Running Out of Numbing Solution: When Nothing in Life is Enough

emptiness

This has really been a tough season for me in so many different ways. I’ve never felt as low as I do right now, but I’ve never reached a greater epiphany than I have the past several days.

For the first time in my life, I’m experiencing what this whole theology of God being enough actually means.

I never believed it before.

Of course I would never say that out loud though.

God forbid I would actually share with someone that I don’t feel like God is enough.

But it’s real.

When I’m really honest with myself, I don’t think I’ve ever felt what it’s like for God to be enough for me.

Sure I try to make myself believe that He is.

I never directly think, God, You’re not enough for me.

My thoughts are much more clever and deceitful than that. My thoughts get me to trust in a feeling over what I know. I’ll think, Hmmm, maybe I’ll indulge in that and it will make me feel better. All the while, God is far from my mind in that particular moment of pleasure- indulgence.

It’s as if I’m saying, God might be enough…but if I had God and that then life would just be perfect.

I’ve been living with this mindset: God = happiness. But God + what I want = ecstatic happiness.

Uh oh.

This mindset is just not right.

I’ve never been convicted over it until now.

Inadvertently, my flesh has been tricking my mind into a pattern of running to something else in addition to God to make me feel better; therefore priming me to assume that God, by Himself, is not enough for me.

Even in my deepest moments or seasons of satisfaction in the Lord, I find myself running to pleasures that I just want to run to.

I can know everything there is to know about theology and the Bible, but if I feel a certain way, no amount of knowledge can change that. It just can’t. And I’m going to have to figure out a way to let my knowledge inform my feeling.

And for the past couple weeks I’ve been feeling really down.

I keep trying to medicate my feelings with things that usually make me feel better.

But this week has been difficult.

Something happened that has never happened quite as strongly before. It’s as if everything that I run to to make me feel better doesn’t work anymore.

This has never happened. Even in the past when I realize that something isn’t really enough there’s always something else. Or I end up going back to it again hoping that it will deliver like I want it to.

But this time, I can’t find anything to run to.

It’s all leaving me empty.

I have nothing anymore to numb my anxiety, my worry, my pain, to absolve myself of this emptiness I feel.

I’m running out of numbing solution.

Things that make me feel better. For me, it can be daydreaming, music, movies, busyness, lust, isolation, food, escaping… the list can go on and on.

But everything I’ve ran to over the past week hasn’t worked.

I keep having this thought: “…okay…what now? What did that solve?”

It didn’t fix my brokenness.

It didn’t heal me like I thought it would.

The weight of the brokenness of my life and the brokenness of this world is upon me right now. There’s so much pain here. So many people who need help. So many situations that just shouldn’t be. So many catastrophes in this world that don’t make sense. I see now that this life is not meant to satisfy me or anyone for that matter.

What’s the point of it all?

What is meant to satisfy us?

So I had an epiphany.

And while it has helped me drastically today, it also has potential to be depressing. So I have to make sure I articulate it correctly.

I’ve been looking at my life all wrong.

I keep looking for ways to satisfy myself.

Maybe that’s not the point.

Maybe I need to let go of that expectation to be satisfied.

Why?

Because I don’t have the fullness of what it’s like to have God be enough for me right now since I still live on the broken side of eternity.

I can’t get the full effect of what it’s like for God to be enough for me and be satisfied in Him right now in this life.

I have no clue what that will mean or what it will feel like.

Life is a constant reminder of what I don’t have. My body tells me that I don’t have enough to be happy. My mind tells me that I don’t have enough to be happy. My emotions tell me that I don’t have enough to be happy. My circumstances tell me that I don’t have enough to be happy. My pleasures aren’t enough. I see brokenness all around me.

Why?

All of that is pointing to something: a future hope.

Not a right-now hope.

A future hope.

Jesus coming back.

That’s it.

1 Peter 1:8 says, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” This is what I’m praying for myself and for others. That the hope of Jesus coming back would permeate every part of our lives with joy.

That is what I’m hoping in now.

Nothing else but Him.

I’m not hoping in this life to satisfy me anymore. I’m just not. I will focus on doing whatever He wants me to do for Him and striving to help somebody with whatever little I have left.

God wants me to understand something: nothing in this life is meant to be enough for me.

That’s why I’ve been coming up empty with everything I run to for pleasure.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this so strongly until now.

The promise of Jesus coming back one day is the only thing meant to be enough for us.

(Here are some verses talking about Jesus coming back: Matthew 24:30-31, 37-39; Luke 12:37-38; John 14:1-3; 1 Cor 1:7, 4:5; Col 3:4; 1 Thess 3:13; Hebrews 9:28; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 1:13, 2:12; 2 Peter 3:2, 8-10; rev 1:7-8, 3:11, 16:15, 22:12-13, 20-21).

I love Revelation chapter 1. I can’t get enough of it. I want to see Jesus so badly. And not just see Him, but be with Him. Right by his side. I don’t care what I have to do I just want the chance to be with Jesus wherever He is at in the New Heaven and New Earth. I’ve spent enough time away from Him and I just need Him now so bad.

I’m realizing that all I really have in terms of lasting pleasure is the hope that Jesus is coming back soon. And God had to take me to an all-time low to get this.

So now I have a different equation in my mind: Hope of Jesus coming back = happiness.

All I have is this promise.

So I’m living on a promise.

The promise that He is indeed coming back.

And that means I don’t need any more numbing solution. If I feel pain, brokenness, worry, heartache, anxiety, etc, that’s just a product of this fallen world. It’s inevitable. I can’t numb it anymore.

Because in the moments of feeling the weight of it, I am actually postured to recognize that God Himself is the only hope I have…so I must wait on His Son to come back. And little by little, as I start to train my mind to embrace this new equation of the hope of Jesus coming back as being enough to make me happy, I know that I will start to be at peace. It is freeing me from an unattainable hope I had formerly placed in myself and in empty pleasures.

I pray for you in the broken parts of your life and in the pain that makes you run to things for pleasure. I pray for God’s spirit of freedom and of release. I pray that when we start to doubt the promise that Jesus is coming back for us that the Holy Spirit would remind our hearts what’s true. I pray for joy to fall from heaven. I pray for strongholds to be broken. In the name of Jesus, may we stop running to numbing solution for what’s painful in our lives and simply let the promise of Jesus’ return be enough to sustain us. Thank You, Lord, that You are coming back for us soon. And when it’s hard, Lord, please have mercy on our weaknesses. We wait for You.

“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a Son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around His chest. 14 The hairs of His head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In His right hand He held seven stars, from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full strength.

17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.”

-Revelation 1:12-19-

Questions for Today:

  • Is it easy for me to run to various pleasures to numb certain feelings or pain in my life?
  • What are those things?
  • Do I ever feel satisfied from it? Why or why not?
  • Why do I not feel the full effect of God being enough for me in this life?
  • Why is it important that I not numb my pain but let it redirect me towards a future hope?
  • What is our future hope and why should that give us peace in this life?

“Holy Spirit” by Kari Jobe Carnes ft. Cody Carnes

Pain’s Family Reunion

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There’s a party at the Pain house tonight.

It’s a reunion, really.

A Pain family reunion.

It’s evening now and music is getting louder and louder, sounding into the streets as the pavement echoes the beat of the music. Thump thump sounds the bass coming from the house as the family members arrive all ready for the party. Cars line the streets and the house looks like it’s alive with flashing lights and laughter. You can see the party through the front windows of the house.

Some of the neighbors have already made arrangements to be out of the house this night. They’ve long given up fighting with the Pains over the loud music and debauchery. They went to knock on the door one time. They learned their lesson.

Neighbor 1 is a seasoned pro at this.

They just rolled into Chucky Cheese with the minivan. “Let’s play nicely now, kids,” says the dad who resembles the one on Leave it to Beaver, as he presses a button to close the portable DVD player playing Dora the Explorer in the car for the toddlers in the back seat. Night covered, he thinks to himself as he looks to his wife all decked out in white. And then it gets real. “Really, honey? You know they have pizza sauce here, right?” He reaches for the baby wipes. He’s not about to let year 4 in their streak of avoiding the Pain’s family reunion be a catastrophe. Oh, the qualms of a stain on white. He knows it’s the least of their worries.

Neighbor 2 is a little green.

Never mind that neighbor 1 already informed them of the Pain’s annual family reunion days ago. “Surely it can’t be that bad,” they say to each other. A pair of newlyweds who aren’t really concerned about the rowdiness of a little family reunion. They’re still euphoric from their Honeymoon in Cabo last week and they know a thing or two about loud music and Tequila. “Honey, why don’t we take the Pains a bottle of wine and a chocolate cake to say hello?” says the wife, who’s unawareness clouds her vision of any potential harm coming from this. “After all, we can’t avoid meeting our new neighbors forever.” Year 1 and already audacious. Oh, the delusion of a little optimism. They’ll learn.

Neighbor 3 couldn’t care less.

He’s a cynical old man. An old war veteran who stays up all night telling war stories to anyone helpless enough to join him for a glass of whiskey on the front porch. “You know son, why don’t you let me give you some real advice…” he’ll say, with that deep southern draw that make you feel like he’s got a lot of old-timey wisdom that has to be at least somewhat credible. Squeak squeak goes the wooden rocking chair that he likes to sit in on his front porch. And tonight he’ll be rocking along to whatever the Pain’s DJ has playing. Year 18 and he’s not bothered by their rowdiness one bit. He likes it. Oh, the pleasure of a deep-seeded ambivalence. He doesn’t let much get to him now.

Meanwhile, the party at 222 Pain Street is revving up its energy for the night.

It looks so alluring to the passers-by.

A group of boys in their teens drive by.

“Ooooooh look at that party over there,” says the boy driving his Dad’s Hummer. They have a bass in the back that enhances the stereo sound and they can’t help but nod their heads back and forth. “Let’s stop by…” says the bright-eyed teenagers looking for an outlet for all their adolescent energy.

Little do they know that Pains are waiting inside.

physical Pain.

relational Pain.

mental Pain.

emotional Pain.

All meddling together.

Waiting for someone they can feed on.

The one in charge of the group drives the Hummer down the long stretch of road trying to find a space.

There’s nowhere to park, let’s just go back home,” says Lincoln, the discerning one with brown eyes in the passenger seat.

I’m going to circle back around first and try again. There has to be a space somewhere,” says the driver, Kai, with windows down, eyeing the house where the party is at.

I don’t like this,” says Lincoln, the same one in shotgun.

We have to go in!” says Jess, the blue eyed boy in the back seat.

They just don’t get it, do they. Maybe I will just not saying anything anymore, Lincoln thinks to himself. Head down and worried that trouble is about to become their friend, he looks out the window to the flashing lights. Closer and closer they get to the house, and he can feel the car starting to move from the beat of the music.

The allure becomes stronger and stronger and they all become captivated by the people they see through the windows dancing, lights glimmering and music making the whole house seem like a buzz of entertainment.

“Look! I told you a space would open up!” says Kai, who’s blinded by the trouble about to ensue.

Beep beep!! There’s a yellow sports car with horns on the logo pulling out in front of them. The driver is signaling to them with his hand out the window to come and park in his space. And he’s looking back at them with a devilish look in his eye. He drives away slowly.

“Alright, let’s go boys,” says the Hummer driver, Kai, who struggles to parallel park and hits the car in front of them. His eagerness is getting the best of him. “Well that’s the problem with big cars, guys, but it looks good, doesn’t it?” The others are not convinced.

“Maybe next time we should just take my mom’s Volkswagon Beetle?” says the quiet one, Stan, who hasn’t spoken up till now.

Kai looks at him in confusion.

“Girls like Hummers, Stan,” says Kai. “At least that’s what my dad says. But what does he know… He’s divorced.”

Tears start to well up in his eyes as he tries to not let the other guys see. He shakes it off, moving his head around and fumbling with his keys as he locks the Hummer door. “We’ll think about it Stan.”

Bump bump bump goes the rhythm of the music as they make their way toward the front door. There’s an uneasiness about this place that’s starting to become apparent and there’s something about the faces through the window that doesn’t look real.

Neighbor 3 is looking on from across the street.

“Uh oh. Those boys are in for hell of a…”

Crash! goes the glass mason jar falling from his hand. He falls off his rocking chair passing out from the 5th drink he’s had since the Pain family reunion on-looking began.

Screeeeeeech…..goes the front door of the Pain’s house.

“Why hello there, boys.”

“Welcome to the Pain Family Reunion. I’m Mrs. Pain,” says the lady greeting at the door. She has a forced smile that makes her look almost evil despite her long eyelashes and flowing long hair. She’s wearing a green dress fitted too tightly and her hands have long fingernails with horn designs on them, just like the ones they saw on the back of the yellow sports car in from of them a few minutes ago.

“Come on inside and let me introduce you to the family…”

The boys look around and shadows bend around the room like ghosts.

The smiles they saw in the windows are gone.

There’s no one dancing.

No music.

Just eerie silence and sizzling noises coming from something like smoke settling near the ceiling.

What is this place!?” they think to themselves but don’t dare to say out loud. They know they are in trouble. Hearts pounding. Sweat starting to drip. They look at each other and over at the front door to signal an escape.

Mrs. Pain is eyeing them with a vicious look as her lips keep smiling at them wickedly.

“You see, we’re all about the human experience here in the Pain family. We like to exploit our patients for the betterment of their sense of reality. We wouldn’t want you to get the idea that you can actually be happy and peaceful in this life now would we.”

She starts to laugh with a sharp splintering sound of laughter as she lifts her hands to craft something out of the smoke.

A body appears.

It has eyes that burn with fury and a shroud of agony cloaks him like a garment. He hands are rough and peeling from some kind of physical labor.

Then another body appears.

He has a twisted look on his face and a chuckle that slightly resembles Mrs. Pain. He keeps dancing in place lifting one foot of the ground then the other, like some kind of jig. He has a sick look in his eye.

Then a 3rd body appears.

His arms are strong and muscular, like he must work out or so some kind of heavy lifting. He’s wearing glasses and has a puzzled look on his face, like he’s in deep meditation or thought. Arms crossed and face stern, he doesn’t look confident in whatever he’s thinking about.

Then a 4th body appears.

He has long flowing hair and a seductive smile on his face. Tall and lean, his physical appearance is appealing. He won’t make eye contact with Mrs. Pain but he keeps eyeing the boys in front of him. Perhaps he thinks he can get to them before they know too much.

The boys start to shake at the sight of all this.

“What is going on here?” demands Lincoln. “We thought there was a party. Nothing in here looks the way it did to us outside.”

Mrs. Pain puts her arm around Lincoln’s shoulder and starts to gaze at all four of them.

“You see, boys, this isn’t just any old get-together. No, no… This is a family reunion. A family reunion of pain. And these are my most masterful soldiers of pain. They know how to inflict the four most brutal kinds of pain that humans experience. And with more pain, comes more resentment of that wretched One in the Sky who we seek to devour. There will be no mention of His Name here!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Shrieeeeeek!!! she shouts at them for the first time, raising her voice and cracking the chandeliers that rest below the ceiling but aren’t shining.

“If you mention His Name, you will surely die. I guarantee you that,” Mrs. Pain threatens as she looks each boy in the eye with a grimacing look and then immediately changes to a forced smile and a fake tender voice.

“Now, to my soldiers…”

Mrs. Pain walks toward the first body in the smoke.

“Let’s leave!” Stan whispers and the other boys nod their heads in agreement as they all try to make a run for it while Mrs. Pain is distracted.

But when they try to run to the door, they can’t move.

Their feet are stuck in place.

Each one tries to jump and then pulls at his pant leg to try to move out of position but their feet won’t budge.

“I think we’re stuck here! What has she done to us? How are we going to leave!?”says Kai, the one who was driving the Hummer.

“Try to unlace your shoes and let’s just get out of here!” says Lincoln, who knew from the beginning this was trouble. “She may not see us through all this smoke.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Pain walks toward the first body to introduce him.

“This is Physical Pain. My most dependable Pain soldier…” says Mrs. Pain as she comes around to massage his shoulders.

“He may not be the most damaging, but I can always count on Physical Pain to inflict a solid hurt on somebody. He lingers long enough to inflict his usual blows and then bails without leaving a remedy. Always reliable. Nice job, Physical Pain.” She pats him on his shoulders and releases her hands, starting to walk over to the next body.

The boys are looking up towards her through the cloud of smoke and unlacing their shoes. “Hurry, hurry we need to get out before she sees us!”

“Allow me to introduce you to Relational Pain,” Mrs. Pain says as she looks straight at him and his sickening grin.

This one is of my own flesh and blood. I taught him well. He usually makes an appearance at the party after he gets to know you. He likes to bring a friend with him like he always does, one who will stir the pot and make the air really tense. He plants seeds of misunderstanding between people. Then he channels it into resentment and annoyance. He’s gifted like that. That’s why I’ve nicknamed him ‘sick and twisted.’ Love you, pumpkin.” Mrs. Pain squeezes his cheeks and they both join in a bizarre kind of laughter.

“My feet aren’t coming out of my shoes! What do I do!?” Stan says as the other boys look at each other with fear in their eyes.

“Mine aren’t either.”

“Yeah, me neither!”

Lincoln suggests another plan.

“Ummmm, okay. Next plan. Try to take off your socks. If our feet are stuck and our shoes are stuck, then maybe we can free our feet and get away by getting straight out of the socks.” They all nod in agreement.

Mrs. Pain walks over to the next body behind the veil of smoke to the one with glasses and strong arms.

“Now this is my second most powerful Pain…Mental Pain. When he comes to the reunion he likes to break down the front door. He can’t wait long enough for someone to answer the doorbell. He always lets impatience get the best of him and his condition is contagious. He’s the smart one in the family, and he knows how to get people to overanalyze things and  question the One in the Sky. He always fuels worry and anxiety in my patients. He is very useful to me for that. Depression starts to set in with him a lot. I have to be very careful with how I use him. Keep at it, Mental Pain. You do good work.” Mrs. Pain rests her hand on his face and looks him in the eye with one of the most sincere looks she’s had till now. There’s something strange about her relationship with Mental Pain. She seems to really love him.

Mrs. Pain has been so wrapped up in her Pain soldiers, she just now notices the boys’ escape efforts.

She glides over towards them through the veil of smoke.

“Now, now, boys there is no point in you trying to break free from my humble abode. You can’t break free from my power. You’re in my domain now!!!” she shouts at them with a vicious loud voice that is different from how she was talking before.

Her eyes turn a menacing green and the Pain soldiers start to take steps forward to where she is standing, as if they are going to torture the boys right then and there.

“Please go back to your positions, Pain soldiers, I am in control of this situation. If I need you, I will alert you.”

They step backward in an orderly fashion. She recovers herself and her eyes morph into a soft blue color while her face returns to a forced smile.

“Listen here, my boys, my lovely boys…” She smiles at them cunningly walking over gracefully. “You are stuck here whether you like it or not.”

There is a pause.

Then she leans in with red in her eyes and a fiery look on her face that they had not seen before, with her voice reserved and firm.

“If you keep trying to escape my family reunion that you yourself decided to join, I will not relent in letting my Pain soldiers do whatever they want to you. And believe me, they don’t have the emotion of compassion like humans do. They will not relent in torturing you.”

The boys look over at each other as the fear that was formerly in their eyes now turns to despair.

Mrs. Pain walks back over to the last body.

“What are we going to do?!” Jess whispers to the other boys. “We should have never stopped by this party. We’re going to die here. She’s never going to let us go! I’m tired of this Pain family. I want to go home.”

After hearing him, Lincoln, the discerning one with brown eyes sits down.

He begins to think.

He begins to pray.

“Now this is my most lethal weapon…Emotional Pain.” Mrs. Pain winks at him and gets close to his face. She begins to run her fingernails through his hair.

“Emotional Pain eased his way in the backdoor this time, now didn’t you, e.p.? He’s good at that. You see, over time, my patients know from experience not to let him in. They know that he is a sly one. But He sneaks in every time. Always unexpectedly. And he always wears a disguise of beauty and allure with my patients. He’s smooth. He knows how to make you feel special and happy and wanted. They usually forget about how he wrecked them last time and so they end up giving him access to their emotions. Once he has access to all the brain chemicals, he’s in control. He can rip someone apart through their emotions. Even get them to the point where they don’t want to live. He wants you to be so emotional that you can’t think straight. Then you won’t be effective at anything. You won’t want to do anything. You will sulk in your tears and You will despise the One in the Sky. He’ll make you a nervous wreck. He is oh so gifted at that and he doesn’t care about decency. I can get him to do almost anything to someone once he has their emotions. Exceptional work, Emotional Pain.” Mrs. Pain keeps caressing his head and leans in to kiss him but pulls away. Hahahaha, Mrs. Pain chuckles with an evil look in her eye, laughing violently and indecently. Then all the sudden her form starts to transform into something other than a woman.

Globs of her hair fall out as molten lava.

Her skin begins to melt, like a candle falling away from her face.

Her fingernails grow longer and her body looks like a monster. More smoke starts to fill the room.

“But even something as lethal as Emotional Pain doesn’t have control over me! My soldiers do what they’re told! No one tells me what to do!”

Mrs. Pain starts to get taller and taller as her body morphs from the body of the woman in the green dress to a devilish figure with a man’s voice and a shroud of red smoke all around him. Smoke keeps filling…the soldiers start to move forward…they are all looking at the boys as if they are the next victims to be inflicted with pain…they keep moving closer…and closer…and closer…and they reach out with their arms to grab the heads of the boys stuck in place…and then…

“Stop!”

“The Name of Jesus!”

“The Name of Jesus!”

The Pain soldiers stop.

Lincoln stands up. He starts yelling the name of Jesus at the top of his lungs.

“The Name of Jesus!”

The Pain soldiers are halted in place.

Lincoln turns to the other boys.

“She said that the Name of the One in the sky is not welcome here. I know that Jesus is the One she is talking about. Maybe if we say His name He will rescue us from this death! It’s our only chance!” The boys look at each other in awe.

“That’s it.” They say to each other.

Holy crap that’s it.”

They start saying His name too.

“The Name of Jesus!”

“The Name of Jesus!”

“Be silent, be silent, I told you His Name is not welcome here!!!!! Be silent now!!!!!!!” says the devilish figure that used to be Mrs. Pain as she slowly loses shape and the smoke starts to clear the room.

The Pain soldiers are still stuck in place.

They can’t move.

They are trying to reach out to grab the boys but now they are the ones that can’t move.

“It’s working, it’s working. Keep saying the Name of Jesus,” says Lincoln.

“The Name of Jesus!”

“The Name of Jesus!”

Boom!!!

A loud sound echoes throughout the whole house.

All the sudden what was left of Mrs. Pain disappears.

And she is gone.

The smoke is gone.

The shadows are gone.

There is a bright light shining through the window.

The front door opens.

And the boys can move.

They are free.

The biggest threat is gone.

But the Pain soldiers are still there.

They didn’t disappear.

Their mouths are moving but there are no words coming out.

They cannot speak.

“I cannot believe what has just happened…we can move now all the sudden…we have been rescued by the One in the Sky…let’s go! Let’s get out of here!” says Kai, Jess and Stan as they are so relieved.

But Lincoln looks over at the Pain soldiers.

And he has compassion on them.

“I’m sorry for what Mrs. Pain has done to you. I pray that you will be free from the pain she has put on you.”

And Lincoln walks towards them, and he touches them.

Each one, he touches.

Lincoln says, “I ask God, the One in the Sky, Jesus, to not take away the pain, but to heal each one of you from the oppression that has been inflicted upon you because of it. May you be healed.”

Then the four Pain soldiers suddenly change back into life-filled, normal human beings, teens about the same age as Lincoln, Kai, Jess and Stan.

They look tired and weary. But relieved. They nod to say thank you. Lincoln nods back. And the four of them walk out the front door.

Lincoln and the rest of the boys, shocked and shaken, also walk out of the front door and make their way back home.

There’s a minivan pulling into the driveway a few houses down.

And a young couple walking across the street.

“Hmmm, I wonder who that couple is taking that bottle of wine and cake to?…”

They look each other and don’t say a word.

Vowing to never to return to another Pain family reunion.

Getting to Know Jesus: Matthew 10

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Continuing on in our study of Matthew’s gospel, we reach chapter 10 in which Jesus begins equipping His newly found disciples with instructions, warnings and encouragements concerning their ministry from here on out.

In chapter 9 we left off with Jesus talking to His disciples about the importance of reaching people with His message who need and want God.

Now in chapter 10, Jesus equips the disciples to do so.

In verse 1, Jesus gathers His disciples together. He starts by empowering them with the same power He has. He empowers them with His own authority that comes from God to be able to cast out demons and heal diseases.

This is very significant that He gives the disciples His own authority. It’s like a transfer or a transfusion of authority. And it comes straight from God. This is significant because many other false prophets and false messiahs went around during this time healing people and performing miracles. But the key difference is that they were not performing those acts by God’s authority. Rather, it was demonic power at work. Satanic authority. These false disciples did everything in their own name to bring themselves glory. But now, Jesus’ disciples will carry out all of these powers in God’s name, not their own name. And others will see God because of it. We will see how this leads people to belief in God and furthers evangelism.

Matthew gives us a list of all Jesus’ disciples in verses 2-4, performing his duty as a trusty author and providing the new characters in this story.

In verse 5 and following down to verse 42, Jesus continues equipping His 12 disciples with all they need for what they are going to be doing now as His followers.

In verses 6-15, Jesus equips His disciples in their approach by instructing them only to go to “the lost sheep of Israel” and not to the Gentiles or Samaritans.

Some may read this verse and assume that Jesus didn’t care about the Gentiles or the Samaritans.

But there is something else going on here.

Jesus sends them to Israel first because God has set it up like this: Jesus can only save the Gentiles, or other nations, through Israel. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, the one that Israel has been waiting for since Genesis 3:15, which says that the promised Son would come to fix the problem of sin and death in the world that was initiated in the garden of Eden through the sin of Adam and Eve. So Jesus has to take His message to the Jews first. Why? So that the Jews will reject Him and end up killing Him. God needs for Israel to reject and kill Jesus all for the sake of Jesus sacrificing Himself for the sins of both the Jews and the people of the whole world.

As we progress further in Matthew’s gospel we will see this play out. Then the Gentiles will be the next group that the disciples are instructed to reach in chapter 28 and that will continue into the book of Acts.

In verses 16-25, Jesus equips His disciples’ expectations by preparing them with the reality that persecution is inescapable.

Jesus says they will be like “sheep in the midst of wolves” so He exhorts them to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” in verse 16.

This duality of wisdom and innocence is Jesus’ only advice for them in their vulnerability.

That really sticks out to me. Jesus could have given them any kind of advice that He wanted to. He knows that they are going to face threats, danger and harm as they go out to preach and perform miracles. Yet He simply tells them to be wise and innocent. This mirrors Jesus’ own heart of meekness and gentleness as He always embraces a posture of humility in the way that He interacts with other people, even in potential dangerous situations.

He doesn’t tell them to be defensive and overbearing with those that will try to persecute them. Yet He knows that they will face danger.

Jesus says “you will be dragged before governors and kings for My sake…brother will deliver brother over to death…children will rise against parents and have them put to death…you will be hated by all for my names’ sake…when they persecute in one town, flee to the next…” (selections from verses 18-23).

It is astounding to me that Jesus doesn’t equip His disciples with more defense strategies for the danger they are going to face. Rather, He expects them to remain as “sheep.” He doesn’t tell them to change who they are and try to be “like bears in the midst of wolves.” He knows they are like sheep and He is okay with that. He wants that.

Jesus wants them to practice wisdom and innocence in threatening situations.

He cares about their posture of humility with an enemy more than their protection from the enemy’s persecution.

Humility over protection.

Heart purity over physical safety.

This goes back to chapter 5 where Jesus talked about the significance of the purity of the heart. Wow. I love how Jesus remains so consistent in His theology. And Matthew does a great job by including this in the narrative so that we as the readers can make this connection. Jesus cares about the heart more than anything else and He makes sure that He equips His disciples with what He would require from a pure heart. Wisdom and innocence. Jesus really is beautiful. He is unlike anything else. How powerful is this passage.

In verses 26-33, Jesus equips His disciples in their minds by encouraging them that there is no reason to fear.

Jesus’ reassurance that God is sovereign and that “nothing is covered that will not be revealed” in verse 26 encourages the disciples that even when they do face threatening situations, God still sees their situation and will not forget them.

Jesus also reminds the disciples that mortal man does not have the ability to kill the soul. He says, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both the body and the soul in hell.” Jesus reminds His disciples that fearing man is the wrong kind of fear. They can’t fear man because man has no power over them ultimately. God is the only one with the power over a soul.

Jesus wants His disciples to be confident in this so that they will not be defeated by fear when they start to face intense persecutions.

At this point, if I was a disciple, I would be getting a little overwhelmed by all Jesus is preparing me for!

I wouldn’t feel ready for the job of being sent out to preach the message to Israel knowing I’m going to be persecuted and face all kinds of threats that Jesus is forewarning about.

But Jesus is so kind and comforting.

He is aware of this potential subconscious fear.

And he handles it.

Jesus tells them that ultimately, their acceptance before Him and before God only depends on 1 thing and it’s not their ability to succeed in all Jesus is asking. Not at all.

It’s this: acknowledging Jesus before men.

That’s it.

If the disciples acknowledge Jesus, then Jesus will acknowledge them before God.

They don’t have to worry about their performance in trying to make sure they please Jesus in accomplishing all of this. They just need to acknowledge Jesus as Lord as He tells them in verses 32-33. And they will be safe. They don’t have to fear. They will be known by Jesus and Jesus will make them known before God. This probably took a lot of pressure off of the disciples to feel like they had to be perfect in accomplishing Jesus’ mission. Jesus is so smart in how He helps them to not fear. He doesn’t just tell them not to fear. He gives them a pretty dang good reason why they don’t need to fear. And this is so good. Jesus is so caring.

In verses 34-39, Jesus equips His disciples by declaring the inevitable reality of disorder and strife as a result of this mission of God.

Now that Jesus has finally come on the scene declaring that the kingdom of God is at hand and that God is about to do something big, there is going to be a lot of push-back in the story from those who don’t want Jesus or God.

A lot of opposition.

A lot of resistance.

All from the enemy, Satan, who doesn’t want God to do what he knows is coming.

Satan knows it. And He will try to breed strife and disunity among people while God is in the process of birthing redemption through Jesus.

We will see this take place in Matthew’s gospel, but we also see this taking place in every other book in the Bible and in our world today. Satan has been allowed to rule here until Jesus finally comes back again to put him away for good. But that’s for another study.

Yet, Jesus encourages His disciples to not be like all these people who proliferate strife. He says, “whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of me.” This is powerful. I’ve never understood this verse more clearly than I do now in this passage context… Why did Jesus just tell us that there will be strife between people, even among family members and then he immediately changes the subject and says you must take up your cross? Wait, what? Why? Well, this correlation has become so clear now. I just love it! Even though it’s not easy to do, but what He’s saying is so good…

So what Jesus is trying to get us to see is that people cause strife when they are selfishly wanting their own way and disagreeing over things, (i.e. belief in following God). So if someone disagrees with another and causes strife, they are not taking up their cross but are rather holding on to their own will and their own self-independence – both of which Jesus requires us to give up, for His sake. Jesus says that such a person is “not worthy” of Him and they will actually “lose their life” by trying to hold onto it. Peace will not be accessible to the person who tries to maintain their own autonomy. It will be a lifeless, miserable existence.

Jesus just conveyed why it is important to take up our cross, or the discomfort of denying ourselves our own will and desires, so that we might actually find life in Him.

This requires trust obviously because it won’t happen overnight. But Jesus is trying to get His disciples to see the benefits of following Him and laying down their own lives. God will be the One to give them life that is meaningful and joyful since He is the One in charge and has all the resources.

Dang. Jesus is freaking smart in His verbal and logical persuasion.

In verses 40-42, Jesus equips His disciples by reminding them that God will reward those who welcome them.

This is an encouragement because if the disciples know that God is on alert to bless those who are welcoming them, they can rest assured that God sees them and will provide people for them along their journey.

Jesus also wants His disciples to remember that being sent out to Israel is going to be a collaborative effort.

His mission to preach and heal and seek out the lost sheep of Israel not only requires the obedience of His disciples, but also the obedience of others to join in this cause with God. Jesus is all about collaboration and utilizing resources to accomplish His purposes, while seeking to impact as many people as possible – both the people that He is seeking out and the people that are joining in this mission with Him and His disciples through giving, hospitality, prayer, and encouragement. And Jesus promises that they will be rewarded for all they contribute in God’s mission.

As we end chapter 10 of Matthew’s gospel, we can look back and see how Jesus is preparing His disciples for something big.

They are the ones that Jesus has chosen to assist Him in initiating God’s plan for redemption in the world, and that can only happen if Jesus and His disciples seek out Israel first in order that Jesus will be rejected and killed by Israel, His own people.

We will keep reading to see what happens next in chapter 11 after Jesus is finished talking with His disciples. In chapter 11, we will run into John the Baptist again, the one we read about in chapter 2. Until then, may we learn more about Christ in Matthew’s gospel and fall more in love with our beautiful Savior, appreciating the scriptures we have now to learn more about Him.


Summary of Matthew 10

Jesus gathers His 12 disciples together; Jesus begins to equip His disciples for the work that He has for them to do in being sent out to the lost people of Israel; Jesus equips His disciples by preparing them for persecution, encouraging them not to fear; reminding them that strife and disorder is unavoidable, yet God is in control and He will reward those who join with Him in His mission of the world’s redemption through Jesus.

Jesus in Matthew 10

Jesus gathers his 12 disciples over to him (v. 1)

Jesus equips His disciples for what He is about to send them to do (v. 1)

Jesus is intentional (v. 1)

Jesus always equips before He sends (v. 1)

Jesus gives His 12 disciples authority over unclean spirts (v. 1)

Jesus gives His 12 disciples authority to cast out unclean spirits (v. 1)

Jesus gives His 12 disciples authority to heal every disease and affliction (v. 1)

Jesus transfuses to the disciples His own authority from God (v. 1)

Jesus is going to send out His 12 disciples (v. 5)

Jesus instructs His disciples before He sends them (v. 5)

Jesus is a good leader (v. 5)

Jesus is a preparer (v. 5)

Jesus tells them to not to go the gentiles or the Samaritans (v. 5)

Jesus tells them to only go to the lost sheep of Israel (v. 6)

Jesus must go to Israel before He can reach the Gentiles (v. 6)

Jesus tells them what He wants them to say (v. 7)

Jesus tells them to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand (v. 7)

Jesus tells them to heal the sick (v. 8)

Jesus tells them to raise the dead (v. 8)

Jesus tells them to cleanse the lepers (v. 8)

Jesus tells them to cast out demons (v. 8)

Jesus is confident in His disciples (v. 8)

Jesus instructs them to give and not expect pay (v. 8)

Jesus is selfless (v. 8)

Jesus doesn’t seek gain for Himself (v. 8)

Jesus wants his disciples to do likewise (v. 8)

Jesus commands them to not receive gold or silver or copper for themselves (v. 9)

Jesus commands them not to take a bag for their journey or clothes (v. 10)

Jesus encourages them to work for their food (v. 10)

Jesus instructs them to find a worthy person in the town or village they visit and stay there (v. 11)

Jesus instructs them to enter the house and greet it (v. 12)

Jesus instructs them to bless the house if it is worthy and to not bless it if it is not worthy (v. 13)

Jesus tells them that if anyone will not receive them to forget about it (v. 15)

Jesus talks of the day of judgement (v. 15)

Jesus keeps the future in mind (v. 15)

Jesus reminds them that God will avenge (v. 15)

Jesus informs them that he is sending them out like sheep among wolves (v. 16)

Jesus knows the danger (v. 16)

Jesus doesn’t try to coddle them (v. 16)

Jesus doesn’t give them defense strategies either (v. 16)

Jesus tells them to be wise as serpents (v. 16)

Jesus tells them to be innocent as doves (v. 16)

Jesus gives simple yet powerful advice in how to handle persecution (v. 16)

Jesus warns (v. 17)

Jesus know how they will be treated by men because of Him (v. 17-18)

Jesus lets his disciples know what is coming (v. 17-18)

Jesus tells them to not be anxious about what to say when assaulted (v. 19)

Jesus comforts them that they will be given by the Holy Spirit what to say in that moment (v. 19)

Jesus always redirects them back to trust in God (v. 19)

Jesus warns of household division (v. 21)

Jesus warns that they will be hated because of His name (v. 22)

Jesus promises them that they will be saved in the end if they endure (v. 22)

Jesus instructs them to flee to the next town when persecuted (v. 23)

Jesus needs them to remain alive so that God’s will can be carried out in full (v. 23)

Jesus also has to remain alive until the proper time He will be crucified (v. 23)

Jesus teaches hierarchy and servanthood (v. 24)

Jesus encourages them to not fear those who persecute them (v. 26)

Jesus comforts (v. 26)

Jesus promises that evil actions will be exposed eventually (v. 26)

Jesus instructs them to preach widely these teachings that He’s telling them (v. 27)

Jesus wants them to partner with them in sharing His message (v. 27)

Jesus encourages them to not fear those who try to harm them (v. 28)

Jesus reminds them that mortal man cannot kill their souls (v. 28)

Jesus exhorts them to fear the One who can kill the soul and the body in hell (v. 28)

Jesus reminds them that God is in control of all (v. 28)

Jesus shows them how God is in charge of every small detail that happens in the world (v. 29)

Jesus tells them God knows the number of hairs on each one’s head (v. 30)

Jesus reveals God’s intimate knowledge of all people individually (v. 30)

Jesus tells them to not fear (v. 31)

Jesus conveys to them that they are more precious than sparrows (v. 31)

Jesus knows people (v. 31)

Jesus cares about people (v. 31)

Jesus teaches that He will acknowledge before God the Father those who acknowledge Him here on earth (v. 32)

Jesus reminds His disciples that their performance is not what’s most important but rather their acknowledgement of Jesus as God before men (v. 32)

Jesus needs His disciples to understand this before they can be sent out (v. 32)

Jesus locates God the Father as being in Heaven (v. 32)

Jesus teaches that He will deny those who deny Him (v. 33)

Jesus is straight-forward (v. 32-33)

Jesus is not confusing (v. 32-33)

Jesus is not just about bringing “peace” (v. 34)

Jesus brings a “sword” (v. 34)

Jesus causes families to be divided because some will choose to follow Him and others will deny Him, even within the same household (v. 35-36)

Jesus causes division (v. 35-36)

Jesus is polarizing (v. 35-36)

Jesus brings out the true heart in people, whether for Him or against Him (v. 36)

Jesus teaches that those who love their family members more than Him is not a true follower of Him (v. 37)

Jesus expects 100% devotion (v. 37)

Jesus expects 100% of our love (v. 37)

Jesus wants to be priority in our lives (v. 37)

Jesus declares that a person is not worthy of the love He would give them if He is not his or her first love (v. 37)

Jesus instructs them to take up their cross and follow Him (v. 38)

Jesus tells them that anyone not willing to do this is not worthy of Him (v. 38)

Jesus plainly tells them that whoever gives up his own life to follow Him will find it (v. 39)

Jesus plainly tells them that whoever keeps his life for himself will lose it (v. 39)

Jesus brings people to a point of decision (v. 39)

Jesus is not satisfied with half-heartedness (v. 39)

Jesus expects us to choose one way or the other if we are going to follow Him or not (v. 39)

Jesus is serious (v. 39)

Jesus is blunt (v. 39)

Jesus requires sacrifice of our own lives (v. 39)

Jesus expects a lot (v. 39)

Jesus wants to give us freedom and life and this can only happen when we belong to Him completely (v. 39)

Jesus encourages the disciples that those who welcome them also welcome Him (v. 40)

Jesus encourages them that those who welcome them also welcome God (v. 40)

Jesus’ reception by others reveals if those others are followers of God or not (v. 40)

Jesus promises that those who welcome others for who they are to God will be rewarded for it (v. 41)

Jesus promises that those who see even small children and meet their need will be rewarded (v. 41)

Jesus notices people (v. 41)

Jesus wants us to also notice people (v. 41)

Jesus rewards those who notice and care for people (v. 41)

Jesus is generous (v. 41)

“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…

whoever finds his life will lose it,

and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

-Matthew 10:37 & 39-

 

Questions for Today:

  • Why does Jesus equip the disciples in this passage?
  • What is He preparing them for?
  • What are the two things Jesus tells His disciples they need when they face persecution?
  • Why is this significant?
  • Is the disciples’ performance more important to Jesus or their acknowledgement of Him as God?
  • What does Jesus promise the disciples if they take up their cross and lose their life to follow Him?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“The Wondrous Cross” by Christy Nockels