2013-06-09 God Comforts our Fears | Matthew 10:19-20, 26-32
Sermon Text: Matthew 10:19-20, 26-32
19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 26 So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And 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. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Notes and Outline
We are an anxious and fearful people at times because we are not in complete control of this world nor do we have complete knowledge of the future. As we prepare to drive to Wisconsin today to see our son Stephen, I feel somewhat anxious about the long drive, the traffic going through Chicago, our accommodations when we get there, and whether we can fit all the items we want to take along into the car. However, if I knew someone may be lying in wait ready to ambush us along our path today, I would have some real fears. At this point, the only fear I have is a healthy fear of the road and the average driver.
In our story today, Jesus knows what the disciples will be up against in their mission and our mission. He knows that there has been a war going on since the fall. Those who belong to Christ are engaged in that war, and warfare is filled with a lot of unknowns and potential dangers.
So three times Jesus tells the disciples not to fear and once again not to be anxious in these final instructions before sending them out into this evangelistic mission.
When God sends us to represent him he also sends us into a predicament, because he sends us into a broken world and we ourselves are a broken people. But because we belong to him we can trust that he will rescue us from the predicament into which he sent us. We may suffer some things in the process but ultimately God will rescue us because that is his redemptive purpose. He is redeeming the world through the work of Christ from its condition of sin and death. He sent Old Testament prophets who pointed to Christ. He sent the law of Moses which pointed to Christ. And ultimately he sent his own son to accomplish the work of redemption. We are sent in turn by the Son to proclaim the message of the Gospel.
Like him, who is our master, we will suffer as well, because the servant is not greater than the master. Though we will suffer in this life, God’s purpose in the world and in us will be accomplished. He will redeem all that is broken and full of holes including us. And in the meantime he will accomplish his purpose through us. We are full of holes and he seeks to fill those holes with himself because we cannot fill them ourselves. We cannot save the world. We cannot save ourselves. Christ has done all the necessary work. Now we are simply proclaiming the message that others might come to faith in him, that their holes might be filled as well.
But we have to deal with all the what-ifs that go through our minds. There are four what-ifs that are found in this passage that go through our minds when we consider sharing the gospel with others. What if I am put on the spot and don’t know what to say? What if others smear my name because of my proclamation of the Gospel? What if others take my life or harm my body as a result of my proclamation of the Gospel? What if I have to suffer alone? Or to state them in another way I’m afraid that I don’t know what to say when I’m put on the spot. I’m afraid that others will ruin my reputation. I’m afraid that others will take my life. I’m afraid that I will have to suffer alone. To each of these fears God promises his provision. God meets each of these fears with promises that comfort of our hearts and enable us to go on in spite of our fears.
We are in a spiritual battle. The prince of this world has followers. And those followers are pitted against us. We are tempted to stay under the radar so that no one can take pot shots at us. We fear that if we enter into the battle we will be more likely to be targets. We are fearful because we are not totally conformed to the image of Christ. However God is in the process of redeeming this world and us in and through what Christ has done on the cross. Part of that process is helping us to overcome our fears. Overcoming one’s fears involves facing and confronting those fears, preferably, in a safe environment. The environment we are in right now poses no threat. We are here in a safe place looking at the word of God and in so doing we are confronting our fears. And we are seeking to find help and hope from God through his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in order to overcome those fears. It is as if were like a person in a meeting with a counselor who says I’m afraid of spiders or afraid of heights or some other issue. The counselor then works through each of those issues with that person in order to help him or her overcome that fear. We are doing the same. We are working through our fears – some of which we are not even aware that we have. There are four spheres or anxieties that Christ helps them to confront and to overcome in this passage. And in so doing, he attaches a promise of various kinds to help us to overcome it.
The first promise I am calling,
- God will Provide
19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
The first fear or anxiety is that of being put on the spot – being asked a question about our faith and not knowing what to say. Jesus says to them you will be dragged before governors and kings in order to give testimony in that time and place. However don’t worry now about what to say when that time comes. I can assure you that you won’t even be speaking when the time comes. It will be “the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” So don’t worry about it now. Rest in God’s promise to provide. You couldn’t rehearse all the possible answers if you wanted to. In my early dating years, when I prepared to call a girl for a date, I used to drive myself crazy rehearsing all the possible responses she might have and how I would respond to them. I didn’t trust myself to come up with the proper response when the time came. Here, Jesus is saying, God will give you what you need when the time comes. God will provide.
Have you ever been put on the spot, asked a question about your faith or the Bible? This happened to me recently at Melinda’s dad’s memorial service. Like me, you probably said something, but you may not have felt that you gave a very good answer. Jesus here is telling us that we can trust that whatever we said was what God gave us at that moment. I remember hearing very brief testimonies of some of my friends who were Christians at the time while we were in high school. They actually said very little, but it made an impression on me. So I would say to you don’t worry about what may feel to you a very brief or incomplete statement, because if God has given it to you it will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent. And the next time it happens, God will provide once again.
The second promise I am calling,
- God will Defend
26 So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
The second fear is that our enemies might mount a smear campaign against us. The previous verse that says some will malign us because of our testimony for Christ. We fear the loss of a good reputation; we fear that some people will never know the truth about us because they will believe the lies that others are telling them about us. However, Jesus promises that one day our name will be cleared because what we said will be proven true. God promises that everything will come to light – the guilty will be punished and the innocent exonerated – when his kingdom comes in its fullness.
So when we think about sharing the gospel and think about the possibility that others might smear us, we can rest assured that even if they do, one day the truth will come out and we will be proven innocent. Just as Jesus who claimed to be the son of God was proven to be correct – vindicated – through the resurrection, so will our message be proven true when Christ comes again. In fact, the promise of God’s defense is so sure that here we are told to make ourselves vulnerable in proclaiming the message – we are to “say in the light” what he has told us in the dark, and to “proclaim on the housetops” what we hear only whispered. In Israel the flat roofs of housetops gave speakers a prominent and visible place from which to preach their message.
The third promise I am calling,
- God will Preserve
28 And 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.
A third fear we have is that we might lose our lives as a result of sharing the gospel. However, God promises he will preserve us, not from physical death, but from eternal death if we will trust in him. We saw last week how most of the first disciples and apostles lost their lives in this way. It is a very real possibility that we must face. We fear our physical death. But here God says what you should fear even more is God who has the power to destroy both body and soul. In other words, it would be worse to lose body and soul eternally in hell than to merely lose your physical life.
The fourth promise I am calling,
God will Attend
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
The fourth fear is that we would suffer alone, that we would be left to face our suffering with no one to know or care. However God promises here he will attend to our suffering because He knows and cares. God knows everything that happens in this world. He knows even when a sparrow falls. He knows the number of the hairs on your head. And because he is your Father and values you more than a sparrow, how much more will he know and care when something bad is happening to you, when you are suffering. He will attend to your suffering. You will not suffer alone.
I was thinking about a long-time friend of ours who died recently in the Lutheran home in Napoleon at age 100. In her latter years, she was often unaware of what was going on around her or when my parents visited. But she knew and loved the Lord. As I thought about this passage, I thought of God’s knowledge and concern for her. In the counseling profession, to attend someone is to listen carefully to what the person is saying, to seek to understand, to hear with the heart not just the ears. That is what I believe God does with us when we suffer, whether our suffering is small or great. His knowledge of the every aspect of the universe is so complete, and his love for his people so deep and wide, that when he hears our cries, he weeps with us, so we are not alone.
In his final moments on earth before his ascension Jesus affirmed this promise once again when he said, “all power is given to me in heaven and earth, make disciples therefore, going and teaching and baptizing, “and behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mat 28.19-20)
So today we face our fears, we confront our fears from a safe distance, that we might overcome them with God’s help. We are anxious about being put on the spot, but God promises he will provide, his Spirit will speak through us. We fear that our others will ruin our reputation, but God promises to defend us to exonerate us in the end. We fear losing our lives, but God promises he will preserve us our soul unto eternal life. And we fear suffering alone, but God promises to never leave us nor forsake us, he will attend. Remembering these promises, we can say with Paul in Romans 8
31 ¶ What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died– more than that, who was raised– who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.