Fulfill the Assignment
Updated: Mar 24, 2020
As Christians we all have assignments that we are to carry out for the Lord. We all have missions assigned to us by God that we must accomplish.
Some call it purpose, some call it destiny, some say it’s a calling. However you term it, we all, if we are born again of the Spirit of Christ, have assignments to complete for the Lord while we are here on earth.
How do we know that we have assignments? Because Romans 8:28 tell us that “[A]ll things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Those who have a real relationship with the one true God are the called according to his purpose. We have been called to achieve his purpose. Thus, we all have assignments.
Now, our grand assignment as Christians is to bring others to Christ. We know this because in Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”
We also know that Jesus instructed his first set of disciples, some of them fishermen by trade, to become “fishers of men,” recruiting others into the faith. And since we are disciples—followers of Christ—then we too must be fishers of men.
And we also know that we have been empowered specifically for the purpose of telling the world about Christ, because Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
That’s the purpose of our lives now that we are saved, to lead others into a relationship with Jesus so that their sins will be taken away, so their lives will be changed, and so that they will spend eternity with God just as we will spend eternity with God.
But how we carry out that assignment is different from person to person based on the circumstances, experiences, and talents that God has given each of us. For instance, some people’s calling may be fulfilled by their community service skills. Their ability and propensity to serve the needy allows them to show God’s goodness to people who are in desperate need of it, thus influencing those people to seek a relationship with God.
Some peoples’ assignments correlate with their financial acumen, and so they are able to help fund ministry work and charitable causes.
Some people fulfill their assignments in the workplace—the wisdom and grace that they get from the church, they bring to the job, and thus become spiritual leaders to their coworkers.
Or perhaps your assignment is fulfilled simply through the fact that you have great relationships with a wide variety of people, and you’re always talking about Christ, thus a wide variety of people have been exposed to and led to Christ simply by being in your company.
Whatever the case, we all have assignments from the Lord, and we all have the requisite skills for carrying them out.
Still though, there are a few tidbits we need to learn and understand about our assignments. And interestingly enough, we can learn these tidbits through the story of the birth of Christ.
Luke 2:1-7: "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
In this story, we see that Mary and Joseph, whose joint assignment was to bring the Messiah into the world and be his earthly parents, were headed to Bethlehem from their home in Nazareth to take part in a census. When they got to Bethlehem, Mary went into labor and ended up giving birth to Jesus in a stable because they could not secure lodging after their travels.
The first thing we can glean from this text about our assignments is that they are pre-ordained. The actual task, as well as how we carry out the task and when we carry out the task, were all determined and orchestrated by God a long, long, long time ago. As Ephesian 1:4 tells us, he chose us before the creation of the world.
As we look at this story of Jesus’ birth, we see that Joseph and Mary were mandated to travel to Bethlehem to take part in a census that the Roman emperor had ordered for the entire empire. The reason Joseph had to go to Bethlehem instead of doing the census from his residence in Nazareth is because Joseph was a descendant of King David, and Bethlehem was David’s hometown. Thus, Bethlehem was the ancestral home for all of David’s descendants, and the place from which Joseph had to register.
Now, often times when we think of the immaculate conception and birth of Christ, we think of Mary as being the solo star of the story and Joseph as being the supporting cast member—the good hearted young man willing to marry this pregnant young woman and raise the child as his.
And it’s understandable to see Mary as the star considering how much focus Mary gets throughout the Gospels, from Jesus’ birth to his death. And honestly, we should focus on Mary’s role, as well that of all the other women of the bible who are largely overlooked in the roles they played in the telling of the Bible story. But in seeing Mary as the solo star, we miss out on some key elements that actually pertain to Joseph.
If we turn to Matthew chapter 1, we see the full genealogy of Jesus Christ, starting with Abraham. Now this genealogy is not Mary’s ancestry. This is Joseph’s ancestry.
Obviously, Jesus is not Joseph’s “biological” son, as we would term it today. But he was legally considered Josephs first-born son, and so, he was the recipient of Joseph’s heritage.
If we focus on a particular section of this genealogy in Matthew 1, we see something special about Joseph’s heritage. From verse 6 where David is mentioned, all the way down to verse 11 where we see the name Jeconiah, these are all the Kings. When God made David king he said that David’s descendants would always sit on the throne (2 Samuel 7: 12-16, 1 Kings 8:24-26, Psalm 89:3-4) . And everyone from David to Jeconiah are the kings of the Jews.
In Jeconiah’s time the Babylonian captivity occurred, wherein God punished Israel by allowing them to be taken over by Babylon. And since that time the Monarchy has not existed on earth. But even though the Monarchy did not physically exist, God still recognized who was the rightful king. And so everyone we see from verse 12 starting with Shealtiel on down were the rightful kings of Israel, though there was no physical throne for them to sit on. And the last name on that list is Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father.
In other words, at the time of Jesus’ birth, Joseph was the rightful King of Israel. He wasn’t recognized as such. He probably didn’t recognize himself as such. The Monarchy had been eradicated centuries before. Israel was currently under Roman rule and occupation. And Joseph himself was a peasant from the lowly city of Nazareth. But make no mistake about it, God knew that he was the rightful king of Israel.
Now, Mary and Joseph’s joint assignment was to bring the Messiah, the one anointed to be King, into the world. Doing so required Joseph’s royal heritage, as it was through that royal heritage that the Messiah would have inherited the throne of David.
And this is how we can see that our assignments are pre-ordained by God. With the Messiah being the recipient of David’s throne, Joseph was the only man on the planet at the time who could have been the earthly father of the Messiah, because Joseph was the only man on the whole planet who could have passed down the right to David’s throne.
Now this is how God worked. He chose for himself a young woman named Mary who he knew would be virtuous, faithful, and courageous. And he caused her to fall in love with the only man on the planet who could serve as the father of the Messiah. And then despite having them fall in love and plan a wedding, he delayed that wedding long enough to put a baby in Mary’s womb while she was still a virgin, in order that this birth would be miraculous, fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 7 that the Virgin shall be with child. And with all of that, God had given Joseph the meekness of personality to not make a public spectacle of Mary when he found she was pregnant by what he presumed to be another man. And eventually God told Joseph everything that was happening, to which Joseph, as expected, responded with a sense of duty and responsibility toward Mary and the baby.
Now all of that was by the hand of God. Joseph and Mary’s character, Joseph’s heritage, Mary’s piety, their falling in love—all orchestrated by God in order for them to carry out the assignment of bringing the Messiah into the world.
And that’s the way it is with us and the assignments God has given us. The places we come from, the experiences we’ve had, the people we’ve encountered, the times we’ve lived in, the cultures we were raised in, our ancestries, our personalities, all these things that we’ve had no control over, they are not coincidence. They were orchestrated by God to position us in such a way that we can carry out the assignments that he has for us.
And knowing that God has been planning our lives from the foundations of the world for such a time as this should empower and motivate us to press forward and fulfil our assignments to present Christ to the world.
The second thing we need to understand about our assignments is that the task of fulfilling them is always difficult, and often seems unnecessarily difficult.
Joseph and Mary were from Nazareth, a city in the region of Galilee which was in the northern part of the land of Israel. But in order to register for the census, they had to travel to Joseph’s ancestral home in Bethlehem, which is in the southern part of the land of Israel just outside the capital city of Jerusalem.
The distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem on the roads of that time is estimated to have been about 80 miles. And, of course, they had to travel the old fashion way—Mary riding on a beast of burden with Joseph walking.
Now it’s estimated that the average traveler could cover 20 miles a day. But they weren’t the average travelers because Mary was nine months pregnant. So they had to journey 80 miles with Joseph walking and nine-month-pregnant Mary riding on an animal.
Now get this: we don’t really know what time of the year Jesus was born. The early church chose to celebrate his birth on December 25th, but we have no idea what day he was actually born. What if Mary and Joseph were making this journey in the middle of summer? Imagine being nine months pregnant, on the back of an animal, journeying 80 miles in the summertime heat of a subtropical region that is 60 percent desert. Now imagine walking 80 miles in the summertime heat of a subtropical region that is 60 percent desert while dealing with a nine-month-pregnant woman (LOL).
And even if it was actually winter when Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph would have still been traveling 80 miles and dealing with intense elements, with Mary being nine months pregnant.
And so it begs the question, why do they have to go to Bethlehem?
They don’t know anybody in Bethlehem; we see that by the fact that they tried to get a hotel room when they got into town instead of lodging with friends or family. Bethlehem was Joseph’s ancestral home but he was from Galilee. We are not aware of any connections he had in Bethlehem. We know he didn’t have any pressing business in Bethlehem.
Bethlehem wasn’t even a place that a person would visit.
Jesus, in his adulthood, made three recorded journeys to Jerusalem from Galilee, and not once is he recorded as stopping in Bethlehem. In fact, a person wouldn’t stop in Bethlehem because Bethlehem was South of Jerusalem. One would have to pass Jerusalem to get to Bethlehem. And no one would journey pass the capital city of Jerusalem to get to little old Bethlehem.
The only reason Joseph and Mary were headed to Bethlehem was because of a Roman census. A census that was most likely useless to them in their everyday lives.
And on top of that, Mary went into labor as soon as she got into town, and they couldn’t even get a hotel room to lay down in, much less deliver the baby.
From what we understand, Mary and Joseph had to lodge in a stable. We get this from the fact that a manger is included in the story, and a manger is a feeding trough for farm animals. So that stable served as Mary’s delivery room, and that manger served as the baby’s first crib.
Now if you’re Mary and Joseph, all of this seems ridiculously difficult. But you know that it isn’t random. You know that God is orchestrating this. You’re carrying the Son of God, so you know that God is all up and through everything that is happening with you.
They weren’t unaware of the spiritual realities. This Roman census was a complication that God brought into their assignment. God caused them to journey 80 miles to Bethlehem, while being nine months pregnant with the Son of God.
They knew that their difficulties came from God, but they would not have understood the reason for the difficulties. And so, based on what they would have known at the time, their trials would have seemed excessive and illogical.
And the same thing that was true for them is true for us. In fulfilling the assignments God gives us, there will be complications that are presented by God himself, and they will seem excessive and illogical.
Now be not mistaken, the work of the Lord is glorious. But there will also be some God-given difficulties, and often the difficulties won’t make any sense in the moment.
Which brings us to the third thing that we need to understand about our assignments: the difficulties are actually necessary because they are God’s way of preparing us and positioning us to fulfill the assignment in the way that he desires.
A woman who I am close to and who helped present Christ to me when I was young was recently diagnosed with cancer. The diagnosis shook her at first, as expected. But after she had time to process her situation, she texted me the following message: “I feel that God is leading me on this journey to be an encouragement or blessing to someone.”
She processed her situation through the lens of her assignment and concluded that her illness was an opportunity from God to be a blessing and an encouragement to others with similar trials.
And she was absolutely right to view her situation in that way, as 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
The hardships we see in the story of Jesus’ birth seem excessive, but they are actually necessary.
Jesus, the Messiah, was born to be the King of kings. But in order to do all that he was sent to do, he also had to be a man of the people—he had to know struggle.
He could have ruled just fine simply being a king. But he could not save by simply being a king. Because in order to save us from our turmoil he had to endure our turmoil. As Isaiah 53, verses 3 and 4 tell us, he was a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief, thus he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.
So, while it would have been wonderful for him to be born in pristine conditions—better yet, born in a palace as he deserved to have been—he was born in a stable, and placed in a manger, so that from birth he would know struggle. God made things hard on Mary and Joseph because this child, though he was the king, was going to have to know the hardships of life.
But the struggle that Mary and Joseph endured in the birth of Christ wasn’t just for the sake of Jesus’ assignment. It was actually necessary for Mary and Joseph’s assignment too. Because their assignment didn’t just end with the birth. No, in truth it was just getting started. They still had to raise the child.
And so, in bringing about the hardships, God was saying, Joseph, I know it seems ridiculous that a Roman census is going to cause you to travel 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem with your nine-month-pregnant wife. But I’m training you to be able to pick and move. You see, because of who this child is and because of what he will do, he is going to have enemies from day one, and if you are going raise this child, you are going to have to be able to protect him. You’re going to have to be able to pick up and run. You’re going to have be able to dodge danger. You’re going to have to journey long distances to find safety.
Joseph, if you think going to Bethlehem is something, soon I’m going to send you to a whole other nation. Because you’re going to have to seek asylum in Egypt while Herod, the wannabe king, goes on a murderous rampage, trying to get to this child. I’m teaching you how to move now because you’re going to need to move later.
And Mary I know its stressful and uncomfortable and even painful travelling at nine months pregnant, but because of who this child is and what he is destined to do, you’re going to have to learn to manage stress and discomfort, because he is going to put you through some things. As a child he’s going to resist normal child-like behavior. As an adult he’s going to reject the paths of success. He’s going to challenge authority. He’s going to confound scholars. He’s going to break social norms. He’s going to fraternize with the shunned of society. He’s going to do things that will make you think he has absolutely lost his mind. So I have to put you through stress now so that you can know how to manage stress later, because if you are going to fulfil this assignment of raising this child, you’re going to experience stress.
And as for the pain, I know it seems unreasonable that I would cause you to deliver this child by yourself. No midwife. No bed to lay on. Not even your mother to hold your hand. But Mary, if you are going to fulfill this assignment, you’re going to have to know pain. Because he is not always going to be your sweet little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. One day you are going to look up and see him hung high and stretched wide with nails through his hands and through his feet. You’re going to see open wounds all over his body from being whipped and tortured. You’re going to see thorns wrapped around his head, and you’re going to see blood covering his body from head to toe. You’re going to watch his killers give him vinegar to drink. You’re going to hear him cry out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” You’re going to watch him give up his spirit and see his body go limp. You’re going to see the butchers who murdered him further desecrate his body by plunging a spear into his side. Mary, this child is going to bring you more pain than you can even fathom, and I need to prepare you for it now so that you can handle it then.
People of God, the assignments God has called us to are not for the faint of heart. They will require more of us than we think we’re able to give. They may not require as much of us as they required of Mary and Joseph, but they will require something. Because the work of the Lord is never easy. And there are built in difficulties placed there by God himself to make sure the task is fulfilled in the way that he desires.
But we cannot allow the difficulties to deter us from doing the assignments that God has given us, because as previously stated, the work of the Lord is glorious. And that’s the fourth thing we need to understand about the assignments that God has given us. There is glory that awaits, both on earth and in heaven, for those who fulfill the assignments.
Because Mary and Joseph fulfilled the assignment of bringing the Messiah into the world, they have gone down in history as the most beloved and admired couple ever. All over the world, Mary and Joseph’s work is celebrated, specifically during the Christmas season, but really all year round.
And when we get to eternity and we’re all sitting around the throne, Mary and Joseph will be sitting there knowing that it was by their obedience that the world was able to receive its savior.
As well, there are people in each of our lives who we celebrate, even if they have passed on, because they led us to Christ and helped us to know the Lord.
And hopefully the same will be said of all of us one day. Hopefully, the way we remember people who have made an impact on our lives, we will be remembered by those whom we have impacted.
And just like we’re going to seek out Mary and Joseph, and all those who led us to Christ, when we get to heaven, somebody’s going to seek us out, because they will know that it was by the work we did here on earth that they themselves were able to get to heaven.
So, we must understand that we who are saved are pre-ordained for the assignments God has given us. And while there will be difficulties in fulfilling the assignments, we must not run from the difficulties but rather embrace them as part of the task, knowing that there is a greater glory that awaits those who fulfill the assignments.
This Christmas season, as we reflect on the story of the first Christmas, let it motivate us to fulfill the assignments that God has given us.