Stand your ground
There are many promises of Jesus that we can find in the Bible. While there are over 200, here are just a few: He promised that He would die and in three days rise from the dead.
He promised He would send the Holy Spirit and that He would come back again. He promised that He would draw all to himself. And finally but not least, He promised his followers that they would be hated and persecuted.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.”
“But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 18:16-23)
Jesus tell us that we will be handed over, flogged, brought before governors and kings. We will be arrested, betrayed, hated and put to death. However, He tells us to ‘stand our ground.’ When we hear of ‘Standing your ground’ we may think about self-defense or being assertive or exercising our rights. However, this is not what Jesus means as this is all about our witness and our faith.
The context of the above verses is the 10th chapter of Matthew. Jesus is providing final instructions to His disciples. Jesus has been teaching them for three years and he’s about to send them out. They have been following but soon will be on their own; He’s giving them their job description. Just prior to these verses Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven has come near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”(Matthew 10:8)
That’s a great charge to these disciples! Some commentators have said that this chapter 10 of Matthew is the disciples’ ordination ceremony. For those that may be unfamiliar, let me provide some insight.
Ordination is ‘setting apart the individual for the work of the ministry’. For churches and denominations that take this process seriously, there are very similar steps or processes. It begins with a selection process, an examination of the individuals, and then an examination of the individual’s credentials – typically both practical as well as academic or theological training. Finally, the candidate kneels and others that have gone before, often the elders and pastors, lay hands on the candidate.
I still remember the charge I was given when I was ordained: I was told to: 1) Love God, 2) Love His Word, and 3) Love His People. While there were a number of scripture verses that were recited during the service, one of the verses that was emphasized was in Acts 20:28-31
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!”
I believe that that these verses in Acts 20:28-31 that are similar to Jesus instructions above in Matthew 18 are valuable instructions as well as warnings for ALL of us. Jesus said that while people are offered light, they will prefer darkness because their deeds are evil. That evil in the hearts of those that prefer darkness leads to the trials, the persecutions and the hate. When these attacks come, it can easily lead to compromise, silence, withdrawal and capitulation and surrender.
Our response however is to stand firm. We are to acknowledge Jesus before men and are promised that Jesus will acknowledge us before His father. We have the truth that sets people free, we are the light in the midst of darkness.
Stand your ground!