Mt. 10:28 “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Do you notice the panic in the faces of many around you at work, the store, and even at home and church? May I preface the comments of this post with the following concession: I am not a medical expert and would refer you to those who are qualified to speak to the physical aspects of the current COVID-19 virus that our world is navigating right now. With that being said, as a pastor and counselor, I am concerned that we may lose the soul of our faith in the process of trying to sincerely inoculate our body and the bodies of our loved ones.
In Matthew 10, Jesus gives instructions to the apostles in the past (vv. 1–15), the ministers of the future Tribulation period (vv. 16–23), and God’s servants today (vv. 24–42). Instructions that are timeless and insightful for followers of Him for such a time as this.
May I give you a few timely thoughts from the lips of Jesus that are especially relevant in this day of heightened fears:
Remember that God has conquered all kinds of fear-fueling struggles in the past.
In verse one of this chapter Matthew records, “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” Wow! What power in the past! Note the change from “disciples” (those who learn) in v. 1 to “apostles” (those who are sent) in v. 2. These twelve were the first missionaries. Christ gave them the divine power they needed to do His work, for He always equips those whom He calls into service. The names then listed in verses two and following where of men of “like passions” whom the power of Jesus transformed into bold preachers and miracles workers to affirm the gospel claims of the Savior. These men where not super-saints, but those who had to struggle through the same fears you and I have and yet, by the grace of God, “turned the world upside down” with the gospel (Ac 17:6). (An agenda that is what we should be pursuing with a world that processing all they feel, think, and say from a way to earthy perspective.)
The tendency when we are overwhelmed with fear is to put too much weight upon the dim, human projections and prognosticators of the future. When the place to begin for the Christ-following believer is the past! Even a cursory review of Scripture refreshes our heart with this irrevocable realization: there is no limit to the purview of Christ’s power! We did not get to where we are today, with all of its threats, on our own. We are part of an eternal and redemptive plan that was formed in the heavens and has stood up repeatedly to all-out, annihilation kind of threats since the dawn of human history. And…God’s people, no matter how they naturally felt, have not only survived but thrived! As Solomon dedicated the temple, he brazenly declared for the world to hear, “Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant” (1 Ki. 8:56).
Anticipate that God will sustain His people, in contrast with our current challenges, through much darker days that these in the future.
It is not unusual for Bible writers to leap from one period to another without warning. Here Jesus looks down through history and sees those who will be His witnesses during the Tribulation period. According to Wiersbe, “These verses do not apply to the 12 Apostles for several reasons: (1) Verse 5 forbids them to go to the Gentiles, while v. 18 says they will be witnesses to the Gentiles. (2) The Spirit could not speak in them until after Christ had been crucified and raised from the dead (see John 14:17). (3) Verses 22–23 parallel 24:9, 13, where they definitely apply to the end time.” Why would Jesus tell His disciples then and preserve for His disciples now these verses that will primarily apply to a future generation of believers? Could it be to provide a long-view, bigger context in which to rightly process the immediate challenges of living out our faith in the first and twenty-first centuries?
While I am not minimizing the current health and economic risks in our world, it is concerning how easily we lose our confidence and retreat to “the world is ending” bunker-at least emotionally. May I remind you that God is faithful to fulfill all of His promises. If there are unfulfilled ones that have been committed to by the immutable God, then the end is not yet…no matter what others may say or you may feel. Just as importantly, your present life, with all of its challenges, is a carefully orchestrated part of the story God is writing that culminates with the final chapter chocked full of divine glory and reconciliation that will never end! This was the secret to Paul’s tenacity, come what may, “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Ti. 1:1-3).
Trust that God is worthy to be relied upon during the horizontal threats in the present.
Please note that He returns to the word “disciple” and that He does not limit it to the Jew only. This passage contains encouragement and instruction for His followers today. We are learners (disciples) and laborers (servants). He warns against the fear of man (vv. 25–31). He assures us that men treated Him the same way and that it is a privilege for us to suffer for His sake. Verse 28 is not talking about Satan, for he does not have the power to destroy body and soul in hell. God does, and Christ tells us to fear Him and Him alone. When you fear God, you need fear no thing and no one else! (This fear of soul-destruction should drive us not only to personal sanctification but public evangelism of those who are too worried about the body’s immediate well-being to consider where their soul will spend eternity!)
As Bob Goff put it, “The way we deal with uncertainty lets us know whether Jesus is ahead of us leading, or behind us just carrying our stuff.” Our heightened levels of fear may evidence healthy discernment and caution, but they also may be indicative of a low ebb in our fear of God who not only is Sovereign of our bodies but also our souls. As someone recently shared with me in a text thread, “People who do not read and believe the Bible and worship God daily are subject to believe virtually everything that is repeated in the media and act accordingly. Those of us who know the truth are not moved by the word because we have the victory over the world, the flesh and the devil.” We win…not just in the future but now in the name of Jesus! As Paul reminds us, “Nay in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Ro. 8:37).
Do you perceive how our fears are directly related to how we view our time here on planet earth. “Is this the end?” “Will we live to see tomorrow?” “Will I have enough food, money, etc. to outlive this threat?” And the list of temporal-oriented, fear-driven questions goes on and on in my heart and yours? Do we allow the often well-meaning but destabilizing words of man alone to shape our view of current threats? Or do we allow the words of Jesus to provide the grander context in which our few years are lived out? We are not here in the present tense to gain the world or overly guard our portion of it; we are here to “trust and obey” Jesus until He sends for us. Matthew 8:36 reminds us, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Stay focused by fearing the God we each will soon stand before and give an account of what we have done in our body.
2 Co 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
May I end by introducing you to a dear, Christ-grounded man named Henry Martyn. He was a missionary to the peoples of India and Persia during the 1800’s, perilous times to say the least. Martyn arrived in India in April, 1806, where he preached and occupied himself in the study of linguistics. He translated the whole of the New Testament and several portions of the Old Testament into multiple languages. He was often quoted as saying, “I am immortal until God’s work for me to do is done.” While boldly pursuing that sacred work, Martyn was suddenly seized with the feverous plague that was raging all around him. Before his death in 1812, he wrote his final journal entry on October 6. It read, in part:
“Oh! when shall time give place to eternity? When shall appear that new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness? There, there shall in no wise enter in any thing that defileth: none of that wickedness which has made men worse than wild beasts, none of those corruptions which add still more to the miseries of mortality, shall be seen or heard of any more.“
What perspective for our feeble minds and fainting hearts that are contemplating whether to falter toward God or feel He has quit upon us! I don’t know what the days ahead hold for us, but I do know a God that knows the bounds of our habitation and will see us through by His grace and for His glory. Will you join me in allowing Jesus to ground our hearts, minds, and influence with His soothing, steadying perspective-one unquestionably shaped and colored by the fixed, glorious context of eternity (Re. 21:1-5)?