This week we are continuing the discussion on Matthew 10, following the exhortation of Jesus to his disciples as he sends them out. Last week (Matthew 10:5-15) we focused on the audience and the receptivity of the message and where the disciples were to invest their time and how they were to deal with varying responses. This week (Matthew 10:16-33) we will deal with persecution and fear.
Jesus tells his disciples plainly, you will face persecution. He warns them this persecution will be from those close to them and it will be because of their hatred of Jesus. As gloomy as that sounds, Jesus does offer them hope. He tells them to flee to another town and that they will not run out of towns to go to in Israel before the Son of Man (Jesus) returns. God always leaves a remnant. Many of the prophets felt that they were alone in holding onto truth, that nobody was left to minister to and that everyone hated the message on their lips. God always provided a remnant, He never wiped them out completely, even in the time of the flood he spared Noah and his family. As a school and athletic department seeking to create a Christ-centered culture, one where people are encouraged to share their faith even if they are looked upon as different, we need to have safe spaces. Spaces where athletes can be encouraged when they feel persecuted but also where they can turn to when they mess up or fall short. We can tape off a space in the cafeteria but I doubt that this would feel safe. We can create offices that we designate as safe spaces, but really the student will determine where they feel safe and it will depend on the relationship and trust they have with a person. Most college students want to fit in, don’t like the idea of persecution, and are easily influenced by their surroundings, especially with their teammates. The leaders on your respective teams are huge targets for persecution (and temptation by the way), they need to be encouraged, protected, and covered in prayer.
Jesus also addresses the injustice of the persecution the disciples will face. He tells them that the things covered up and done in secret will be revealed and known and that even though their bodies may be harmed, their souls cannot be touched. I am always telling those who feel wronged, persecuted, or misunderstood that time reveals all truth. The truth has a way of coming out in time. Sometimes there are things in life that we will take with us to the grave: protected secrets, guarded information, wrongs never corrected; but that doesn’t mean that the truth will never be revealed. We should be less concerned about the truth as people see it, and most concerned about the truth as God sees it because we will all give an account before the Lord. In that time, everything will be revealed. Paul writes:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV
Knowing we are giving an account, we end this week with two verses:
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33 ESV)
I find that it is hard to get students to step up and share their faith because of the culture they find themselves in. They want to fit in, be accepted and feel the same as everyone else. Some of them fear they are not mature enough in their faith to articulate it or to be consistent in living it out. I understand that this is difficult for anyone, let alone on a college campus. If we are afraid to take a stand for our faith, what are we really left with? I believe it is worth risking.
In many countries in the world, people take a stand for their faith and are banished, punished, or worse. Choosing between conforming to political pressure and faith conviction is becomming more and more prevalent in America. This is not a new thing, it has been happening for a very, very long time. Persecution will come, Jesus told his disciples not to fear it, and I’m glad they didn’t!
Do you have a hero? Do know your hero’s flaws? If you do, how does that affect the way you view them? I always like to hear athletes say they have more than one and that they are trying to take the best parts of each and put them together into their own style. Shows like “The Voice” and “American Idol” are looking for signature traits that famous singers have, but they really want to hear something different, something unique.
If you spend a good amount of time with your hero, you won’t idolize them. I had the privilege of sitting in front of a college basketball player’s mom at a game her son was playing. One of the spectators told her he thought her son was lightning fast, to which she replied, “Until you ask him to do something.” She loves her son and is proud of him but she is not under the illusion that he is without flaws. Our heroes have real needs, they need real relationships, real friends, and they have real weaknesses. This is true about them because they are, after all, human. I think we conveniently forget this. I really like a song called “Superman” by Five for Fighting that perhaps reflects how some of our heroes must feel at times. They have the right to dream and bleed, they are trying to find the best in themselves and they are more than their accomplishments. They may not even understand why there is so much attention surrounding them.
Many times fans take things too far with heroes and worship them instead of celebrating them. We use words like awesome and idol. The word awesome is often accompanied by great fear in the Bible. Sometimes we may be tongue-tied when a famous person is around, but we don’t usually fear that they will consume us or that we cannot be in their presence. In fact quite the opposite, we desire very much to be in their presence. Paul and Barnabas find themselves in an awkward position when they heal a man who could not use his feet. The crowd was so impressed they called Paul and Barnabas gods and started making sacrifices. Paul and Barnabas quickly put a stop to it and told them they were only men (Acts 14:14-15). We don’t just put people on pedestals, we idolize things too. Tim Keller writes that an idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give (Keller, Counterfeit Gods). Tim Briggs posts on his blog on Church Sports Outreach; your idol is control if your worst nightmare is uncertainty. Your idol is approval, if your worst nightmare is rejection. Your idol is comfort, if your worst nightmare is stress/demands. Your idol is power, if your worst nightmare is humiliation. Think we might have some idols in our life? The worst part is that as important and absorbing as those things are, as much as we love them, they don’t love us back (Idols by Tim Briggs).
My Grandpa used to say that he would rather have a handshake from a man than his autograph. I never really understood that concept until I got an autograph from Mark Leiter, who was pitching for the Detroit Tigers at the time. I was at batting practice in Seattle at the old Kingdome. I was 16 and just started driving and I had dropped my keys over the railing onto the turf. I didn’t really care about the keys, I knew I would get them later somehow, what I wanted was the autograph. Mark picked up the keys and asked if they were mine. He handed them back to me and asked me what I drove. He and I had a conversation while he signed other people’s memorabilia. Looking back, that conversation was way cooler than his signature on a ball. If you could have one autograph of your choice, whose signature would you ask for? Would it be a wealthy person like Bill Gates, would it be an entertainer like Beyoncé, would it be an athlete? How much could you possibly sell that autograph for, maybe a thousand dollars? I don’t know if that covers one year’s worth of books here at school. Why wouldn’t you ask for the autograph of a great dad, or an excellent wife, or an engineer? I remember an Intel commercial a long time ago where a man walked across the work area and people stared at him as he passed through. He invented some great technology and the line in the commercial was, “We have our all-stars too” or something to that effect. What if your hero messes up? The value of the autograph goes down for sure, but what about your opinion of them? Flaws hinder heroes but they don’t necessarily disqualify them. Hebrews 11 is the chapter often considered the Hall of Faith, great people of faith that are celebrated for their faith in God. That list includes Abraham who tried to pass off his wife as his sister because he was afraid he would be killed otherwise; Moses, who killed a man and hid out in the desert for 40 years afraid someone would find out; Rahab whose passport would have said, “prostitute” for her occupation; and David who did a little of everything. He took another man’s wife, got her pregnant, and then had the man killed to cover it all up. Some of the greatest heroes are comeback stories.
We celebrate our heroes because they are exciting, they pull off the unexpected, sometimes the outcome of their triumph is in doubt, and their backstory builds drama. Any good fan knows the story behind their hero. We need heroes as models to pattern ourselves after because we repeat what we see. Heroes are our teachers, they inspire us, and they give us hope. Don’t worship your hero, celebrate them! I hope that you find many great heroes in your life and that you too can be a hero to celebrate.
Bibliography: (Idols by Tim Briggs, posted on 4.26.12 in Around the Web- www.csosports.org/sports-idol-doesnt-love-you-back.
Quote from “Counterfeit Gods” by Tim Keller
The story of David and Goliath almost always focuses on David, but Goliath clearly made some mistakes despite being the “bad guy” in the battle. Clearly the Lord was with David, but Goliath definitely opened the door. In 1 Samuel 17:40-46, and 48-51, you can read about the battle between these two. Goliath did not respect any of his opponents, but especially someone as young and inexperienced as David. He did not respect the weapons that David came to fight with either, and he trusted in equipment that was not suited to fully protect him. He probably didn’t need most of his equipment in previous battles, so why would this one be any different. Obviously, Goliath paid for his miscalculations greatly. When this happens to the supposed bad guy, we don’t really feel sorry, but sometimes the good guy has this problem too.
Samson was one of the strongest men around, showing great feats of strength, presiding as judge over his people and defending them against the Philistines, yes that same group that Goliath would come from later. So Samson is clearly the good guy. He lets a woman manipulate him into telling her how he might be defeated which sounds absurd, but this was Samson’s weak spot in his otherwise strong persona. Samson told her many things that were not true and she felt foolish each time but was persistent in trying to figure out the source of his great strength. Finally, after many go-arounds, Samson told her the truth. She betrayed him which most people feel they could have seen coming a mile away, and strangely he still thought he would be able to save himself. You can read about Samson and Delilah in the book of Judges, chapter 16. Samson’s overconfident attitude and the result can be found in verses 19-21. So in this situation, the “good guy” loses!
Sometimes our overconfidence is directed not at others, but at God. We think we know better and we can manipulate our circumstances to get what we want in the way we think we ought to have it. Ahab was the king of Israel and he desired to form an alliance with the King of Judah and go into Syria and attack (story in 2 Chronicles 18). The king of Judah thought it might be a good idea to consult God and see if this was a good idea. The prophets all agreed that this was a good idea and victory was predicted. Ahab sought out one last prophet who he didn’t like but was able to give him the truth. This prophet agreed with the others until he was asked a second time to only share what God was telling him. The prophet then said that God was going to scatter the army and they would lose, that God had planned to bring disaster on Ahab. Unhappy with the message and armed with knowledge, Ahab decided to go ahead, and the king of Judah went also (2 Chronicles 18:29-34). Ahab tried to be clever and told the King of Judah to wear his kingly robes while he would be disguised. I don’t agree to that deal if I am the king of Judah! As it turns out, even with his disguise, a soldier fires a random arrow that hits Ahab in the weak spot in his armor and he ends up dead anyway. Ahab tried to outsmart the prophecy, but his overconfidence in his plan resulted in the same outcome as was predicted.
The theme tonight is overconfidence because you are playing a team that has only won two games all season and only one of those in the conference. They have however beaten a team that has beaten you. How do we avoid being overconfident? What are the common mistakes made by these men in the Bible?
- We must always respect our opponents and not treat them like a cat treats a mouse. Samson did this with Delilah, Goliath didn’t respect David, and Ahab didn’t respect the prophet’s message.
- Don’t let yourself relax off the throttle. Last night’s message was about purpose, when you relax and back off of that bad things happen. All three of these men let their guard down. You have to have the George Foreman mentality, “Let’s grill ‘em”.
- You need to keep people close to you who are able to keep you humble. Ahab had prophets who wanted to make him feel good, the one who didn’t he punished.
- You must be aware of your weaknesses, none of these men thought they had one, all of them did.
In all cases, we must remember where our ability and opportunity come from. Paul writes in Philippians that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. It is great to think that you can do all things, but recognizing that the ability comes through Christ will keep you from being overconfident.
This morning I was driving my two sons to daycare and I heard my lunch take a tumble in the passenger seat. I was frustrated at this reality and my oldest son could tell. He asked me what was wrong and I told him about my lunch. He then asked as he usually does, “Why?” I told him the lunch toppled because I took the corner too sharp, but he wanted more information. I explained that my driving was poor because I was trying to get through the stoplight without waiting for another cycle, and waiting for another cycle meant getting to daycare a little bit later. It is interesting to me that he wants so much information, and yet, when I ask him why he does things he answers with, “Because I do it.” In two-year-old speak that either means “I don’t know” or “I just felt like it” neither of which really give me the information I am seeking. A lot of the time, I already know why he behaves the way he does. Why did you hit your brother? (Because he was jealous, or wanted attention, or his brother had something he wanted) As a two year old, he doesn’t always know the real reasons he does things, but how often do we stop and think about the real reason we do the things we do? Many times when my son asks me the why question repeatedly and I actually take the time to answer him, I gain a different perspective when we are all done.
There are many different sports to play growing up; however the opportunity to play certain sports is often limited by where you live. Curling, Cricket, Badminton, Table Tennis, and Speed Skating are less popular in the United States and therefore fewer opportunities to play them. If you excel at one of these sports, you are likely to go where people like watching this sport, where there is more money to be made, and where the best players compete at the highest level. This is why one of the best baseball players in Japanese history (Ichiro Suzuki) left in his prime years to come to America to play Major League Baseball. It is also why many great American soccer players choose to play in Europe. We see the cultural climate even within our own borders. If you are male and want to play volleyball in high school, you probably need to live in California. There are a few more options once you get to college. People value things differently in different places. Jesus understood this as He sent out His disciples and Matthew records his words in his gospel.