The life of Anna is contained in three brief verses in the Bible. As short as her narrative was, there is no denying that she can teach us numerous lessons – lessons that would potentially change our life for the better. When we read her story, we might think that she is an extreme example of devoting one’s life to God, something our modern mind could not comprehend. We might quickly conclude that it is impossible to imitate what she had done in her life.
In this blog, let us take a look at some of the lessons from the life of Anna. Let us reflect on the word of God and learn how to live this life according to God’s purpose.
Examining the background of Anna
Luke 2:36-37: “Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years…”
First of all, Anna was described as a prophetess. She is among the few women who were called prophetess in the Bible. A prophetess came from the Greek word prophetes which means “spokesman”.
The function and ability of a prophetess or a prophet may vary. Some can foretell future events, interpret oracles, write poetic speeches, and serve in the temple. Whatever the ability of Anna that she attained the title, it is sure that her life has been so close to God that she was called a prophetess.
She is also a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. Phanuel means face of God. It is probable that this man is also a righteous man who was able to raise a godly child. The tribe of Asher is found at the northern part of Canaan.
When Anna was introduced, she was already old. She has spent seven years of her life with her husband. We don’t know the cause of her husband’s untimely death. When she met Jesus, she was at least 84 years old. Some suggest that the translation leaves the option of interpreting it as she was more than a hundred years old.
A strong passion for serving God
Luke 2:37: “And this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.”
The highlight of Anna’s life is her devotion to God. She spent the rest of her life serving God and His people. For many of us, we might think that is just a complete waste of time. She could have spent her life on other productive things like getting rich or traveling in different places.
It is worth noting that we all have our own passions in life. Some of us might love to go to different places while others spend their whole life earning a living and hoping someday to get rich.
Let us not wait until we are too old and weak to serve God. We can devote our lives to God starting now!
However, we could see the passion of Anna. Her heart is in serving. Nobody compelled or forced her to do it. But out of initiative and the willingness to be used by God, she took the noble cause of becoming a prophetess and a servant in the temple.
Anna did not wait to get old to serve God. As a matter of fact, she spent the prime and vigor of her age to be an instrument used by God. This is contrary to most young people nowadays. Some young people in the church would argue that they would serve God after they finish their studies. They would start serving God after they get married. They would serve God after they have their own car and house. They would serve God after they accomplished their dreams and ambition in life. Only to find themselves aged and weak when they finally realize it is time to serve God.
The life of Anna demonstrates how we should live our lives. Jesus Christ asked the question, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul” (Matthew 16:26). Jesus’s point here is that giving our lives in pursuit of worldly goals and dreams will eventually boil to nothing. You can have all the money in the world and die the next day. What a tragic life that would be!
Though it is true that God does not condemn people who pursue their dreams, but if these worldly dreams of ours will keep us away from God’s kingdom, then we are irrationally exchanging eternal life with the proverbial “Esau’s bowl of soup”.
Developing a close relationship with God
Anna is noted to regularly fast and pray. Fasting and praying are two of the most POWERFUL tool of becoming a man or woman of God.
Praying is the act of communicating with God. Can you imagine talking to the Supreme, All-powerful, and Ruler of the entire universe? As awesome and powerful God is, He still gives us the privilege to come before His throne of grace anytime we want. We don’t even have to arrange an appointment!
Our relationship to God is nurtured through prayer and fasting.
If it is through Bible study that God talks to us, it is through prayer that we can talk to Him. If we want to develop a relationship with God, an open communication is necessary. Imagine a relationship where people don’t talk to each other. That relationship is surely doomed to fail.
The same thing can be said about our relationship with God. How can we know more about God if we don’t listen and talk to Him? Anna recognized this and she devoted most of her life to prayer.
Fasting is to go on without food and water for a certain period of time. God expects us to fast in a regular basis and not just during the Day of Atonement. Fasting should not be optional, but mandatory. When was the last time you fast? I hope it is not during the Day of Atonement.
Fasting should not be optional but mandatory.
When we fast, we recognize the fact that we are all humans made of dust. We humble ourselves and seek God’s will for our lives. We realize that we are nothing apart from God and our true value is only found in the sight of our Creator.
Prayer and fasting are very powerful spiritual tools and weapons to fight sin in our lives. I hope we take advantage of these indispensable tools in our lives.
Anna is certainly one of the great examples in the Bible that we should all follow. She demonstrated that it is possible to devote one’s life to God. Her devotion was rewarded by seeing the Savior and having the privilege to be among the first people to give honor to Jesus and express gratefulness to God the Father.
A life spent in serving God is never wasted. It will always be the best way to live this life.
As Christians today, we are called to live a life pursuing God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). It is true that this noble cause is not popular today. Some would even think that is a crazy ambition. However, using the eyes of faith, we know that there is nothing in this world worth fighting for than fighting the good fight of faith.
Let us all devote our lives to God. That would be the greatest passion you will ever have during this lifetime. After that, God will give us the crown of life and let us reign with Him in His kingdom. Now, that would be a life well spent!