Earlier this week I had the privilege of teaching two different groups of women from our church straight out of the book of Matthew. Typically when I teach I am given the curriculum and I take it before the Lord and ask Him to show me what it looks like from the lips of Laura. But this time I got to teach straight from my own time with the Lord.
Man was it fun.
And also extremely difficult. Because who am I to teach others from the Word of God? What credentials do I have after my name that merit me the opportunity to instruct others on what God's Word has to tell us? If I've learned anything from following Christ and learning from His time here with His disciples, He errs on the side of "lacking in training" when He chooses people to use, and in that regard I'm a great fit.
I feel compelled to transcribe this message for you, because it is one that really needs to be heard by anyone who spends any time at the feet of Jesus. I pray it packs the same "punch" as it did from the platform on Tuesday.
As you read this I encourage you to open your Bible to Matthew 10. (I pray you have confidence from the Spirit to engage in His Word knowing you have all that you need to understand what He wants to show you. May we never enter into any time in His Word fearful that we just don't get it. He is all we need to get what is written here.)
I have one of those letter boards in my living room. You know the ones--really trendy right now and went from being hard to find and crazy expensive to available in your local target store. Isn't that how things go? Anyways, moving on. On said letter board I have a verse from Matthew 10 that I found over a month ago and loved. It spoke to me, albeit not in it's fullness at the time, and I've loved having it in my home. But the day we were having our Global Team over for a reunion dinner, I felt like changing it. With the bustle of the day, I never got around to it, and lo and behold, it became a hot topic of conversation and encouragement that night with those in my living room.
Huh. I guess this verse IS really encouraging.
As I anticipated what to teach the women of my church in the week that followed, I found myself coming back to this verse again and again. So I went to the Scriptures and found a call to action I, and likely you too, desperately needed.
Hold tight though. We'll get to that call in a minute.
At the end of Matthew 9, we find Jesus with His disciples, having been healing and driving out, and restoring what was lost. His disciples have been witnessing and learning, and He has been likely blowing them away at every turn. In verse 36 we see Jesus taking in the crowds around Him, and feeling such compassion for their lostness. There is such a great need for what He has come to bring, and yet at this point there is only One who is able to do the work. He goes on in verse 37 to tell His disciples, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."
Translation: "Guys, do you see this great need around us? There are souls ripe for the hope found in Christ, but there are few who are bringing that hope to them. Pray for a solution. Ask the One who is over this great harvest to raise up those to do the work." -That's how I read it, anyways.
This is the beloved missionary verse.
*NOTE TO THOSE WHO READ 2 CHAPTERS A DAY AND CALL IT GOOD* here is a perfect example of why you should explore the next chapter before you officially end your reading. If you end at chapter 9 and wait to go onto chapter 10, you miss the ironic and glorious part that happens next.
Matthew 10:1-2a- "Summoning His disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles..."
Did you catch it?
There's this problem. People need an encounter with Jesus Christ, and yet there is, at this point, only One who is able. Jesus tells them to pray for a solution. Then He gathers them and GIVES THEM THE VERY EQUIPPING THEY NEED TO BE THE ANSWER TO THEIR OWN PRAYERS. He gives them authority and a new title. They are no longer merely disciples but apostles with orders from the Messiah.
In the church we are encouraged to "fill the empty seats" and "grow community" and "invite our neighbors". And we pray, "Lord, encourage others to fill these empty seats and grow community and invite their neighbors!"
But what if you are equipped enough to be the answer to your own prayers? What if Jesus isn't asking them but He's asking you?
In verse 5 Jesus tells the apostles not to go to the lands that make the most sense to them. I imagine these men to have received this incredible authority to do the very things they've witnessed Jesus do, and then begin down a trail of thoughts about all of the far off lands that need this kind of power to intervene. But Jesus says, (my own paraphrase and assumption) "Those places that seem like they are the most lost? That's not where I'm sending you. I'm sending you to the people within My own house--I'm sending you to your own people, because they are the ones in need of what I have come to bring."
We are so quick to assume who needs to message of the Gospel and who should be the ones to bring it (you know, those called to missions and whatnot). But is Christ the one who told us that? Because these few passages alone would tell us otherwise. It's the people down your street, at your favorite coffee spot, in the office next to yours, and even sitting in the same row as you on Sunday mornings.
As you continue down in this chapter you will see Jesus give the apostles instructions on coming and going--the what-not-to-dos--and then go on to inform them of all of the persecution they will face for this charge they've been given to fulfill. A point in the conversation that I would likely have begun to second-guess my previous decision to leave everything and follow this Man. But the kindness of Jesus is that He is both bold and reassuring. He tells it like it is--there will be trouble AND He has overcome the world.
And here, friends, is where we find this beautiful verse that has been accompanying me these past weeks:
"And you should proclaim in the bright light of day everything that I have whispered to you in the dark. Whatever whispers you hear—shout them from the rooftops of houses." - Matthew 10:27 (the Voice)
Jesus has just told them of the persecution they will face, but what He doesn't do is tell them to keep this message on the down-low so as not to ruffle feathers or cause dissension. Amidst all of this, He tells them to speak in the light the things He is telling them in the darkness. The wisdom He is whispering in their ears, the revelation they experience in the darkest corners of their souls, they are to speak out in the brightest light of day--without a shadow of doubt or fear--so that those around might come to know the wisdom and truth found in Christ.
And we sit. And we hesitate. And we are content to keep what He is showing us to ourselves.
Well, what if they don't know the Lord? I mean, what if they aren't a Christian? What if they don't like what I have to say and turn me down or don't want to be my friend anymore? What if they call me ridiculous, or even tell me I'm naive and stupid to believe such nonsense?
So we take all of those "what-ifs" and we keep to ourselves the gift of wisdom and understanding we get to continually unwrap by the grace of God, and we hope that someone will reach these lost sheep around us.
Friend, can I tell you something? You are the answer to the problem. You have all of the equipping you need to share the Hope of Christ to the lost around you. For the sake of those who are desperate for a reason to keep living, a reason to keep moving forward, and a reason for their existence, be BOLD and share the things God is whispering to you.
And guess what? It's doesn't have to be as awkward as you think it's going to be.
How did Jesus talk to people about the Kingdom of God? He spoke in stories and shared this ground-breaking, earth-quaking truth in a way that could be received by the ears it landed on.
Mom friend from preschool and a playdate:"My husband doesn't talk to me. And when he does he's so negative. I feel so unappreciated."
Me full of fear: "Oh man, I'm sorry. Yeah, that totally sucks, I've been there."
Me following the instruction of Christ in Matthew 10:27: "Oh friend, I'm so sorry. You know, whenever I feel like my husband is distant, I try to find ways to encourage him and love him for exactly where he is. I've spent a lot of time praying for God to change him so that I feel better, but God showed me that if I love my husband where he is at, just like God does, then my heart changes and I soften towards my husband and what he might be going through that I am unaware of."
Because we have to fear God more than we fear being unliked.
Jesus says in verse 32 that if we acknowledge Him before others, He will acknowledge us before His Father in Heaven. Every one of us who think we could be instant best friends with Joanna Gaines "if only we knew someone who could introduce us", this is that scenario times one hundred billion. There could be nothing better in all the world than to have the Father hear my name from the lips of His very own Son, and He says that if we will simply acknowledge Him before others, He will do just that for us.
Please tell me you see the incredible value in this!
Jesus also tells us in verse 39 that whoever loses his life for the sake of Christ will find real life. And I know what you're thinking, "I live in a free country where no one is going to kill me or imprison me so I'm good. This only mildly applies to me and in ways that are more metaphorical than anything."
But what if it said, "whoever loses his convenience for the sake of Christ will find real life" Or "whoever is willing to have their plans, dreams, and goals disrupted for the sake of Christ will find real life"?
The Spirit of God is whispering to us all the time, asking us to be willing to put down our own desires so that the souls ripe for the hope of Christ might be tended to by the children of God. Are you willing to be interrupted? Are you willing to miss your meeting, or be late with dinner, or make others wait on you because you followed the prompting of the Spirit to have a conversation with someone around you? Because there are people all around you DESPERATE for someone to care to know them. There are people who have lived where you are, in your community, for months or more and never had someone care to get to know who they are. And you and I are brushing past them daily, so focused on our own agendas and needs that we are missing the chance to show them that there is a God who KNOWS them and LOVES them.
How do we follow Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 10:27?
- Don’t fear: (vs 28)-“Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul;” Have greater reverence for Jesus than you do for your own likability to others.
- Know your value to the Sender: (vs 30-31)-“But even the hairs on your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." He sends you because He has placed value on you to be the one to accomplish the work around you. What is the price being paid for being unable to grasp your value in this whole thing? Souls still desperate to know the Hope found in Christ--a very high price, indeed.
- Understand the mission: (vs 34, 37-39)- “Don’t assume I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword… The one who loves a father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; the one who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it.” Do we "keep the peace" at the cost of the Gospel?
- Frequently evaluate where you stand on this journey of being a disciple of Christ—are you moving forward? Like the disciples, we have the opportunity for promotion--to be given greater tasks and to go further with Christ. Are we willing? Are we pursuing Him now with a heart longing for more?
Friends, we cannot keep this revelation to ourselves. The people we do life around are not just people--they are valuable to God, and He has chosen to use us to show them that. Will you be bold in the reality of Christ in you? Will you share with those around you the things He is doing in you? Will you cease to let fear hold your tongue and keep your life with Christ separate from your life in the world? We have been called to be Ambassadors of Heaven--to represent our Homeland amongst a broken and hurting world. Can we be bold for the sake of the Gospel and remember that this can happen in the simple acknowledgement of Christ in our lives?
I would LOVE to hear how you are doing this, what your response is to this lesson straight from Scripture, and how you feel challenged to change your ways. Comment and let's start a conversation!