Last week, we saw how intimidating it is to see what God expects of us as Christians. If you missed it, check out the 7/13/14 sermon at www.abidinggrace.com. For now, let’s just say that Jesus made it pretty clear that we’d suffer for following him. Only once we realize what God expects of us and how far we fall short, and the punishment we should have for that, only then are we ready to read the rest of this section of Scripture where Jesus sends out his disciples as workers in his harvest field.
In Matthew 10:26-31, Jesus contrasts the fear we may feel with reality. We see plenty of reasons to fear, but Jesus says – “Don’t”. Do not fear. He says it three times giving three beautiful reasons not to fear.
And notice, none of the reasons is that there won’t be pain. There will. Instead it’s kind of like the doctor telling you, “This is going to hurt.” Why does he say that? Does he like to inflict pain? No. He says it so that you are ready for it. When we know it is coming, we’re better equipped to handle it – especially when we trust that it is necessary, that it will be good for you in the long run, that the doctor knows what he’s doing. God says – go and be what I’ve made you – be my witnesses – and this is going to hurt – but don’t fear.
The first of his three “Do not be afraid”s comes in verse 26: “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” Don’t fear, because the truth will out. Satan’s lies cover so much of our society, but eventually, Jesus promises, it will all come out. No matter what they say about you or do to you. The truth will vindicate you. It will all be clear.
Have you heard the story of 2 Kings 6, where Elisha and his servant are surrounded by an enemy army and Elisha tells his servant not to be afraid because we’ve got them outnumbered? And then when the servant was doing the math (1+1=2 against thousands???) – Elisha prayed that God let the servant see the reality and he opened his eyes and saw the the angel armies camped all around them.
The truth is — every government will answer to God. Every social pressure we feel has no power beyond this life. Our worry about what people may think or do…the court of public opinion has absolutely no jurisdiction over our lives — as much as we may feel otherwise — Jesus says it will all be disclosed, so we can feel free, in fact we must — proclaim the truth from the rooftops. Eternity is what matters. Our relationship with God takes precedence over our relationship with anyone else. Jesus makes that clear with the second “Do not be afraid.” Verse 28: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Human power is nothing — only God has a say about our eternity — he’s the only one that can do anything about our soul. So there is no reason to fear those persecuting us. We should be concerned about what God thinks. And what does he think about us who so often are afraid, about us who so often do worry about what might happen here? What does God think? Look at his third “Do Not be Afraid.” Verse 29:
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Even with your failures and worry and fighting against his will – God considers you valuable, so valuable that he counts the hairs on your head. Think about that – that concept of value.
Take a baseball card. On my desk today sits one of my son’s cards. It is a Chipper Jones, 2001 “Victory’s Best” card. It looks nice, is in good condition and reminds me of one of my favorite baseball players. Beckett’s says it is worth 45 cents. That sounds about right to me. Now, just over a year ago, a card with a picture of Honus Wagner on it was purchased for $2.1 million — more than what our church building cost.
What makes that card worth $2.1 million? It is not the craftsmanship or the quality of the paper – it’s old, has to be handled with extreme care. What makes it worth $2.1 million? Only one thing. Someone was willing to pay that much for it.
So think of what you’re worth. Think of the value God put on you. It wasn’t because you had value in you. You were born in sin — disgusting, and last week, we talked about so many ways we fall short of being what God wants us to be — we’re doing nothing but incurring debt, not value. And yet God was willing to pay for you his own body and blood. Jesus gave his life because he thought you were worth that much. The Father killed his Son because you were worth it to him — having you with him in eternity was worth it. Yes, you are worth more than many sparrows to him. You’re worth the price of your redemption — not because you’ve been good enough, but because God valued you so.
Now, think about this: If you were the person that paid 2.1 million dollars for a baseball card — how would you treat it? Would you put it in the spokes of your bike so you could hear it rattle as you rode down the street? No. You’d care for it meticulously. You’d study it, gaze at it, hold it, learn it, know it. That’s the way God looks at you – even counting every hair on your body.
In this world of ATMs and self-checkout, online shopping and robocalls — your God is never impersonal. He loves you and knows you intimately and intricately – and he is the one who sends you out to be what he has made you — his witnesses, so do not be afraid.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 8 & 10:30am. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.