Summary: Our eternal salvation is secure because of Christ, but when it comes to the daily routine of following the Lord, we desperately need God's grace each day.
Every now and then I receive, or send, a package labeled "Fragile: Handle With Care." It might be a very expensive crystal vase inside, or maybe it is just a small toy, but the purpose of the label is to warn the friendly UPS, or Postal Service, employee that if they are not careful how they handle the package, they will damage what's inside. Friends, I tend to think that I sometimes should wear the same label: "Fragile: Handle With Care." No, I'm not worried that someone is going to squeeze me too hard or drop me on the ground, but I know on the inside I am sometimes fragile. I'm not constantly on the verge of tears and I don't feel devastated if someone in the grocery store just says "Hello" and doesn't stop and talk with me. But, I have taken rides on an emotional roller coaster. Oh, because I'm a man, I usually don't let anyone know that, but it has happened. Maybe I'm having a great day, feeling just super, and then someone says something critical of me and I plunge into an emotional valley. Do you know what I mean? This reminds me that the tongue can be a dangerous weapon, and a careless word on my part can make it a lousy day for someone else. It might be nice if people had a label saying "Fragile: Handle With Care" stamped on their foreheads to remind us how easily we can hurt one another.
Being emotionally fragile is not our only problem, however. Most Christians, at least the ones I know, are kind of spiritually fragile. It is not that we might give up the faith tomorrow and become atheists, but we find it is a struggle to consistently follow the Lord, and too often we end up on a spiritual roller coaster. At least that has happened to me, and I know it has happened to great Christian saints like Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon and Billy Graham, and when I read Romans 7, I learn it happened to the apostle Paul.
Oh, some Christians may pretend they are always on top of things, but if we are really honest, my guess is that every one of us knows we are not batting a thousand. Maybe we do OK most of the time, but there are occasions when we strike out big. Like Christian in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, we too have to deal with things like the Slough of Despondency, Doubting Castle and the Giant of Discouragement as we seek to follow the Lord. Oh, some of us are stronger than others. Maybe we have been a Christian for many years and have learned to avoid some of the valleys. But, I'm afraid that every one of us who is a believer in Jesus Christ still has a somewhat fragile soul. Yes, our eternal salvation is secure because of Christ, but when it comes to the daily routine of following the Lord, we desperately need God's grace each day. When we start to think we don't, that we are going to do fine on our own, we are then even more vulnerable to attacks from the world, the flesh and the devil. As I have frequently said before: Being a Christian and following Jesus is not easy.
That is why I find real encouragement in our text today. Our journey through Matthew brings us to Chapter 12:15-21. This paragraph contains what I think is one of the most comforting verses in the Bible. Matthew 12:20 "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory." Let's pray that the Lord will help us understand what this verse means, and that we would find great encouragement in His Word today.
Our text introduces us to Jesus, the servant Messiah. The previous episode in Matthew 12 was the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning the Sabbath. After Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, Verse 14 says, 12:14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Jesus' response to the Pharisees is in 12:15,16 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was. Rather than fight the Pharisees on their turf, Jesus continued in the servant ministry to which God had called Him. Even though it was becoming clear to many that He was not an ordinary man, He did not want that news released prematurely. Then Matthew says, 12:17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: Jesus' actions continue to demonstrate that He is the Messiah God had promised to Israel hundreds of years earlier. Then Matthew gives us a quote from Isaiah 42:1-4. These verses describe the servant Messiah that God would one day send to His people. They are marvelous verses: 12:18-21 "Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope."