A Life Of Devotion
“There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher.” vs. 36
There was a cook in a 17th century monastery named Brother Lawrence. He wrote a devotional classic a called The Practice of the Presence of God. To Brother Lawrence the phrase “practicing the presence of God” meant something like the practice of law or medicine. To novices it resembles practicing the piano; if I keep at it long enough, especially those scales and finger exercises, maybe I’ll get it.
Brother Lawrence emphasizes our need of God’s help and then asks bluntly, “But how can we ask him without being with him? And how can we be with him without thinking about him often? And how can we think of him often without forming a holy habit of doing so? Brother Lawrence then suggests and answer:
He does not ask much of us—an occasional remembrance, a small act of worship, now to beg his grace, at times to offer him our distress, at another timer to render thanks for the favors he has given, and which he gives in the midst of your labors, to find consolation with him as often as you can. At table and in the midst of conversation, lift your heart at times towards him. The smallest remembrance will always please him. It is not needful at such times to cry out aloud. He is nearer to us than we think.
Brother Lawrence mentions practical ways to “offer to God your heart from time to time in the course of a day,” even in the midst of chores, “to savor him, though it be but in passing, and as it were by stealth. The depth of spirituality, said Lawrence, does not depend on changing things you do but rather in doing for God what you ordinarily do for yourself. Lawrence shied away from spiritual retreats because he found it to easy to worship God in common tasks as in the desert.
Evidently, Lawrence practiced what he preached. In a eulogy his Abbe wrote that “The good brother found God everywhere, as much while he was repairing shoes as while he was praying with the community. It was God, not the task, he had in view. He knew that, the more the task was against his natural inclinations, the greater was his love in offering it to God.
You know, a lot of people run around looking for God. What if you could just find him right where you are right now or in what you’re doing right now? Let’s read a passage a bout a woman who had devoted her heart to God.
Read Passage – Luke 2:36-40
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
We are picking up the story where we ended last week. It’s the story about God revealing himself to us. In verse 36a it says:
“There was also a prophet, Anna…” vs. 36a
Anna was a prophetess, which means she received direct revelation from God (sometimes about future events) and passed it along to others. This gift tells us that Anna was one who spoke forth truth. Her life represented the Truth. Her name means “grace” and reminds us of Hannah in the Old Testament whose name also means grace or gracious. Anna was the daughter of Phanuel whose name means the “face of God”. What a beautiful picture the title and name associated with her give us of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was full of grace and truth.
One thing I find interesting about this; She is a woman! You might say, duh! But think about it, we generally think of men as prophets. This is a new time. God is entering the world in the form of Jesus Christ and things are different. People ask me where I see women in ministry. Here it is. Anna is a prophet. God began to use women to speak for him when after 400 years of silence; he now begins to break that silence and Anna is part of that. The nation of Israel thinks God hasn’t been working, but not so. Listen to who he had been speaking to; Simeon, Zechariah, Mary, Joseph; and now we here how he spoke with Anna too!
We also learn about Anna that she has a long and important history. It says in the next part of verse 36:
“…the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher.” vs. 36b
Anna was also of the tribe or family of Asher. Asher was the eighth son of Jacob and his named means “happy” or “blessed.” Anna knew the blessings of God and true happiness even though her outward circumstances may have indicated otherwise. Because her life represented the truth and grace of God in Christ, her joy was made full. But really in many ways her life seemed contradictory; tragic, a widow, alone, etc. The apostle John would later record the words of Christ as he spoke of what Anna surely experienced during her days.
“She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage…” vs. 36c
The Bible says Anna “was advanced in years”. It also says that she had been a widow a long time. Women in this time generally got married somewhere between the ages of 12 to 16. We learn she had marry but then after seven years her husband died. That is tragic. So if she is 84, according to the text, she has been a widow for somewhere around 60+ years.
Ex. The silence that we experience when we are alone. But she was hearing from God.
Anna was not immune from trials and tribulations. She knew the grief of losing a husband and the pain it brings to the heart. Being a widow who was a widow indeed in Anna’s day was devastating. She would not be able make a livelihood and would be dependent upon God’s people or remarriage to survive. She not only lives through it, but does it with grace and joy as her name and tribe indicate.
We are so fortunate to have Anna’s story. This is a woman who teaches us grace under pressure, joy through distress, and how God can work in the midst of our daily life. From her we learn:
- Full of Gratitude
What a life full of gratitude looks like.
“Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God…” vs. 38a
Last week we saw the promise fulfilled to Simeon. Here we see something else, the gratitude that comes from recognizing Christ, and guess what…it’s infectious. Notice see just didn’t keep it inside or even praise God in her heart. She comes up to Mary and Joseph and bursts out in thanks. I know that when we have an attitude of gratitude, it spreads to others, they catch on, and they begin to have the same attitude.
This does make us reflect and ask ourselves: What attitude am I spreading?
Paul gives us a key to having this attitude in Col. 3:16:
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Col. 3:16
They key comes by allowing Christ to dwell in you. The idea is to let Christ dwell in you richly…that means fully, extravagantly, or largely. That means big! Many of us might have God dwell in us eh..somewhat. But what about fully, richly, in a big way?
- Spoke About God
The second lesson we learn from Anna is that she wasn’t afraid to speak about God. Verse 38b:
“…and spoke about the child to all…” vs. 38b
I hate to tell you this, but we live in a time where many people are afraid to talk about God or Jesus. We make speak about God generically, but not with conviction. We live in a society where God is being shut out.
Ex. SANTA MONICA (KTLA) — A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a church group challenging Santa Monica’s ban on Nativity and other seasonal displays in public spaces. The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee had filed the suit in October after the City Council voted to prohibit private, unattended displays in city parks. The committee says that it plans to appeal the ruling. Nativity scenes in bluff-top Palisades Park had been a tradition since 1953. In the past, there were 14 life-size displays that together took up about two blocks. But last year, requests for display space exceeded the available space, so the city held a lottery to allocate the slots.
Let me restate this for us today. We have the right to share our story. We have the right to talk about God. We have the right to tell the world about our savior. Our country was founded on this principle but we are now letting other people, other religions, and traditions have a bigger voice that we do. Listen to what God told the nation of Israel in Isaiah 12:4:
“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:4
So here is the things, God wants us to be His voice in this world. To make Him known. To exalt Him. But let me caution you too. We don’t need to shove it down people’s throats, we don’t need to be rude, we don’t need to speak where we are not wanted. We should listen to others. We should be kind and considerate, we should be compassionate. We should tell our story and if we do it in the right way, we will have a voice. But…we will also have advisories. Some people don’t want to hear our story. That’s okay, if they don’t, move on.
Finally, and this is the really where we learn a lot about Anna, verse 37:
“She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” Vs. 37
This woman lived a devoted life to God…a daily devoted life. Her goal was to live for God day and night.
Ex. Let me share a story about how someone lived this out. Remember Brother Lawrence from the beginning today? At a conference on evangelism sponsored by Billy Graham in Manila, a Cambodian man mesmerized the audience with his story of daily meditation. Under the Pol Pot regime he was held in a concentration camp like those depicted in the movie The Killing Fields. Believing he had little time to live, he wanted to spend time each day with God, preparing for death. “even more than deprivation of food, even more than the torture, I resented having no time to meet with God. Always guards were yelling at us, forcing us to work, work, work.” Finally he noticed that the guards could get no one to clean out the cesspits. He volunteered for the wretched job. “No one ever interrupted me, and I could do my work at a leisurely pace. Even in those stinking depths, I could look up and see blue sky. I could praise God that I survived another day. I could commune with God undisturbed, and pray for my friends and relatives all around me. That became for me a glorious time to meet with God.
Remember what Brother Lawrence said: “The good brother found God everywhere, as much while he was repairing shoes as while he was praying with the community. It was God, not the task, he had in view. He knew that, the more the task was against his natural inclinations, the greater was his love in offering it to God.”