As you will hear in this PODCAST, I have now reached a point in my life and ministry where I am easily bemused. Bemused by a question that I more and more frequently get asked.
When I am out speaking at a camp or a conference, often times a young man or woman just starting out in the ministry, or headed for his first ministry, will with furrowed brow and pen poised at the ready ask me this singularly significant question:
What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
Meaning, if I could turn the clock back and start over completely…
What is the ONE THING that you know now that you wish you had known then?
What one lesson have you learned over your now forty-two years and counting of ministry that you wish you had learned right out of the chute, right at the beginning?
Ironically enough, it is the very lesson that Jesus sought to communicate to His men here in Matthew 10, this right at the beginning of their first missions trip.
Let’s begin by reading Matthew 10:16-20
16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18 You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 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; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
You know, in all my years of education, I studied the Bible from cover to cover, learned to counsel, was taught how to run an organization… yet none of my instructors ever taught me those important words that Jesus taught His apostles: I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.
Oh, how different my ministry and career may have been had I had these words ingrained in me before I set out as a pastor.
I was taught Peter’s warning in 1 Peter 5:8
8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
But knowing that Satan was out there scheming to defeat, depress, or even devour me and my Christian walk like a lion is very unlike being on the alert for the wolves that Jesus warned about!
Paul warned the church at Ephesus even more graphically than Jesus did of these “vicious wolves” in Acts 20:29-31 –
I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. 30 Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. 31 Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you.
And really, no one ever knew what it was like to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing AND to minister in the Name of Jesus in spite of the wolves better than Paul.
So, it’s from Paul’s point of view that we look at what it is that we do battle against, what we need to be aware of while we serve Jesus, and how the Holy Spirit will help us defeat the wolves that wait to attack!