Sunday, March 13, 2016

Day 23: Matthew 10:16-33 & Psalm 23 - How Can We Prepare for Persecution?

Today's Bible Reading: Matthew 10:16-33 & Psalm 23

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How Can We Prepare for Persecution? 

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. - Matthew 10:24-25, ESV

Jesus made it clear multiple times that His followers should expect to face persecution of some kind. Sometimes this persecution comes in being insulted, disrespected, ostracized or ridiculed. Often, for many of God's people, the persecution is even more costly. Most Christians have had the experience of feeling ashamed or embarrassed to openly share our faith, for fear of being rejected. So, how can we be better prepared to face whatever persecution - mild or severe - that may be coming our way?

Jesus gives us several guidelines in today's passage:

1. Be wise and beware (vv. 16-17). Some people act as if Christians should welcome and even seek out persecution, but Jesus does not advise us in this way. He wants us to be as " wise as serpents and innocent as doves" and then He warns us to "beware of men." We don't need to foolishly endanger our lives or our families for no good reason; we can be wise and we should beware.

2. Rely on God for your words (vv. 19-20). Being wise doesn't mean being silent. We should trust God for the wisdom to say what we should say in the moment, trusting the Holy Spirit and not our own wisdom.

3. Do not fear people (vv. 26 & 28). Just as wisdom is not silence, so wisdom is also not fear. Jesus warns us that we should only fear the Lord. Once we have the fear of the Lord, we don't need to fear people, who can't harm us anyway.

4. "What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops." (v. 27) This means we are to clearly, boldly and openly proclaim Jesus' teaching. We must not be ashamed. We have no reason to hide. 

5. Trust God's loving care: "But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." (v. 30-31) God is our heavenly Father who loves us more deeply and profoundly than we can ever know.

To summarize: Fear God not people. Trust the Holy Spirit not yourself. Be courageous but not foolish.   And remember this from Jesus: "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." (vv. 32-33)

Prayer Based on Psalm 23:

Lord, You are my Shepherd. You have been my shepherd throughout all of my life and I thank You for Your faithful shepherding of me, my family, my church and all of Your people. We trust You. Please keep shepherding us.

Because You are my shepherd, I lack no good thing. I shall not want. You take such wonderful care of me, feeding my body and my soul, giving rest and refreshment. Give all of Your people the good nourishment of soul and the great rest in You that we need.

Father, please do lead me in paths of righteousness for Your name's sake. Please keep us from wandering away from You and hurting ourselves. This world is so often the valley of the shadow of death, with real spiritual danger around every turn. Please keep us on Your path with Your rod of discipline and Your staff of correction and guidance. 

Lord, You are so good to me. You have blessed me again and again with the best and richest blessings, in the very presence of my enemies, in the very midst of danger. Bless Your children who face violent opposition today with the anointing and refreshing they need in the face of danger. 

Thank You for Your constant goodness and Your strong, ever-present mercy, Thank You for the promise of Your presence in Your house when this life is over. Thank You for Your wonderful grace. In Jesus' name, Amen.   

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