+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Having admonished his disciples regarding the sin of worry, Jesus turned to them and said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It’s but a handful of words, but they’re words that give our troubled souls great peace and hope, particularly as we venture forth into a world filled uncertainty and turmoil.
Just this past week we talked in Bible Class about Jesus’ promise in Matthew 16, that the “gates of hell would never prevail against His church.” These too are words that give our troubled souls great peace and hope. They remind us, indeed, they assure us that God is in control and that He and those who are His will ultimately emerge from this vale of tears the victors.
And yet, the church seems to be losing ground everyday. Social and moral battles are lost as our nation slips further into the abyss of progressivism and modern liberalism. On the world stage, there are Muslim incursions into various parts of the world, places that were once Christian strongholds. Constantinople, for instance, which was in the news of late, that great seat of Eastern Christianity, became Istanbul in the 15th century as the Ottoman Empire expanded it’s domain westward. Additionally, the very sight where the Temple once stood in Jerusalem is now sacred ground to Muslims. It is said to be the site from which Muhammed was taken up into heaven.
In Syria and neighboring Iraq, Christian populations have diminished tremendously. Syria has seen nearly a 50% decline while Iraq has lost 2/3 of her Christian population. Some of them were martyred for the faith. Others fled their homeland under intense persecution. These large scale assaults on the church, in that each of them are made up of real people with real hopes and dreams, are brought into perspective, thy are brought home, if you will, by the recent beheading of a priest in a church in Normandy, France, the very seat of European, and ultimately, western freedom.
The church seems to lose ground everyday. So, how do we draw comfort from these words of Jesus before us this morning? “Fear not, little flock, for it your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
To begin with, we should consider who it is who speaks those words to us. If I were to find you in the midst of a fearful situation and I were to say to you, “do not afraid,” you would probably take my words as well intentioned, but I doubt that you would find them very comforting. In fact, you might find my admonition judgmental, or, perhaps even a bit crazy. What do you mean, “do not be afraid?” Anyone in his right mind would be afraid if he were facing what I’m facing!
That, no doubt, would be your reaction if I called you to “fear not.” But, when the King of kings and the Lord of lords says to you, “do not be afraid,” you are dealing then with a completely different situation. You know that His words aren’t hollow sentiment, or, a meaningless platitude. You see, when Jesus says, “do not be afraid,” storms are soon calmed and frightened shepherds who look into the night sky are given a gift that brings “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” When Jesus says, “do not be afraid,” timid souls are bolstered and fortified. Cowardice is turned to courage. As Paul reminded Timothy, his young son in the faith, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Since then it is Jesus who bids us, who bids you to “fear not,” you can rest assured that you truly have no reason to be afraid.
“Fear not, little flock.” As it is, WE measure greatness by numbers, don’t we? There are currently 2.1 billion Christians in the world and 1.5 billion Muslims. From a pure numbers point of view, we’d have to say, “we’re winning!” Of course, there are 1.1 billion people who don’t claim any religion at all and another 1.4 billion who claim other false religions. Which means 2/3 of the world’s population isn’t Christian. How then can we say, “we’re winning?”
The fact is, the Church has always been and always will be a “little flock” when compared to those who don’t believe, or, who believe falsely. “Enter by the narrow gate (Jesus says). For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”
The Church though doesn’t win her victories by sheer numbers, nor does she win them by overwhelming displays power. After all, David fell Goliath, a man nearly twice his size, with but a small stone and a sling. God, of course, was on David’s side, for Goliath mocked the name of the God of Israel! Gideon too won a victory over the Midianites with his army paired down from 32, 000 soldiers to a mere 300.
Because “the gate is wide that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many,” the Church, whether behind these walls here in Galveston, or, on the world stage is best described as a “little flock.” She is called out of the world by the Almighty, the very One who holds the cosmos together by His might and strength, to live in love toward one another. All the while, this “little flock,” this band of sheep is shepherded by the One who promises that “the gates of hell will never prevail against her..”
So, “Fear not, little flock, for it your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” If life’s ultimate victory were measured by treasure, or, by the accumulation of possessions, or, even by life itself, it would be easy to mistake the Church’s smallness, or, her losses, as a sign of humiliation and of defeat. But, her treasure, and therefore, her heart are not of this world. She finds her riches, her forgiveness, her life and salvation, her hope, her joy, in the Father who gives her a kingdom that is not of this world.
Many years ago I walked the halls of a nursing home in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Every seminary student is assigned duty at such a facility during the course of his studies. I was assigned 18 or 20 residents that I was to look in on periodically over a semester.
Honestly, I found it difficult to make those visits from time to time. All of these people, whom I really didn't know, we're just there, it seemed, waiting to die. I would often leave the nursing facility and have a little complaint session with God. “I don’t get it, I’d say.” “Why does life work this way?” No, “why does life work this way for your dear children?”
My complaint session with God, came to an end as some words of Jesus came to mind. It was something He said to Pontius Pilate when Pilate told Him it was His own people who delivered Him up to be crucified. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” a kingdom that is not of this world. It’s a kingdom that comes to you in bread and wine, in body and blood, in suffering and death. It’s a kingdom of grace and of forgiveness, a kingdom in which the unrighteous are declared righteous and sinners are given a royal mansion and a kingly crown. It’s a kingdom that sets the turmoil of this world and the onslaught of evil endured by the church in perspective. And so,
“Through toil and tribulation
And tumult of her war
She (that is, the Church) waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore
Till with the vision glorious
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.”
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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