'Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.
I did not come to bring peace but a sword.'
Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 10:34
There's something a little bit unsettling about some words that we find in the Bible, wouldn't you agree?
Parts that seem discordant with other parts, or that unsettle or contradict the view that we have of God, ourselves or the world we are living in. These are usually the parts that opponents of Christianity will bring to our attention (often with much glee, or perhaps interlaced with their own uncertainties, fears or bitter experiences.) They are brought before us as evidence, as though we were part of some court case seeking to disprove the existence of or the goodness of God.
Do you remember putting your name down to be a witness for that trial?
And yet, there are times when our beliefs come under the firing line of people we have counted as friends, neighbours, acquaintances and co-workers. Social media has opened up a pothole of antagonism and many of us have gone bump.
Matthew 5:11-13 tells us that the Word of the Lord has always come under attack. We are to count ourselves in the company of the teachers, disciples and prophets when we are positioned to defend for our beliefs Testimony and belief go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other, and as uncomfortable as it may be at times, our very belief in God has set us up as key witnesses in the trial against Christ. But there is a key that will see us answering ever tongue that rises against us. In Matthew 10:18-20, Jesus tells His disciples that they will be brought up before governors and officials, but not to fear what they would say: the Holy Spirit would reveal what they were to speak in the moment that they were delivered.
And intimidation or fear of retaliation was never to factor into the Christian’s imperative to share the Word of God.
Just before Jesus spoke the words cited at the beginning of this post, He told his listeners:
'Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light;
and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.'
What, exactly, does this mean? We have all seen well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) Christians broadcast their beliefs in ways that don't help, encourage or quicken others. As with all things in this journey of life, if we are not guided by His Spirit, rooted in love and motivated by respect for God and care for out neighbour, our well-sprouted beliefs will only serve as weeds to be collected and burned.
No good will come of them.
In fact, some words can be toxic and Scripture is so readily distorted for ill-gain. Used out of context and without understanding, Scripture is a weapon that can destroy understanding, wound hearts and incite rage and Satan himself handles the Word craftily and deceitfully to confuse, tempt and provoke the children of God.
Following are some guidelines to help us to understand when we are to speak.
1. Do not look at the results.
It is not always by looking at the result of the word spoken, because there are times that the words of God produce strong, negative emotion (see Peter's speech on the day of Pentecost) and Paul's words produced sorrow in the church at Corinth. And yet the words were spoken with pure intent and although they resulted in sorrow for a time, they yielded the fruit of Godly repentance and drew the believers together in one heart before the Lord.
2. The very nature of the Word is that it is alive.
This means that very often it will yield different effects in the listener. There are times when the Word of God stills the storm. There are times when it convicts the heart. There are times when it creates passion and fuels the listener with a hunger for justice. To expect the Word to create only one outcome is to not truly understand the nature of the Word. What we can count on, however, is that everything that comes from above is pure, wise and peace-producing. The ultimate outcome of the sharing of the Word should be profitable, producing righteousness.
3. We will not always witness the harvest of the words sown.
In Isaiah 55:11 God declares that none of His words return to Him void, but accomplish all that He wills them to. Romans 9 explains that the human heart cannot resist the Lord’s persuasion. Who can stand against the Word of the Lord? The work is not ours to be done. The work belongs to Father God who will anoint the Word that is shared by the leading of His spirit for the work of righteousness.
4. The Word is a sword.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word divides soul from spirit, but this division is always for profit. Through the ministering of the Word, hearts are laid bare and open to the working of the Divine Healer. That which is carnal, unholy and impure is revealed so that the pure holiness of the Spirit may wash the individual clean and impart righteousness. Sometimes the Word exposes the carnality of the person sharing it.
Discernment will reveal the critical hearts of the speaker; the lack of wisdom from one who would share words without thought for the harvest they will produce or without the leading of the Spirit, whereby nothing can truly live. Wielded by a heart submitted to God, empowered by His Spirit and motivated by good, the Word exposes the hearts of the listeners, enabling truth, health, repentance and healing to pour in. It is sharp enough to slice cleanly. The Word is without confusion.
5. The Word and the Spirit agree.
No movement of the Spirit is unBiblical and no further revelation is given on the established Word of God. The Lord may create new understanding and give new analogies and expressions through the beautiful, artful moving of the Holy Spirit, but everything revealed should always align with the heart of what God has revealed in His Holy Scriptures.
Above are some outlines for checking our own hearts before speaking.
Remember, we are called to listen more than we are called to speak, but when the Lord puts a Word in your spirit, don’t resist it. Don’t be afraid to speak out, don’t focus on the response that it may yield, rather stir up the gift and be bold enough to speak out in the power of the spirit and leave the results to Him.
We are in a mighty season. The spirit of Elijah (a prophetic anointing) and the spirit of John the Baptist (a bold declaration of the Word in order to bring repentance) will manifest themselves in the anti-Christ age to prepare the way of the Lord.
We are living in these times although many of us may have inadvertently slipped into a casual existence as undercover Christians. There is no condemnation, but as the Lord has said in Ephesians 5:
Arise from your sleep!
Walk in love. Declare the work and wonder of the Lord, remembering that we too were called from dark works. There is no room for self-promotion, self-glory and relf-righteousness. The Lord is swift to cut down the pride but will exalt the humble heart.
So what is the season of the Donkey?
It is the time when Christ has chosen the base, the humble things of this world and uses them to usher in His glory. Just as Christ rode on a donkey, so He uses us to carry words of great glory. As the donkey did little more than willingly yield to the purpose and intent of Christ who rode him, so we have only to go where He sends us and to speak what He tells us to. Nothing more and nothing less.
It is not us that can change a human heart. Nor can we face opposition in our own strength or find the right words to speak apart from Him. But in the power of the Spirit, for the glory of Christ according to the will of the Father, no weapon formed against us shall prosper.
Therefore be strong and courageous.
When Jesus sent out His disciples in His name, He instructed them,
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.
Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.
You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake,
as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.
But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak.
For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak;
for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.’
Let these words encourage your hearts today. We go in the same Spirit, for the same purpose and with the same result when we are led by His Spirit.
And finally, be encouraged:
'therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.'