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By Mary Carothers

One night long ago, near the little town of Bethlehem, shepherds were in the field, watching over their sheep. There is no evidence that it was any different from other nights. Perhaps they had a small fire and were sitting around it. Some might have been dozing, while others were alert, listening for sounds from the sheep that might mean trouble.

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared. With the sound of his voice and the glory shining all around, they were instantly wide-awake. No more sleep that night for any of them! Their immediate reaction was fear, but the angel’s first words were, “Be not afraid”. God had good news for them! The angel told them of the Savior’s birth in nearby Bethlehem. Then he told them how to find the Lord. He would be wrapped in the clothes that babies wore at that time, lying in a manger (where cattle fed).  But the angel didn’t tell them which manger would cradle the Christ Child, or even behind which inn it would be found. Can you imagine how many mangers there might have been in Bethlehem at that time? The town was so crowded there had been no room for Mary and Joseph at the inn. People in that day traveled on donkeys, camels, etc., so there would also have been many animals there.

The shepherds received no instant solution to their search for the Christ Child. The Lord was to be found only by those who persevered in seeking Him. The shepherds had to search for Jesus. They probably looked in many stockyards, barns and caves before they found the one that held the Lord.

The Christian life requires perseverance. The “race” that Paul talks about in Hebrews 12 is a marathon race, not a 50-yard dash. It requires patience and endurance. Did you know that Romans 5:3 tells us that trouble can produce perseverance? That certainly is not one of my favorite verses! I would much rather receive the answers to my prayers quickly and easily. But that’s not the way God usually deals with me. Hebrews 10:36 tells us that we need to persevere to receive God’s promises. And James 1:3 says that the testing of our faith produces perseverance.

The shepherds had great joy when they found the Lord. They praised and glorified God. What a blessing to be chosen to be the very first people to see God’s Anointed One. And just think–they might have missed that special blessing if they had not persevered in searching for Him until they found Him. Jeremiah 29:13 tells us that the Lord is found when we search for Him with all our heart.

Do you need help from the Lord? For physical healing? Finances or broken relationships? In coping with grief or insecurity in your life? God does not hide Himself from us, but He is found when we seek Him with all our heart.

We live in an “instant” culture. We have instant mashed potatoes, instant microwave dinners. We have quick fix solutions in movies, televisions, novels, etc. But that’s not real life. Real life requires perseverance. All too often we feel we should be able to pull up to God’s “drive-thru window” and receive a full order of health, prosperity and answers to our prayers. It is true that all our needs are met in Christ Jesus. It is also true that He may want us to learn something along the way to mature in a particular area.

Let’s make a decision to learn to persevere. Not only will this honor the Lord, but it will also be a blessing to us. Can you think of a more blessed gift than to someday hear Jesus say, You have persevered and endured…Well done… (Rev. 3:3 and Matt. 25:23). In the meantime, let’s give Jesus the Christmas present of maturing in Him.

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