“God protect me today, get me through this ordeal, don’t let me fail you, don’t let me back down, turn back, give up, I will have succeeded today if I’ve not denied you.”
Christians who live out the gospel all over the world will pray this prayer and for some they pray it daily. In prison or in hiding, a refugee or spat at in the street, this is their prayer.
Four days ago a friend sent me the headlines of a newspaper in a Pakistan city I have preached in:
“Two Christian women face the death penalty in Pakistan for removing a sticker carrying a verse from the Koran from a Muslim colleague’s locker they were asked to clean.”
Can you imagine their prayer today?
Jesus is commissioning his disciples into a short mission’s trip but half-way through this account the vocabulary changes. It appears that Jesus has the great commission in mind when the Twelve will go so much further than the lost sheep of Israel.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10 v 16)
Sheep, wolves, snakes and doves, what is Jesus saying?
It will be tough.
Jesus tells them they are not going to lost sheep but that they are the sheep who are sent amongst a world of wolves. This is how we know Jesus is thinking longer term when they are reaching the world with the gospel.
The picture is easy to imagine: wolves don’t eat nicely or moderately, they are savage, messy and greedy, they will eat their prey even while it still has breath.
So flee or fight but whatever you do then make sure you know the intention is not to spare you anything.
The Apostle Paul warned the Ephesus Church that ‘wolves’ would come among them (Acts 20:29). He knew that wolves exist not only outside the church but they also deceive with wearing the clothing of the sheep they have just killed to cause more damage from within (Matthew 7:15).
It will be tough.
Jesus changes the language again. So not only are we the sheep but we are also to be the snakes. Throughout the Bible the snake is seen as evil, deceptive and dangerous. In the same breath he says we are also to be like doves and we understand perfectly that image, peace, stillness, beauty and of course the Holy Spirit. Jesus is saying we should be like both the snake and the dove.
We need to be wary of what we walk into, don’t be blinkered, be wise. However, be innocent, harmless, otherwise your wariness will turn into cynicism and you will become devious.
We need to walk with purity of intent, peacefully, calmly. However, have your wits about you, be wise, don’t be fooled otherwise you will become naïve.
What amazing truths Jesus taught the Twelve which are still applicable in our day.
What are you facing today?
If you as a Christian do have a difficult time because of your faith in Jesus and perhaps you do get some form of persecution then under that kind of attack remind yourself that there are people in your family of God where leaving is not an option. Maybe you are a Pastor and you cannot see it but you know something is wrong with your Church, hidden wolves have appeared and the sheep are hurting. One day you’ll stand in heaven with those who had to lay their life down for the gospel and they’ll say to you. ‘It was tough down there wasn’t it? It was tough’. And they’ll ask you a question, ‘How was it for you?’
I want to be able to respond and say ‘well, I don’t understand why I didn’t have the same persecution, but like you I never backed down when it got tough’.