Do not be afraid — you are valu­able

The Covington News - - RELIGION LOCAL - JONATHON SCHARF COLUM­NIST Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace Lutheran Church in Cov­ing­ton. Wor­ship ev­ery Sun­day is at 8 & 10:30am. Full ser­mons and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at www.abid­ing­

Last week, we saw how in­tim­i­dat­ing it is to see what God ex­pects of us as Chris­tians. If you missed it, check out the 7/13/14 ser­mon at www.abid­ing­grace. com. For now, let’s just say that Je­sus made it pretty clear that we’d suf­fer for fol­low­ing him. Only once we re­al­ize what God ex­pects of us and how far we fall short, and the pun­ish­ment we should have for that, only then are we ready to read the rest of this sec­tion of Scrip­ture where Je­sus sends out his dis­ci­ples as work­ers in his har­vest field.

In Matthew 10:26-31, Je­sus con­trasts the fear we may feel with re­al­ity. We see plenty of rea­sons to fear, but Je­sus says – “Don’t”. Do not fear. He says it three times giv­ing three beau­ti­ful rea­sons not to fear.

And no­tice, none of the rea­sons is that there won’t be pain. There will. In­stead it’s kind of like the doc­tor telling you, “This is go­ing to hurt.” Why does he say that? Does he like to in­flict pain? No. He says it so that you are ready for it. When we know it is com­ing, we’re bet­ter equipped to han­dle it – es­pe­cially when we trust that it is nec­es­sary, that it will be good for you in the long run, that the doc­tor knows what he’s do­ing. God says – go and be what I’ve made you – be my wit­nesses – and this is go­ing to hurt – but don’t fear.

The first of his three “Do not be afraid”s comes in verse 26: “So do not be afraid of them. There is noth­ing con­cealed that will not be dis­closed, or hid­den that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the day­light; what is whis­pered in your ear, pro­claim from the roofs.” Don’t fear, be­cause the truth will out. Sa- tan’s lies cover so much of our so­ci­ety, but even­tu­ally, Je­sus prom­ises, it will all come out. No mat­ter what they say about you or do to you. The truth will vin­di­cate you. It will all be clear.

Have you heard the story of 2 Kings 6, where Elisha and his ser­vant are sur­rounded by an en­emy army and Elisha tells his ser­vant not to be afraid be­cause we’ve got them out­num­bered? And then when the ser­vant was do­ing the math (1+1=2 against thou­sands???) – Elisha prayed that God let the ser­vant see the re­al­ity and he opened his eyes and saw the the an­gel armies camped all around them.

The truth is — ev­ery govern­ment will an­swer to God. Ev­ery so­cial pres­sure we feel has no power be­yond this life. Our worry about what peo­ple may think or do…the court of pub­lic opinion has ab­so­lutely no ju­ris­dic­tion over our lives — as much as we may feel oth­er­wise — Je­sus says it will all be dis­closed, so we can feel free, in fact we must — pro­claim the truth from the rooftops. Eter­nity is what mat­ters. Our re­la­tion­ship with God takes prece­dence over our re­la­tion­ship with any­one else. Je­sus makes that clear with the sec­ond “Do not be afraid.” Verse 28: “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.”

Hu­man power is noth­ing — only God has a say about our eter­nity — he’s the only one that can do any­thing about our soul. So there is no rea­son to fear those per­se­cut­ing us. We should be con­cerned about what God thinks. And what does he think about us who so of­ten are afraid, about us who so of­ten do worry about what might hap­pen here? What does God think? Look at his third “Do Not be Afraid.” Verse 29:

29 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. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all num­bered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many spar­rows.

Even with your fail­ures and worry and fight­ing against his will – God con­sid­ers you valu­able, so valu­able that he counts the hairs on your head. Think about that – that con­cept of value.

Take a base­ball card. On my desk to­day sits one of my son’s cards. It is a Chip­per Jones, 2001 “Vic­tory’s Best” card. It looks nice, is in good con­di­tion and re­minds me of one of my fa­vorite base­ball play­ers. Beck­ett’s says it is worth 45 cents. That sounds about right to me. Now, just over a year ago, a card with a pic­ture of Honus Wag­ner on it was pur­chased for $2.1 mil­lion — more than what our church build­ing cost.

What makes that card worth $2.1 mil­lion? It is not the crafts­man­ship or the qual­ity of the pa­per – it’s old, has to be han­dled with ex­treme care. What makes it worth $2.1 mil­lion? Only one thing. Some­one was will­ing to pay that much for it.

So think of what you’re worth. Think of the value God put on you. It wasn’t be­cause you had value in you. You were born in sin — dis­gust­ing, and last week, we talked about so many ways we fall short of be­ing what God wants us to be — we’re do­ing noth­ing but in­cur­ring debt, not value. And yet God was will­ing to pay for you his own body and blood. Je­sus gave his life be­cause he thought you were worth that much. The Fa­ther killed his Son be­cause you were worth it to him — hav­ing you with him in eter­nity was worth it. Yes, you are worth more than many spar­rows to him. You’re worth the price of your re­demp­tion — not be­cause you’ve been good enough, but be­cause God val­ued you so.

Now, think about this: If you were the person that paid 2.1 mil­lion dol­lars for a base­ball card — how would you treat it? Would you put it in the spokes of your bike so you could hear it rat­tle as you rode down the street? No. You’d care for it metic­u­lously. You’d study it, gaze at it, hold it, learn it, know it. That’s the way God looks at you – even count­ing ev­ery hair on your body.

In this world of ATMs and self-check­out, on­line shop­ping and robo­calls — your God is never im­per­sonal. He loves you and knows you in­ti­mately and in­tri­cately – and he is the one who sends you out to be what he has made you — his wit­nesses, so do not be afraid.

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