a bit of trouble after they decided to “do something” about their childless predicament. After many years passed and Sarah did not become pregnant, they came up with an alternate solution to “help” God along with His promise by using Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant, to bear a son. As McVey observes:

Abraham did go to Hagar and she did conceive. However, Ishmael was not the son God had promised. The son of promise would come through Sarah, and it would happen on God’s timing. Abraham and Sarah were sincere, but they really made a mess of things. They were trying to do something to help God. One result of their self-sufficiency gives cause for the ongoing conflict between the Arabs and the Jews. All because Abraham and Sarah thought that God would bless their efforts to help Him.

We will not experience fruit from the work we do in our own efforts; in fact, we will experience consequences. If we are to produce fruit for the kingdom of God, we must do what He has instructed us to do. In my experience, I reaped consequences as a result of my actions. I didn’t feel peace or joy until I slowly began to withdraw from Guest Services, the worship team, one of the two life groups, and focus on the only activities He had specifically called me to — which included picking up the phone and calling the people He had put on my heart. I got quite a few answering machines and disconnected phones. I left messages at times and didn’t get calls back. His instructions really didn’t make any sense to me in helping me to fulfill the calling He had put on my life, but I had to accept that that was where He had me for the time being.

McVey records the time he reached his own breaking point with his own efforts to build the church he was pastoring and writes about his own surrender:

In the stillness of early morning, my thoughts turned to a piece of paper that someone had given me a few weeks earlier. I reached up to my computer desk, took a sheet of paper and began to read it. It was a quotation about absolute surrender to God. On one side was a list of rights to give up — things like the right to pleasant circumstances, the right to acceptance, the right to results. I took that paper and began to pray my way down the list. Lord, I’m tired of struggling for victory in my own life and I am tired of striving for success in my ministry. As I continued to pray, I chose to lay aside everything that had brought me a sense of worth: my efforts to have a growing church, my hunger for affirmation in ministry, my education, and my experience … When I left my office that morning, I didn’t want a new program or plan. I wanted only one thing — Him.

Things changed for McVey once he gave up his campaign to “do something” for God and instead let God do something through him. And, just like me, McVey had to acknowledge something very important to get to that place: much of what he was doing was more about boosting how he felt about himself rather than acting in obedience to God.

One thing I’ve discovered about God is that He gives us a vision, but He doesn’t give us a roadmap there. That is where faith comes in. We are given a step to complete and then another and another — and all the while we are making ground toward the destination He has for us.

Ignoring God’s instruction and busying ourselves with churchy work doesn’t propel us past these steps to His promise. It just sends us on a detour until we get back on track and choose to begin where God wanted us in the first place.

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

More Posts