(I wrote this on Friday before I knew what passage I knew Travis was going to speak on. I think God was trying to teach me something this week.)
Some of my favorite movies are sports movies where the underdog ends up winning the championship game. It doesn’t even matter what sport it is, there is always this intensity that builds right before the final game. Even though I am pretty certain what the outcome will be, I feel my body tense up as it gets down to the final moments before the game. Then, in comes the coach, with words of strategy and encouragement to prepare his team for the game of their life.
In Matthew 10, I feel like Jesus is giving his disciples a pre-game speech. He ends chapter 9 with “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” He is ready for them to help with building His kingdom, so He gathers them around before He sends them out to do His work.
The very first thing Jesus says to them is that He is giving them His authority. The disciples have just witnessed His authority being displayed in miraculous ways. In the preceding chapters Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, calmed a storm, and even raised the dead. They must have been amazed to hear Him say that He was giving them His authority. Just in case they didn’t get it the first time He spells it out for them in verses 7 and 8. “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven in near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” Wow! He gives them His authority to do His work.
But, there is more to this pre-game speech. He goes on to tell them that it will be difficult. In verse 17 He tells them to “be on your guard against men that will flog you.” Verse 18 says they will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And, in verse 19 He says “when you are arrested do not worry.” He is telling them they will suffer.
What a pre-game speech. I wonder how the disciples felt as they were hearing it. Did they hear the part about suffering and feel paralyzed? Did they even remember the words He said about authority or how He tells them three times they do not need to be afraid (vs. 26, 28, 31). The fact is real suffering is coming their way. In verses 38 and 39 He says “anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses it for my sake will find it.” These must have been hard words for the disciples to swallow, but when we hear them, it’s different. We know the full story, that Jesus walked this road of suffering Himself. We see that He had all authority and we can see that power used in miraculous ways, but we also see it in His suffering. The King of Kings took up His cross and lost His life. What looks like a devastating end to His suffering, ends up being the most powerful display of His authority.
I find it hard to really believe that He wants to use me to build His kingdom. He has put me in my neighborhood, my job, my family, and my small groups for a reason. I can easily let paralyzing fear creep in and lose sight of why I am here. My husband often prays a prayer that God will use him to build His kingdom and to be the man God created him to be “at all costs.” It challenges me. I work hard at setting myself up so I don’t have to be uncomfortable, let alone suffer in any way. I only get one chance at this life and I don’t want to waste it, I don’t even want to waste one day. It isn’t my life anyway, the more I try to control it, the more I find how out of control I am.
Unlike the movies that I am so fond of, the ending to this story is certain. The victory has been won, He is risen! One day there will be no more pain or suffering, but in the mean time, I don’t have to be afraid to do the work that He is calling me to do. As I try to live this life for Him, suffering is sure to come, but He reminds me in Matthew 28:18-20, that “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me…and surely I am with you to the very end of the age.” I don’t have to be afraid because the one who sends me also goes with me, and He has all the authority.