Sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31)

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Someone once pointed out that if you glide your hand across a large  beautiful dining room table and encounter a single micro-sliver, you no longer remember how smooth the table was for the very great majority of its surface. You will probably not even remember the color or the beauty of the table. But you will remember that you got a sliver from it! The one small hurt is more than able to overwhelm the many impressions otherwise. This is what the fall of mankind did to us. It reversed the way certain things are supposed to work. One should in fact remember the beauty and the worth and the smoothness of the table and discount the one very small imperfection. 

Likewise, we ought to remember that God loves us with an everlasting love. He provides for us for eternity. He comforts us by His presence and His Spirit forever and ever. That our short lives in this fallen world might include a temporary injustice for His sake is not something that ought to define our impression of Him. 

Mrs. Civilla Martin once visited a bed-ridden saint and asked her if she ever got discouraged because of her condition. Her friend responded quickly: “Mrs. Martin, how can I be discouraged when my heavenly Father watches over each little sparrow and I know He loves and cares for me.” [Struck by that thought, Mrs. Martin later wrote the hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow”], which has since been a source of much encouragement to many of God’s people.”  She wrote, “Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, when songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

Every Christian who has ever wrestled with self-worth or feelings of hopelessness turns at some point to the words Jesus said in Matthew 10:29-31. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

That Jesus said those words in the context of preparing His disciples for persecution makes them all the more meaningful. For who second-guesses their worth to God more than the one who is being persecuted because of their testimony about God? If the thought, “Does God even care about me?” is not far off when we are lonely or sick, how much more readily does it spring to mind when one is in prison for year upon year, mistreated and uncomfortable? 

But to illustrate that God’s love for us is far greater than our circumstances, Jesus used the image of a little brown bird. Something that is very common in almost every culture across the globe. Something that provides almost no value to hungry people or to bird-watchers, yet is an object of God’s care and affection  all the same. 

That thought should encourage us on the days we feel alone and defeated. If we yet breathe, God is still for us; whatever manner of trial or suffering we are enduring is not His punishment against us, but ultimately part of His judgment against His enemies. 

If God’s compassion is great enough to induce him to lay man’s punishment upon his own Son, it is surely great enough to induce him not to lay it upon the believer.

William G. T. Shedd

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

God cares for the least of His creation. How much more does He care for us! Give thanks then for this day. His grace is yet upon you. 

Fear (Matthew 10:28)

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“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather,   be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

In December of 1995, Julio Ruibal was assassinated in Colombia. What set Julio apart from the roughly 36000 others who were killed in Colombia that year was the manner in which Julio had lived his life. Christianity Today magazine wrote, “Born in Sucre and raised by his grandmother after his parents’ separation, Ruibal converted to Christianity while he was in the United States where he had gone to study medicine. He received discipleship training under the late Kathryn Kuhlman, a charismatic who led a worldwide healing ministry. Ruibal returned to Bolivia in 1972, at the age of 17. A spontaneous revival broke out in home meetings that Ruibal organized, and within weeks, he was preaching to packed crowds in the La Paz soccer stadium. At age 22, he founded the Neo-Pentecostal Movement in Bolivia, and he held healing services in outdoor stadiums.

Ruibal’s ministry so impressed then-President Hugo Banzer Suarez that he loaned the young evangelist his presidential jet to travel to meetings in other parts of the country.

“The present generation of Christian leaders, those of us between 40 and 45 years of age, were born under Ruibal’s ministry,” said Salcedo, who became a Christian in one of Ruibal’s home meetings and whose congregation started as a result of the 1972 revival. Several members of the evangelical leadership in Bolivia had been members of motorcycle gangs when the revival changed their lives.

John Stanko, executive director of the Julio Ruibal Foundation in Mobile, Alabama, said the evangelist was “on the cutting edge” of confronting Colombian society. “He was always fearless and just had a boldness that was both refreshing and irritating to different people, depending on where they were coming from.

Julio believed that as long as he was obedient to God’s will, he was effectively invincible. He also believed that when he had done all he could for God’s Kingdom, his time would end no matter how hard he might try to postpone it. 

It is easy to see how Julio lived out Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:28. He knew that if there was anyone to fear, it was God Most High. For while the drug czars could threaten and kill, they could not destroy the soul. But God can. So while the drug czars can threaten and can kill the body, God does warn and will eternally condemn those who those who refuse to repent. Revelation 14 says, “And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name. This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”

Our fear ought never to be those who can deal in temporary matters, but Him who  deals in eternal matters. Amen.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot […] then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.

The apostle Peter (from 2Peter2:4–10)


Let us fall down and worship God, who is worthy of our worship and our complete obedience. 

Revealed (Matthew 10:26-27)

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Bill Clinton was once the most powerful man in the world. As president of  the United States (the then-global leader), he was commander-in-chief of a massive military empire. That military might was obligated to go to war on his command. Most of the world still used US dollars as the primary trading currency, making his nation the global financial leader. As president, he could indirectly control monetary policy and choose the trade deals he and his government wrought, therefore having a direct impact on the rise and fall of nations. From all perspectives, God had positioned Bill Clinton in a role of enormous power – perhaps more so than any in the history of the world. 

Yet that could not stop his downfall. The long married Mr. Clinton could not restrain himself from an inappropriate relationship with a 22 year old intern named Monica. There is no doubt that president Clinton did not want any of that information – especially what he said and did – made public. But a few years later, the scandal broke anyway. Those of us who were reading the news at the time know that the things president Clinton said and did in the inner chambers of the White House wound up reported all over the world. In spite of a personal policy of denying the truth, the truth came out. The most powerful man in the world could not keep a secret, secret. 

Jesus said, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” Mr. Clinton’s downfall is only a very small prelude – nothing more than a single foreshadow – of the things that will be made known. Every crooked deal, every planned lie, every ‘secret’ order given behind closed doors in government, business and affinity party doors – they will all be revealed. They will all be made known, just as everyone in the world knows what Bill Clinton did back in the mid-1990’s. 

The immediate implication (from the context of Matthew 10) is that Jesus’ followers never need fear that the injustices handed to us will be kept secret. Many a Christian hauled away in the middle of the night and tried during the dawn hours (as Jesus was) fear that their difficulty and pain will forever be kept from the world, their death therefore being in vain. That is simply not true. 

The persecution and hardships endured by God’s people will eventually be something that the whole world knows. Perhaps because God will exalt those who suffer for His Name, and that exaltation will be front-page news as He sets up His physical Kingdom. We Christians must therefore realize that if God so deals with the things people have said in the dark – when they are prompted by demons – how much more will God make known what He prompted us to say (and do) by His Spirit? To this point Jesus says, “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.”       

This is not only a command to preach fearlessly, and to witness no matter the imposed  threat. It is an encouragement to share what He speaks as He prompts. For one day all the world will see and know just how much we have been obedient (or not).  


Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.

Billy Graham

APPLICATION: Intentionality

There are no secrets from God. One day all we are and all we are not will be revealed. Therefore let us ensure that we shall not be disappointed on the day the Lord gives us our recompense. 

Accepting Our Lot (Matthew 10:26)

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Jesus has told His followers that He is sending them out as sheep among wolves. That   those they are sent to will charge them and arrest them, being them before the local government and mistreat them. That, “Brother will betray brother to death, and […] All men will hate you because of me.” That His disciples will be persecuted from one place to another, even as they flee for their lives! He now begins His conclusion to this set of comments with, “So do not be afraid of them.” 

In Jesus’ reasoning, the reason for the persecution is obvious. His disciples are testifying about Him and doing as He does. They will be effective witnesses, and so by the world’s hand they receive similar treatment as Himself. He knows they will arrest Him, hand Him over to the council, mistreat Him and kill Him, therefore it follows that His followers must expect likewise, for the disciple cannot expect to be better than the Master. 

Yet it must be recognized that if the disciple is so like the master that they are similarly treated, then the disciple is worthy of the same reward as the master. That is not something to be overlooked! Jesus was resurrected, and so shall we be. To this point Rom 6 says, “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Not only a new life in the here and now, but after we physically die – as 1Cor 6:14 says, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” More than that, Jesus was made immortal. So we shall be also – as 1Cor 15:49 says, “just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” 

If we know these things, we cannot be afraid of persecution or suffering. For while it is brought about by our own witness of Jesus, it is ironically also a witness to us. Suffering is a witness to us who suffer; a witness that Jesus is fulfilling the promise made to us. That we shall be resurrected. That we shall be made immortal. That we shall be made like Him! Made fit for heaven and well able to enter the Father’s home and invited to sit at His table. 

Far from being afraid, we ought to be full of joy and gladness when such treatment comes. As Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  

Therefore there is no cause for us to fear when we are threatened with persecution, or are being persecuted, or are being delivered over to mistreatment and even death. God is still on the throne, well able to see and remember what is being done, and God will yet make all things right. More than right – He will amply reward the faithful! 

To that point we must remember the exhortation of Scripture to others who have suffered before us, “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” Amen.

In periods of persecution, we may seem to be losing, but only temporarily. In the end, God’s kingdom will triumph. It is not limited by time and space; it holds sway over Heaven and earth, over life and death. His kingdom is forever, and in His kingdom there is neither hunger nor thirst nor pain nor suffering anymore.

LeRoy Lawson

APPLICATION: Intentionality

To consider our future in advance prepares us for the future we know is coming. Take time to ponder it and pray it through, so that when it happens you can receive it with joy. 

Accepting Our Challenge (Matthew 10:24-25)

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John wrote this to the reader of His epistle, “This is how we know we are in   him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” It is another way of saying that a disciple of Jesus must live as Jesus lived, and do as Jesus did, and be (in character) what Jesus was (a true Son of the living God). We’ve all heard many sermons on discipleship and obedience, so there is usually little resistance to that idea in our heads. The challenge comes when we are faced with difficulty, and the idea must move from our heads to our hearts. It is one thing to agree to good doctrine, another thing to repeat it, and still a far different thing altogether to live it. 

In the context of speaking about the persecution His disciples will face, Jesus said, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!”  

Jesus’ point is not so much that students are on the path to becoming like their Master – although that is a true point. Nor is the main point that a servant is never greater than the one who employs them – although that too is true. As the student, no matter how sharp they are, cannot replace the teacher while they are under them, so likewise the servant cannot replace the master while they are under the master’s employ. These things, Jesus says, are obvious. 

Why then would one object to particular treatment if their teacher – by the very nature of being their teacher – is subject to the same particular treatment? An apprentice bomb-maker cannot complain of being surprised when they are hauled off to prison when they’ve seen their teacher get hauled off to prison for bomb-making. Likewise, a disciple who sees Jesus mistreated and called a partner with Satan cannot complain when people likewise mistreat them. 

As Warren Wiersbe put it, “Men persecuted Jesus Christ when He was ministering on earth, so why should we expect anything different? We are His disciples, and the disciple does not “outrank” the Master. They said that Jesus was in league with Satan (Beelzebub: lord of the dung; lord of the house); so they will say the same thing about His followers. However, we should count it a privilege to suffer for Him and with Him.” 

Wiersbe’s point is more than valid. Disciples witness of their master. It is a mark of honor – an attainment of sorts – to be treated the same as your master. Surly then we can understand it to be a very high privilege when we find ourselves being treated as Jesus was. It means there is enough of Jesus in us to convict us of being like Him. It means wee have fully discharged our obligation to be a witness. After all, we must remember that in God’s court, not every witness results in the justification of those who are being charged. Sometimes our faithful witness actually results in their condemnation, and all the more so for having so poorly treated God’s faithful child! 

As believers share persecutions, as Jesus did, they also share God’s comfort, as Jesus did.

Bob Utley

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Let us be thankful for hardships, for by them we participate in the Christ-life. 

Our Challenge (Matthew 10:23)

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Jesus has simple instructions for His followers when they are persecuted for   preaching the Gospel, “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” 

Or as one commentator put it, “When a disciple met with persecution in one city, he was to flee to another city, both for his own safety and to avoid wasting effort on a rejecting audience.” This much we can all understand. But Jesus adds, “you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” That statement initially seems hard to reconcile with our present reality.  While Israel is a country with many cities, it is not a country that seems so large or having so many cities that in all the past 2000 years this work is still not completed. To that point some have argued that the coming of the Son of Man that Jesus speaks about here is the judgment that befell Israel in AD70. Certainly that may be a foreshadow of the end, but it is clearly and obviously not the second coming that Jesus later clarifies (in chapter 24). 

These facts belie our own prejudice. For when we think of Israel we typically think of that narrow and pointed band of land on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Our worldview limits our understanding of “Israel” to the modern country, and the existing nation of Israel has only 76 municipalities granted the title, ‘city’ status by the Ministry of the Interior. Even if you count all the villages and settlements, Israel only has 1100 ‘places of settlement’. But Israel from God’s viewpoint (which one must recognize was on Jesus’ mind) was always was a much larger territory than the country we recognize on our modern political maps. 

In Genesis 15 we read, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”  This is the land that Joshua was sent to conquer, and that the twelve tribes of Israel were to take possession of. This is the geographic territory known as Israel. 

Unfortunately Joshua and company did not completely take it. The river of Egypt is the Nile, significantly to the west and south of the land that Israel eventually ruled over. The Euphrates cuts halfway through Iraq, far to the east of the land that Israel ruled. The land between would be all of Jordan, most of Syria, the best part of Egypt and a very large chunk of Saudi Arabia. So even if we were to limit the ‘cities of Israel’ to the geographic inheritance of the Hebrews, we would find that not all are yet permeated with the Gospel. 

Yet a greater consideration is what Jesus meant by “the cities of Israel”. Romans 4 and Galatians 3 make it exceedingly clear that Abraham is not just the father of physical Israel, but the father of all who are counted righteous by faith, “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” And, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Therefore, “the cities of Israel” are all the places where Christ is or will be proclaimed Lord. That’s the whole world, which means that ultimately the Gospel must be proclaimed in the whole world before Christ returns.  

This much Jesus will make even clearer later on, when He says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Amen.

God’s plans for mankind always included his desire to reach the whole world.

Gary V. Smith

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What is your part in reaching the whole world? What part of God’s call on your life have you left unfinished?

Still Standing (Matthew 10:21-22)

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Jesus gave us a frightening prophesy of the last days. After telling us that persecution will   happen with the government and religious institutions complicit in persecuting individuals on His account, Jesus notes that we should not expect immediate relief. Rather, intensification. Betrayal within families, a reversal of the 5th commandment and finally worldwide hatred of those who represent Him;  “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” 

Surely those will be (and for some already are) terrible days. Days that call for prayer and intercession. But all the prayer and intercession one can raise cannot stop the ultimate will of God to punish a nation for their wickedness, nor cause God to choose a righteous instrument as the tool for such punishment. 

The late David Wilkerson once wrote how the prophet Habakkuk saw the people of God about to experience that exact thing in the coming invasion of Judah. Habakkuk cried out to God for mercy and relief; 

Habakkuk was saying, in short: “How can this be, O God? I have interceded endlessly, beseeching you to bring revival to your people. I have prayed with such faith, such hope, but revival never came. Why have you ignored my prayers?”… To Habakkuk, it appeared that God stood by passively, not acting at all. It seemed that as wicked men grew stronger, God’s people grew weaker. And it continued with no judgment being visited on the wicked.

God never did explain to this prophet why the wicked gain power and force their will upon the righteous. He never answered Habakkuk as to why he seemed silent to his cries. This had to baffle the faithful prophet. Habakkuk certainly expected God to provide him with explanations. He surely must have thought the Lord, in his mercy, would reveal why he seemed silent and why his promises seemed to fail. Maybe God would explain to him the calendar of future events concerning Judah and Jerusalem. But no such explanations were forthcoming.”  

Instead, all God said to Habakkuk was, “the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” 

Similarly, all Jesus says to those who experience the terror of the wicked on His account is, “he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” 

That has to be enough. 

As Habakkuk said, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”  

May we have the same outlook, should we live through such a time. 

Habakkuk looked through the fog and mist and wondered at God’s program, but in Christ we know God’s plans for this age.

Warren Wiersbe


Our God is God Most High, sovereign over all the earth and all who live upon it. Let us ever praise His Name. 

At That Time (Matthew 10:19-20)

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In Matthew 10:17, Jesus solemnly warned us that we would be handed over to human institutions (“they will hand you over to the local councils.”  He told us we would be publicly and physically abused by religious groups (“they will … flog you in their synagogues.”  He warned us that we would be “brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.”  He told us that such would happen “on His account.” Then He gave us a word of encouragement for that time, “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, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” 

Every preacher can tell you that most of the time they do concern themselves with what they will say, and also how they will say it. Good preparation of a testimony and careful consideration of how your message will be received is always prudent. The preacher speaks for God, so they should and must take care to ensure the words are what God would have for that group of people, at that point in time. Preaching His Word is a sacred and high responsibility. It cannot be taken so lightly as to not bother preparing! 

Of course there are times when you cannot prepare, on account of an unexpected opportunity. In such cases, the Word of God exhorts us, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  In other words, it is required of the Christian that you are prepared, even when you haven’t had the time to properly prepare! Like a seasoned outdoorsman caught in a sudden storm, your prior training and character come to bear. You will be ok because of who you are as a person, even though you don’t have all the external tools you’d normally bring to such an occasion. 

For this reason, while not everyone is a learned preacher, every child of God knows that God uses them to speak to others from time to time. Occasionally, one’s words will be very literally the words of God to someone else, who will know that God has just spoken to them. That is why we share our testimonies, and a good part of the value of participating in small group Bible study. From each member of His body, we can hear God speaking to us. 

While that is occasionally true, Jesus tells us it is always true when the circumstance is one of forced testimony to someone in authority. If you squeeze a sponge, what it has absorbed comes out. Crisis always reveals character, and the more urgent the crisis the more raw the revelation of character is.

We can therefore know that the suffering God may call us into is never wasted. It is a testimony against those who dare to try to sit in judgment of the body of Christ. Moreover, we can know that every torturer, every ungodly judge, every dictator who persecutes the people of God – they have all heard from God and been given opportunity to repent. 

Even if what they heard, they heard through the duress of others.

You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.

C.S. Lewis

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Let us be thankful that as long as we pursue God wholeheartedly, we need not worry about how we will react in the day of duress. In that moment He will give us exactly the right words to say that carry eternal impact.  

Witness (Matthew 10:18)

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In Jesus’ day, “The Roman justice system and the local Jewish justice system sat side by side. Submission to the Jewish authority was a choice (but a necessary concomitant of membership in the Jewish community); submission to the Roman authority was mandatory.” 

To this day, Christians world over make a very deliberate decision to abide by the laws of at least two governments. The laws of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the laws of the country they abide in. Many of us live according to multiple governments, adding civic government, territory/state/provincial government and local church government to the mix. These mixes usually result in the Christians of the community being very literally the most law-abiding citizens of the land. 

But sometimes the laws of our physical land – be it country or territory – and the laws of our God and King collide. In those cases it is required that the Christian adhere to the higher authority. For the laws of a province cannot trump the laws of the country, and the laws of the country cannot trump the laws set by God Most High. When that happens we are inevitably brought before a human ‘justice’ system on charges of lawbreaking. Jesus told us as much would happen, “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.”

Jesus will later tell us again that we will be witnesses in Acts 1:8. Most times that means we’ll have opportunity to witness to those in our circles. But sometimes we have opportunity to witness beyond our normal circles. To police officers, to judges, to jailed inmates, to lawyers and court officials. Sometimes even to governors and kings!

That’s not always a pleasant witness experience. Not for us, and not for those we are witnessing to. For while most of us in our present western society can witness without fear, and to the effect of leading others to Jesus, some will witness in fear, and as a testimony during the final judgment which will be used against those we witness to. 

In such cases, our witness is of the presence of Christ (in speaking His words), the character of Christ (in courage and boldness), the wisdom of Christ (in purposing to exalt the humble and humble the proud) and the power of Christ (in view of His ultimate triumph). In such cases, it is also our testimony of the presence of evil (that they would judge God’s own), the error of human ways (that the powerful persecute the vulnerable), the foolishness of those who sit in ‘judgment’ (for they will be judged), and the weakness of demonic systems (which cannot even stop the testimony of an innocent and vulnerable person).  

All of that is on Christ’s account. It is to His glory and happens because Jesus wants us to be witnesses. So much so that we really don’t even have a choice in the matter. We will be witnesses. Even to those over us on the earth, and even to all the earth. 


No redeemed man must be in any degree an unwilling witness for his Lord.

Charles Spurgeon

APPLICATION: Intentionality

To be called upon to witness for Christ is an honor, for it does not fail to carry a reward. Let us then be all the more eager to witness for Him, both in season of grace and in season of difficulty.