MAINTAINING A CONFIDENT FAITH
Christmas Message ❧ Part 1 of 1
Luke 2:21-38 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
If you have your Bibles open with me to Luke 2. At Christmas we hear a lot about Mary, Joseph, the
Shepherds, the Magi, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and Herod. Who we don’t hear much is Simeon and Anna. We
probably don’t hear much because they seemed to play such a minor role in all the cast of characters.
This morning we’re going to focus on Simeon. His name means, “God had heard.” Less is known
about him than anyone else mentioned around Jesus’ birth. Luke gives us the impression he is old (v.26 & 29). Tradition says he was 113. Some think he was the son of the celebrated rabbi Hillel. Some even think he was the head of the Sanhedrin – the supreme judicial council of the Jews. If so, it’s not important to Luke.
What stands out to Luke is not Simeon’s supposed position or status, but his faith and character: this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him (v.25). His faith is like a brilliant diamond set against the backdrop of dark unbelief. He is a picture of what all of Israel should have been like had they taken God’s word to heart (Gal. 3:24). For thousands of years God had been promising the Messiah would come. And, for thousands of years people had been waiting and waiting for God to keep His word. Have you ever found yourself waiting for God? Wondering how and if He was really going to come through? You’ve grown impatient with God? Someone has said: Patience: accepting a difficult situation without giving God a deadline to remove it.
You may be wavering in your faith, and you need to be encouraged. Some of you need to really hear
from God this morning. You need God to quiet your anxious heart. You’re struggling in your faith, and you
need God to remind you that He is real, and His promises are sure. If that’s where you’re at, you’re not alone. Some of the greatest people of faith struggled with dark days of doubt and waiting. The author of Hebrews exhorted his struggling readers saying…do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised (Hebrews 10:35-36, NAS). Some of you need endurance – the encouragement to keep going, keep doing what is right. You need to be reminded the pay off at the other end will be worth whatever you’re struggling through right now (Rom. 8:18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us). Luke shows us through Simeon how to maintain confident faith. How To Maintain a Confident Faith. Three important straightforward decisions Simeon acted on: 1) Trust God’s Word. 2) Trust God’s Spirit. 3)
Trust God’s plans.
I. Trust God’s Word. And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this
man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him
(Luke 2:25). To say that Simeon was righteous is to say that he was like Abraham (Gen. 15:6), he
was right with God because of his faith in God not his works for God. Four-hundred years before
Moses gave the Law, Abraham was saved because of his faith alone in God (Gen. 15:6). Do you
know what faith is? It is taking God at His Word. It’s not just belief alone, its belief coupled with
obedience. Luther said we’re saved by faith alone, but faith is never alone. The next word Luke uses
to describe Simeon is “devout.” It means that he lived what he believed. He walked what he talked.
He lived an exemplary life of taking God at His Word despite being surrounded by a sea of dark
Notice his focus: He was looking for the consolation of Israel – meaning he was patiently
waiting for God to send the Messiah. He stood out because he was a minority. Luke could not be
any clearer: Israel as a nation was not looking to God’s Word for the answers of their day.
Somewhere along the way they’d given up on God. Had they been looking they would have aligned
their lives with God’s Word like Simeon and been ready when Jesus arrived. The Holy Spirit would
have been alive and real in their lives like Simeon’s. But He wasn’t. Their lives were filled with life-
less empty mundane religion. Faith for them was simply going through a series of religious motions.
Jesus said the reason they didn’t recognize Him is because God was nothing more than a religious
hobby for them (Matthew 15:8, This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from
Me). In other words God wasn’t a necessity in their lives. Joni Erickson Tada said it well: Jesus will
never become a reality in your life until He becomes a necessity.
God says, If you seek me with your whole heart, you will find me (Jer. 29:13). Renew your
decision to trust God’s Word. Even if what He says is hard to swallow, painful to face – trust Him
anyhow. Even if you don’t understand or don’t feel like it – trust Him anyhow. Even if you feel
abandoned by God – trust Him anyhow.
You’re not the first to struggle with doubt and discouragement. Even the greatest struggled
taking God at His word. Moses did. David did. Paul did. The late Mother Theresa battled with
feeling abandoned by God. In her personal correspondence she wrote: I am told God loves me – and
yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great nothing touches my soul. She
went on, I just feel that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not
really existing (Cordeiro, Leading on Empty, p. 46). She was honest about her struggles, yet she kept
turning back to God in His Word trusting Him. One of my favorite passages of the call to trust in the face of feeling abandoned is Luke 7:18-23. John the Baptist felt deserted by God, forgotten. Jesus’ answer was: Decide to trust in God’s Word regardless of your circumstances John. Regardless of how abandoned you may feel – keep trusting; God has not forgotten or abandoned you. God has promised you, I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Take Him at His Word. Trust Him.
II. Trust God’s Spirit. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see
death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:26). What an amazing promise! God told
Simeon he would live to see the appearing of the Messiah!
Luke makes it very clear the Holy Spirit played a huge role in Simeon’s life; He was with him
(v.25), He spoke to him (v.26) and He led him (v. 27). Then in vv. 29-32, the Holy Spirit speaks
prophetically through him prophetically. Here is a man who understood what it meant to be led by the
Here’s my point and what I think Luke is making very apparent to us: Simeon lived with the
expectancy of the Holy Spirit’s leading in his life. He expected God to be the God of the Bible in his
life. He expected God to speak to him. He expected God to make His presence known to him. He
expected God to lead him.
I believe much of the reason we don’t hear from God or sense His leading or know His
presence is because we don’t live in expectation of God working in our lives. Our lives are filled with
too many distractions. We don’t’ take time just to meet with God and listen to Him.
The way we refresh our confidence in God is by living in sincere expectation of Him. When
you came to church this morning, did you expect to meet with God or to hear from Him? When was
the last time you spent time alone with God just listening? That’s the way we stay in tune with God is
to spend time just with Him. Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray (Luke
5:16). Do you want to meet with God, hear His voice, sense His presence? Learn to spend time
alone with Him.
III. Trust God’s plans. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in
the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and
blessed God… (Luke 2:27-28). When the Holy Spirit told Simeon he’d see the Messiah, He didn’t
say exactly how. I wonder when Simeon first saw Jesus for the first time if he was surprised that
others didn’t recognize Him as well. I wonder if he was surprised to find a poor carpenter and a
teenage mother! I don’t think Joseph, Mary, and the baby were quite what he expected. The scene
before him didn’t fit the OT images of the Messiah he’d perhaps been expecting. But it didn’t detour
him one bit. Luke says the moment the Spirit leads him to Mary and Joseph, and he sees Jesus, he
immediately recognizes this is the Messiah, takes Him in his arms and bursts into praise. When
you’re led by the Holy Spirit, you see God’s plans where others don’t. His confidence in God’s plans,
no matter how small or how ordinary they appeared could not be frustrated. God tells us He doesn’t
work in the ways we always expect. In Isaiah 55 ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your
ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways
higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isa. 55:8-9).
God specializes in using the ordinary to do the extraordinary. Years ago my wife spent a
number of days in Israel. One of those days we stayed on the shores of the Galilee, where Jesus
walked on water. Early in the morning, just before the sun started to rise, I took my camera and sat
down on the northwestern shore of Galilee to watch the sunrise. It was an amazing experience. I
was struck with the ordinariness of the scenery. The bushes were just bushes. The sand was just
sand. The water was just water. It reminded me of the desert Lake Lahontan I used to swim in as a boy. If I hadn’t known any different, I would have thought Galilee was that lake.
To everyone else this young couple with a newborn baby seemed as ordinary as anyone else.
But not so for Simeon. He had eyes of faith to see what everyone else missed.
We often miss God’s encouragement in the ordinary because we’re too busy looking for the
extraordinary. God had said Jesus would outwardly be ordinary. Isaiah 53:2, He has no stately form
or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. And
that His first appearing would be in humility and end in sacrificial death for the sins of the world. God
predicted it, but no one was listening. Who expected the King of the Universe to be born in a
common stable? Who would have expected the Lord of Lords to grow up in a common carpenter’s
home? Only those who had eyes to see what God was doing.
God is going to encourage your faith using three primary tools: His Word, His Spirit, and His
leading through ordinary circumstances. We need the eyes of Simeon to see God’s encouragement;
eyes that see God speaking to us through ordinary circumstances in extraordinary ways.
Verses 29-32 end in a crescendo of praise; he’d waited for a long, long time for this moment,
Simeon says, Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen
your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and
he is the glory of your people Israel! (2:29-32, NLT).
How do you maintain a confident faith? Trust God’s Word, trust His Spirit, and trust His Plans.