Be Strong in the Lord :: by Sean Gooding

Matthew chapter 10:16-25 (continued)

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues.You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought of how or what you will speak.

For it will be given you at that time what you will speak. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks through you. The brother will deliver up the brother to death and the father the child. And the children will rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death.You will be hated by all men for My name’s sake.

But he who endures to the end will be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, escape into another. For truly I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the servant above his master.It is enough for the disciple that he be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household?” (Matthew 10:16-25)

We ended last week being reminded of the fact that Jesus is our ultimate judge.It is very easy from human eyes and assessments to say this person is successful or this person is not.But God alone is able to judge the thoughts and intents of a man’s heart.(Why did you do what you did?)

God does not just judge what you did.Anyone can appear to be doing things for the right reasons, we have seen that in history. But when the whole matter comes out we see that even though their actions were righteous—their motives were not.

We live in times where “success” is judged by numbers and often, even in churches by dollars and cents.All these things are important. It is important to have growth and to see numbers, and it is also important to see money come in and the people give.

But these in and of themselves are not measures of success as far a God is concerned. God’s measure of success is always and only obedience.When one obeys the Word of the Lord they are successful.It is essential then for us to be avid students of the Word of God so we can be successful.

Knowledge Is Power, Verse 16

It is very important for us to know what we are in for;Jesus did not candy coat the task ahead of for His Apostles and He certainly did not send out these men ill-prepared for the battle ahead of them.As I am reading through the Old Testament, I see that even though God gave the Promised Land to the Israelites they had to provide men of war from each tribe to go in and fight the inhabitants.

God went with them into battle, BUT they had to go into battle.In the New Testament we fight both physical and spiritual battles.Jesus told the Apostles here that they were going as “sheep in the midst of wolves.”Wolves are some of the fiercest animals on the planet. They are group hunters who are relentless.Sheep on the other hand have little or no natural defenses and are often the prey of wolves.

This is what we are getting into when we sign on for eternal life with Jesus. I love the fact that Jesus did not lie to these men and set them up for a rude awakening in the real world. There is a great scene in the movie Heartbreak Ridge with Clint Eastwood.

He is given command over an unruly platoon of misfits and one morning he awakens them with a burst from an AK47 assault rifle. When asked why he had done that, he reminded the men in his charge that this was the favorite weapon of their enemies and that they needed to know what it sounded like.

Churches are afraid to scare people by telling them that they have entered a spiritual war that has been waging for more than 6000 years and there is at least another 1007 years left even if Jesus came today.

We need to warn them that when they accepted Jesus as Savior that they immediately became the enemy of Satan and his brood. But Jesus did not do any such misleading to these men, He warned them what was ahead so that they would not be discouraged but strengthened by His words.

The Mind Is Your Source of Strength, Verse 16

He encourages them to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” They were to be mentally strong by physically non-imposing.In 2 Corinthians 10:10 we see these words about the apostle Paul:

“For it is said, His letters are weighty and powerful, but his physical presence is weak, and his public speaking is despicable.”

No one can argue about Paul’s mind and the power of his words.God took him and used his mind to pen 50 PERCENT or more of the New Testament.But in physical appearance Paul was not impressive at all. And it would appear that even his voice and tone were not that impressive in person, either.But no one can argue that Paul’s mind was that of a superhero Christian.

His conviction in his mind about who Jesus was and is was so powerful that no amount of physical abuse and torture could break his belief and trust.Paul was the spiritual equivalent of a Navy Seal practically unbreakable.

This is the kind of strength that Jesus called these men to abide in. They were not to try to defend themselves; the kingdom of heaven would not be advanced with guns and bombs or with physically strong men.Like the Jewish soldiers who were dwarfed by the Naphtali as they crossed over into the Promised Land we are dwarfed physically by the forces of evil.

Our strength is in the conviction and absolute belief that Jesus is our constant Companion and that He is with us.Armed with this mindset we are able to deal wisely with the wolves at out heals.

The Word of God Is Our Weapon, Verses 17-20

When you are brought before the judicial leadership of the cities, states and nations you are not to seek to defend yourselves; simply rely on the Spirit of God in you.The Word of God is paramount in this preparation.Jesus of course had not yet written the rest of the New Testament through the writers—some of whom, he was sending out.

But they did know the Old Testament; they did know the Psalms and the prophets.They were equipped with the tools to defend their beliefs and trusts.In similar fashion we must read and study the entire Bible in order that we may be equipped to be used of God to speak the truth.

What good is it to be a part of the U.S. military and have access to some of the best weapons in the world if you have not taken the time to know how to use them?

The Bible is both our weapon and our shield.It equips us to fight but is also protects us from the arrows of the enemy. It is essential that the Lord’s children set about to read the Bible. Make it a priority in your life to read the Bible.Read it.I know I am repeating myself but until people actually follow the instruction why would I move on.

Read the Bible.Read through it from beginning to end, get its context, its history and see how the whole collection of 66 books is tied together.See how events in Genesis play out in every book of the Bible.Read Genesis frequently and you will find that Jesus quotes often from that book. Read the Bible. By the way you won’t get to the end.Just start back at the beginning again and read it again.

(By the way just in case you missed it: Read the Bible.)

When, Not If—Verses 19-23

You and I will be persecuted in this life for the cause of Jesus.Some of us face death, others face humiliation and others face torture and or loss of freedoms and possessions.But we will all face some degree of persecution for the name of Jesus.This is a given, Jesus said the words “When they deliver you up,” “When they persecute you” and “They will deliver you up.” This sounds rather certain to me.

So if you are not being persecuted now, then some time in the near future you will be.In our time right now and probably for the first time in my lifetime there is real persecution against conservative Christianity as it pertains to strict biblical interpretation.Anyone who desires to take the Bible literally and who desires to have the Bible dictate all aspects of their lives will face varying degrees of persecution from prison to loss of jobs and income.

It may even come to point of outright outlawing biblical Christianity. It may not happen as a flood but more of a trickle and subtle eroding of the freedoms that were afford to the people of North America because of the foundation of biblical Christianity that framed the thinking of the Founding Fathers.

The very Bible that granted freedom will now be used to take it away.The very boundaries of conduct that led to prosperity beyond any super power in modern history are being eroded leaving us swimming in a sea of chaos.

What was once godly living, accepted and easily recognized by the masses is being lauded as bigoted and hateful.Thus, we are at war and we are enemies of those that once called us friends.Persecution goes in the face of the modern “prosperity” preaching that has infiltrated and spread out across the world from the North American churches.Are we ready to lose life and limb for the cause?Only time will tell.

This persecution will not be led by strangers but sometimes the very members of your household will be the enemy.Our brothers, fathers and yes, even our own children will become agents of the dark kingdom. They will give us up to the authorities, betraying us to the enemy.

Jesus understood what would happen to his followers, his own dear friend betrayed Him and His brothers (real blood brothers born to Mary, Matt. 13:55) hated him and wished Him dead.Are we prepared to stand alone with only Jesus by our side?

Worthy to Be Persecuted, Verses 24-26

We should live in such a way that it is easy for the enemy to find us and persecute us.We should stand out as bright lights in this dark world. The Apostles were hated, Jesus was hated, the hated the Old Testament prophets were hated. You and I will be hated as well. Sadly, too many of us have become a lot like the world in our demeanor, our conversation, our lifestyles and our mindsets.

We have compromised the things of God to the point where the enemy has hard time finding us. We are camouflaged, BUT in a bad way.Most soldiers when camouflaged or working undercover actually know what side they are on. Many Christians have forgotten what side they are on.We have become the friend of the enemy and thus an enemy of God, even as His children.It is a sad circumstance that many of us are in today.

Too many of us are not worthy to be persecuted; we have not stood out and stood up for Jesus. Yes we attend church but for the most part that is all we do.Even there, our investment is apathetic at best—counting the time until we can get back to our real lives.(Kind of like the priest entering the temple of God only to worship an idol.)

Persecution will quickly weed out those that are committed to the cause from those who are simply spectators to the cause.Persecution forces us to make a stand one way or the other.This is one of the main reasons I think that the Lord allows persecution, not to hurt us but rather to prune us and consolidate His committed followers to each other and to Him.

I pray that I will be counted worthy to be persecuted for the cause.Not that I want to be persecuted (I don’t think anyone in his or her right mind wants to be persecuted). But if that time comes, I want the Lord to equip me.I know that in my own strength I will not be able to stand. BUT in Jesus’ power and strength, I will be able to stand and be faithful.I pray that you will be counted worthy as well—if the time comes in our era.

“So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42).