The Most Important Thing
Nov. 15, 1998 Matthew 10:17-42
Pray for the Persecuted Church Worldwide!
· · that believers will stand firm in their faith (1Pet. 5:8-10)
· · that they will not be fearful but trust God (Rev. 2:10)
· · that they will not seek to retaliate, but entrust themselves to Him who judges justly (1Pet. 2:23)
· · that they will not repay evil for evil but will seek to live at peace with everyone (Rom. 12:17-18)
· · that they will not take revenge, but leave that completely with God (Rom. 12:17-21)
· · that they will be enabled to rejoice, even in suffering (1Pet. 4:12-13)
· · that they will forgive those who persecute them (Lk. 23:34; Col. 3:13)
· · that they will be able to actually love their enemies (Mt. 5:43-44)
· · that they will bless those who have persecuted them (Rom. 12:14, 21; 1Pet. 3:9)
· · that they will persevere under tribulation (Heb. 10:32-39)
· · that they will trust God to enable them to proclaim the Gospel even while suffering (2Tim. 4:16-18)
· · that they will keep their eyes on Jesus, persevere, and not grow weary or lose heart (Heb. 12:13)
· · that they will rely on the Lord’s strength and not on their own (2Cor. 1:8-9)
1Pe 5:8 ¶ Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1Pe 5:9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
1Pe 5:10 ¶ And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
Re 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
1Pe 2:23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
Ro 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
Ro 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Ro 12:19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.
Ro 12:20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
Ro 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
1Pe 4:12 ¶ Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
1Pe 4:13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Lu 23:34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Col 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Mt 5:43 ¶ "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
Mt 5:44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Ro 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Ro 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
1Pe 3:9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Heb 10:32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.
Heb 10:33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.
Heb 10:34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
Heb 10:35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
Heb 10:36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
Heb 10:37 For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay.
Heb 10:38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him."
Heb 10:39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
2Ti 4:16 ¶ At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.
2Ti 4:17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth.
2Ti 4:18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Heb 12:1 ¶ Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Heb 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Heb 12:3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
2Co 1:8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.
2Co 1:9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
In the beginning of this chapter, Jesus sends out the twelve disciples with authority and instruction to carry out ministry to the sick and diseased of soul and body. He tells them to hit the road on a campaign trail of righteousness. They are to share freely what they have received from him and trust him for the results. But he also tells them what to expect from the people they are being sent to help. Not everyone will desire help and may ridicule them or even try to prevent them from helping others. They may even try to eliminate them all together. It will be a hard road he sends them on and they may grow weary and discouraged. So beginning in verse 17, Jesus begins to explain to them the “bottom line” of ministry, or the most important thing to keep in mind as they serve him.
This message was given by Jesus to the twelve disciples but has been, and will continue to be, important to all his disciples who follow after them. We remember the persecuted church worldwide today in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. These true believers all over the globe, all disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, have also answered the call not just to personal salvation but to carry out his ministry to the lost in a life of purpose and meaning. And for many, the road is just as hard or harder than it was for the twelve. You see, it is impossible to be a believer in Jesus and not be a disciple. In other words, once we profess faith in him we become identified with him. His ministry to us also flows through us if we are genuine. And so this message about the most important thing is important if we are to stay the course and be effective as his disciples. This message will keep us in times of overt threat or even self deception regarding the call to discipleship. It may be difficult to tell which is worst. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.
I have had in mind to return to this passage ever since Chet Hobbie was here from the VOM on Sept. 27th. No matter what the place or circumstance, as a Christian we must always keep the most important thing in mind.
1. The most important thing is not my eloquence, it is my witness of the indwelling truth of God that speaks through my life. (vv. 17-20)
Truth is its own witness.
2. The most important thing is not that I can trust others, even of my own family, it is my witness that I can trust Christ till the end. (vv. 21-23)
3. The most important thing is not my reputation for wisdom, it is my witness that wisdom is proved right by her children of which I am one. (vv. 24-25)
4. The most important thing is not my physical security, it is my witness to others that my ultimate security lies spiritually with God. (vv. 26-31)
The witness of the church is most effective when she declares rather than explains, for the gospel is addressed not to reason but to faith.
A. W. Tozer (1897–1963)
5. The most important thing is not my acceptance by others, even of my own family, it is my witness to others that Christ has accepted me. (vv. 32-36)
6. The most important thing is not my love toward others, even of my own family, it is my witness to others that I love Christ more than me. (vv. 37-39)
Its way of suffering is the witness which a soul bears to itself.
Henri Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881)
To be a witness does not consist of engaging in propaganda or in stirring people up. It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist.
Emmanuel Suhard (1874–1949)
Subtopic: For Christ's Sake
When the bishop of Madras was touring India, he was introduced to a young slave girl who was an outstanding witness for the Lord. By her quiet persistence in telling others of Jesus and His love, she had won many to Christ. As the bishop looked at her, he saw that her face, neck, and arms were badly scarred. She had received many beatings for her faithful testimony. With tears in his eyes he asked, "Child, how could you bear this brutality?" Somewhat surprised, she replied, "Aren't you glad if you can suffer for Christ, sir?" Her humble response spoke to his heart. It reminded him that if one is true to the Savior, he can expect ridicule and even harsh treatment from the world.
See: Rom 8:17; 2 Cor 1:5; Phil 1:29-30
Peter Gillquist, in his book Love is Now, mentioned that on one occasion he and several other friends were invited to speak to a group of UCLA students. Following the meeting, one young man expressed a desire to discuss the matter of salvation. So arrangements were made to meet with him the next morning. He said that he really wanted what he saw in the lives of believers, but he hesitated to make a decision because he though that if he became a Christian he would have to witness. His counselor, however, assured him that to become a Christian he was not required to do anything but place his trust in Christ.
Realizing that salvation is by God's grace through faith, the student gladly received the Lord Jesus as his Savior. But a strange thing happened. As he went back to his fraternity house, he met a friend and told him of his newfound faith in Christ. Before the day was over, he had testified to every one of his fraternity brothers.
See: Acts 1:8; 2 Cor 4:13; 1 Pet 3:15
7. The most important thing is not my reward in heaven, it is my witness which earned it not only for myself but also for others who heed me. (vv. 40-42)
If my testimony makes anyone wish to emulate me, it is a mistaken testimony; it is not a witness to Jesus.
Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)
Witnessing is not a spare-time occupation or a once-a-week activity. It must be a quality of life. You don't go witnessing, you are a witness.
The proof of Christianity is not a book but a life. The power of Christianity is not a creed but a Christian character; and wherever you see life that has been transformed by the grace of God, you see a witness to the resurrection of Jesus.
-- William M. Woodfin, Leadership, Vol. 8, no. 1.
The complex shapes and uniqueness of snowflakes have confounded scientists for hundreds of years. In the past, it was generally recognized that the formation of a snowflake is a two-step process: making a single crystal and then having it grow.
This process begins as a microscopic speck of dust is trapped in a molecule of water vapor inside the winds of a winter storm. As the particle is frosted with droplets of supercooled water, it becomes heavier and begins its plunge to earth. The falling ice crystal is sculpted by the varying temperature and humidity--lengthening here, a spiky branch pushing out there--until it grows into a shape as unique as a person's fingerprint.
But in the past few years, as our ability to study these beautiful flakes has improved with the development of new technology, a great mystery has emerged. Scientists have discovered that very few snowflakes contain a speck of dust or any other particle which has long been believed to be necessary for a snowflake to form! How are these unique flakes formed?
Dr. John Hallett, a physicist at the University of Nevada, has discovered the answer. As snowflakes are being formed, extremely dry or cold air causes snowflakes to break up into smaller parts. The small fragments then act as seeds for new flakes to develop. In other words, it takes snow to make snow!
Sometimes we forget that it is necessary for Christians to give a personal witness of their faith in order for others to discover the love and life Christ has for them. In other words, Christ uses Christians to make Christians!
Whenever we experience pressures and difficult burdens, when we see a part of our lives broken or shattered, these are often the circumstances God uses to let our faith touch someone close to us and be the seed for a new and beautiful life in Christ. To many, the reason we face difficulties in life is a great mystery. But to us, we live expecting to bear burdens for our Savior and anticipating that the pressures we endure will be used by God to produce new life in others!
Remember, Christ uses Christians to make Christians. Look for Him to use you!
Chad Miller, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, West Frankfort, Illinois
Is this not what persecution is all about, being a witness? The most important thing is not who I am, but my witness of who Christ is in me. If it is not me but my witness, and if my witness is not me but Christ, then it is Christ who is supreme. He and my witness of Him are what is most important.
Ga 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.