Summary: when we embrace the mission of Jesus, we make a commitment to hazardous work. And yet one of the things we see in the church today is that following Jesus has become something far less than that. It’s more about comfort than danger and belief rather than
Matthew 10:16-22, The Message
Elizabeth Elliott wrote a book called, Through Gates of Splendor. In it, she tells the story of her husband, Jim, who was one of the five missionaries killed as they tried to evangelize the Waodani tribe in Ecuador. What is so amazing to me is that the wives of these five men went back with their young children and won over to Christ the very men who killed their husbands. I don’t know how many of us really realize what we’re signing up for when we say yes to Jesus. But we are called to take great risks in the name of Jesus.
Do you remember the 33 Chilean miners who spent 69 days underground? One of the miners who was a part of that company, but not on that shift, was waiting for his friends to be rescued, and this is what he said, “These are the risks that go with our jobs, it’s the only life we know, it’s our way of life and it’s our way of death.” Every miner who enters a mine is very aware of the inherent risk of their work and the commitment they’ve made to the job. Now, when we embrace the mission of Jesus, we make a commitment to hazardous work. And yet one of the things we see in the church today is that following Jesus has become something far less than that. It’s more about comfort than danger and belief rather than faith.
There’s a difference between faith and belief. Jesus calls us to have faith. Faith is physical. It is hard work. It is dangerous and it comes with great risks. Belief is mental and easy. When you say yes to Jesus, you make a commitment to follow him into service even unto death. The first followers of Jesus believed following him meant that they would literally follow him to the cross, that they would die for their faith in service of Jesus himself and the mission of God. That’s how Jesus’ life ended and so they just assumed theirs would end as well if they were faithful to the Gospel. Making a commitment to follow Jesus is not unlike making a commitment to join the military and going to Iraq or Afghanistan. When you do that, you surrender your will, you surrender your freedom and you surrender your plans, all for the greater good: freedom. As a soldier, when you surrender your life, you are willing to die for your country. And when you surrender your life to Jesus, you’re willing to lose it all for the sake of the Gospel.
Following Jesus is the difference between being a servant and a volunteer. A volunteer is still in control of their own time because they serve when it’s convenient. But a servant serves at the will God and the needs of others. In Acts 20:22 Paul says, “I’m now compelled by the spirit…” and that means Paul moves under the discretion of the spirit….” “And now compelled by the spirit; I’m going to Jerusalem not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city when I have preached, imprisonment and hardships faced me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” When you are a servant of God, you go where the Spirit leads and embrace whatever may happen, knowing that the only thing that really matters is faithfulness to the mission of God by sharing the Good News.
Remember, the call isn’t age specific. It’s for the young and old. Abraham was called by God at 75 to move, on foot mind you, from Northen Israel to Egypt. Can you imagine the energy you would expend in this odyssey at this point of your life? You can’t use the excuse that you’re too old or too young. David was called when he was just a child. Moses was 80 years old when God spoke to him at the burning bush. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female. Esther was a Jewish woman who was in the king’s harem. She did not reveal her Jewish identity because the king had ordered genocide against the Jews. But, her uncle challenged her to go to the king on behalf of all Jews and she responded, I love this line, “If I perish, I perish.” I don’t know if we really understand what we sign up for when we are saying yes to Jesus but this is the spirit of that commitment and sacrifice to the point of even death.
Faith makes us dangerous, sisters and brothers. Belief is nothing. But faith makes you dangerous because we expect opposition and persecution. Listen to Jesus again, “Be on your guard. You will be handed over to local councils, and flogged in the synagogues. On my account, you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.” Matthew 10:17-18 Remember, faith is physical, demanding and costly. Belief is mental and easy. Everywhere the disciples went, there were riots. In Thessalonica, a mob attacked and drug the disciples before the city officials and said, (I love this line in the Bible) “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have come here also.” Don’t you love that? “These people who have caused trouble all over the world have come here also.” We’ve got to remember that we’re confronting principalities and powers. We are called to challenge the status quo because the world is not about the will and values of God which will always be opposition.