Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries


Trust in the Lord audio

Matt 10:5-34

I wonder if you’ve ever had the experience of suffering for your faith. I think for most of us that would be a rare occurrence. Though of course suffering for your faith can take lots of forms. In Australia it rarely comes in the form of physical suffering, though it certainly does in other parts of the world. In Australia it’s more likely to be in the form of disadvantage in employment, or being shunned by friends, or being mocked for your beliefs. In the public arena it often takes the form of being sidelined or ignored in public discourse in political policy making.

Should we be surprised when we see these sorts of things happening? The New Testament seems to be full of references to the possibility of Christians suffering for their faith. In today’s gospel reading we’re told why this is so. Jesus says if you want to make him your master, if you want to be his student, then you can’t expect to be treated any better than he was. If Jesus was called Beelzebub, the prince of demons, we shouldn’t be surprised if people think we’re evil. If Jesus was put to death for doing the Father’s will, we shouldn’t be surprised if we too are attacked for our beliefs. Have you ever noticed that the only thing the creed tells us about Jesus’ life on earth was that he was crucified, suffered death and was buried. It doesn’t say anything about his miracles, or his care for people, or his teaching. It subsumes his whole earthly ministry under this phrase “he was crucified, died and was buried and on the third day he rose again.” So those of us who want to be like our master need to remember what that entails. In fact if we’re not encountering any opposition I wonder if perhaps we should be asking ourselves whether we’re truly following Jesus; or whether perhaps we’re avoiding opposition by keeping within safe bounds, avoiding issues that might mark us out as Jesus’ followers. No, the implication of this passage is that if we’re true followers of the master, then we can expect the same sort of treatment as he received.

But Jesus doesn’t just tell us that because he wants to attract the masochist in us. Suffering isn’t ever just for suffering’s sake. No, he warns us, because he wants us not to be afraid to speak the words he gives us. We’re to be prepared for trouble but not frightened of it. Why? Well, as we’ll see in a moment, because of the special kind of father disciples have.

Jesus is sending his disciples out to do exactly what he told them and us to do in the great commission, to go and preach the gospel. And he knows that as soon as you start telling people that Jesus is Lord, that he claims lordship over their lives, that some of them, perhaps most of them, won’t like it.

But look at what he says in v26: "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.” What does that mean? What is it that was covered up, or that was secret? Well, wasn’t the reason for Jesus coming to earth hidden? Wasn’t that a secret that was only revealed after Jesus had died and rose again? What did Jesus say? In the very next chapter of Matthew he says :"I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” Similarly, what he had said to them in the dark, what he’d only whispered to them, they were to tell in the light, proclaim from the rooftops. While Jesus was here on earth, much of his teaching was given privately to his disciples. It was either too hard to take in, or too radical to be accepted by anyone other than his followers. But there would come a time, Jesus says, when his disciples would be called to tell it publicly, to shout it from the rooftops. To stand in the city square and proclaim Jesus.

And notice that there’s nothing that was concealed that will not be made open, no secret that will not be made known. Christianity is an open religion. What can be known is here for us in the Scriptures. All of us have access to it. We don’t have a spiritual elite who hold onto knowledge and dole it out as they wish. Everyone has the same access as anyone else, as long as they’re willing to submit themselves to God’s word, and study it, search it out. But more than that, if there’s nothing that’s to be kept hidden, then it means we should be reading and expounding the whole of Scripture. You know, there are ways of keeping things hidden, even when the Scriptures are open to us. There are sections of the Bible that are rarely preached on, there are passages that we ignore because we find them offensive, or too obscure, or too hard to fit into our modern understanding of the world.

So why do we avoid those passages? Well, perhaps because we’re afraid. Afraid they might offend someone. Afraid of the subversive nature of some of God’s word. Afraid that people might be confused and their faith threatened. But Jesus says here, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of the thought police. Don’t be afraid of those who would oppose God’s word. Rather shout it from the rooftops. Speak it with boldness. Study all of it. That’s why you have sermon series that work through whole books of the Bible, that systematically open up all of God’s word, so together you can work on the hard passages as well as the easy ones. So together you can understand the mysteries of God’s love for unlovable people.

Jesus goes on to give us a reason for proclaiming his word without fear. In fact I guess he gives 2 reasons. The first is a negative one. He says: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Now this isn’t easy to do. We respond much more easily to the immediate danger than to the long term one don’t we? Here is one of Satan’s great victories, one of his great strengths in fact. He’s convinced us that what happens to us now is far more important than what will happen in the future. As long as I have peace and contentment now, as long as I can enjoy myself in this life, what happens in the future doesn’t really matter. He’s managed to shorten our sights so we don’t look beyond the here and now. But Jesus has come from the Father. He knows that this existence is only transitory; that by comparison with eternity our present life is like a drop in the ocean. And so how God sees us is so much more significant than how people in this world see us. That is, the result of opposing God is much more significant than the effects of opposing our human opponents.

But on a more positive note, we can proclaim God’s word without fear because we know that God is our Father and that he’s looking out for us.  As he does elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus points out that God cares for all of his creation, even to the least significant part. For example, he says, think of the sparrows. You can buy two for a penny in the market. To use a more modern expression, they’re a dime a dozen. Yet God the Father notices if even one of them falls to the ground. In fact, God’s interest in his creation is so great that he even knows how many hairs are on your head. Well, that’s an ongoing task isn’t it, if the floor of my bathroom is anything to go on? It changes every day. It is getting easier to count though! Yet God keeps track of it. Well then, if he even worries about such details as how many hairs I’ve got left on my head, then he’s surely even more worried about what happens to the rest of me from day to day. What suffering I go through, what opposition I meet. How I stand up for Jesus. If that’s how God watches over me, why would I be afraid?

So Jesus has given us a dual reason for not being afraid. First because the fear of God is much more important than the fear of human opponents, and secondly because God watches over us to protect us, ultimately to bring us into his Kingdom. And that’s why he reminds us that those who acknowledge Jesus before others will be acknowledged by him before the Father. If we stand up for Jesus in this life, then he’ll stand up for us in the next.

Well, how do we stand up for Jesus? It might be in the moral decisions we make. The things we do or don’t do. The sorts of movies and TV shows we watch or don’t watch. The way we treat other people. Or it might be in the ethical decisions we make. The way we run our business, the way we deal with other people’s goods, the way we declare our income to the tax man, the way we make our opinions known to government. Or it might be in bearing witness to Jesus, making it clear to our friends that all that we have comes from God the Father; that the reason we are who we are is because God has put us here; that it’s God who’s slowly changing us to be more like him. There’s all sorts of ways that we can stand up for Jesus, and he tells us that even if that’s a difficult thing to do at times, we can be assured that when the time comes for us to stand before God’s judgement seat, Jesus will then stand up for us and acknowledge us as his brothers and sisters. On the other hand, if we refuse to stand up for him, if we deny him in this life, then we can’t complain if he denies us before his Father in heaven.

So how are we to behave in the face of opposition and suffering? We’re to take God’s word and proclaim it in all its fullness. We’re not to be afraid of the opposition that that might bring. Rather if we’re truly followers of Christ then we should expect it. And even when opposition leads to suffering we can have confidence in knowing that what we suffer here and now will be compensated for in God’s kingdom. And that God knows what’s happening to us and will be there with us caring for us even as we suffer. So, as hard as it might be, let’s extend our focus beyond the here and now to pick up Jesus’ perspective, to see how things look from the perspective of one who’s come from the Father. And let’s take seriously Peter’s instruction: “19Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God's will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.”

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