Jesus said to the twelve disciples,
"A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
"So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
"Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
"For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one's foes will be members of one's own household.
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."
Today I want you to make some mental lists. First, I want you to list 5 people you really love to be around. Second, 5 things you really enjoy doing. Now list one thing that causes the most pain and trouble in your life and that you wish you could get rid of.
Okay. Let’s imagine at this point that you now have to give up being around those 5 people you love and to give up those 5 things you really enjoy doing in order to be a Christian. What about the thing that causes the most pain and trouble? You have to keep that, sorry.
So, are you willing to give all that up? Are you willing to lay it down and follow Jesus?
In our country these days, we have it pretty easy. We usually do not have to give up much of anything to be a Christian. The same is not true for other countries around the globe. Christians in
You can read their stories on websites like the Voice of the Martyrs and International Christian Concern. I printed off this report from the latter site that lists the top 10 countries that persecute Christians. It makes for sobering reading.
This is what Jesus is describing to the disciples in our gospel reading today. This is what the early church faced as it struggled to spread the gospel. The fact that these saints succeeded despite everything they suffered speaks volumes for the strength of their belief in what they were doing. It is one of the most powerful reasons for realizing that Jesus was really who he claimed to be. How many people do you know who would willingly die for a lie? These witnesses were willing to lay down their lives because they KNEW that Jesus was the Son of God. They believed wholeheartedly in the truth of what they preached. They gave their all.
And this powerful witness is what spreads the gospel, even today. It is the reason why Christianity is growing in the very countries that seek to repress it. The gospel has always resonated in places where there is little hope, because of the hope that it offers.
So how can we hope to match that? We live in a country with the greatest freedom of religion that the world has ever seen. Most of us never will be persecuted for our faith, other than in subtle social ways. So how does the message in our reading pertain to us?
We have a harder time making disciples in our country simply because we have it so easy. It’s hard to witness the awesome power of belief in something when you won’t lose anything by that belief. So what do we do to show people the difference that our belief makes in our lives?
That’s where we come to that last item: the one thing in your life that causes you the most pain and sorrow. Sorry…you don’t get to turn your back on it. You have to pick it up and follow Jesus. That is your cross. The most effective witness you can make to the indifferent world we live in is to show how your faith allows you to live with your pain and sorrow. One of the most deceptive theologies alive in our country to day is the so-called “Prosperity Doctrine”. It teaches that if you believe in God, that you can get whatever you want just by “claiming it”, that is, speaking the words aloud. As if God was some sort of giant vending machine that will spit out what you want if you only put in the right amount of money and press the right buttons.
By living our faith through our suffering, we can make effective witnesses for the gospel today.
D. L. Moody said, “A holy life will make the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns, they just shine.”