A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on June 22, 2008 by Pastor Dale Raether Jesus Encourages Us… 1. In our hardest work 2. With the highest rewards Matthew 10:34-42 Children, what’s the hardest work you have to do? How ‘bout cleaning your room? Or, when school is going again, is it hard to always get good grades? Anyway, when you have a big job to do, sometimes your parents might offer a reward. They’ll say, “After you pick up all your toys, we’ll go to the park. But if you don’t pick up your toys, no park!” Having something to look forward to does make work a little easier. But it’s that way too for us adult. For example, how many of you have said this? “If I lose 20 pounds, I’m going to treat myself to some new clothes.” Or, “If I can keep from smoking for six months, I’m going to reward myself with a big screen TV.” Now, maybe some would say we shouldn’t need rewards. We should just always do the right thing. That’s true enough. But even God uses rewards to encourage us. On the basis of our text, then, let’s think about what our hardest work is and what God promises as a reward.In the verses before our text, Jesus had taught the disciples to pray for the lost. In answer to their prayers, He put it on their hearts to want to share the Gospel. Next He told them how to do that, but He also warned what kind of response to expect. They would be persecuted. They would be insulted, beaten, imprisoned, or even killed. Nevertheless Jesus told them not to be afraid. Their Heavenly Father loved them so much that He even kept track of many hairs were on their head, and would never let anything bad happen, unless He could work that into a blessing. This is also true for us. However, waiting for that blessing can be hard sometimes. For example if you’re sitting in a dentist chair, don’t you love it when he says, “We’re almost done.” And then a half hour later he says it again. That’s when I start wondering then how many more times he’s going to say it before he’s really done?” Now, I know what the dentist is doing. He’s trying to encourage me to be patient. Or, how ‘bout this encouragement? “Just live each day a day at a time.” Does that help? It does to a decree. But what if we really can’t stand our day, and what if we know that our future days are going to be even worse? How do we not get discouraged? Part of the answer is we need to keep things in perspective. So, at this time please think about the hardest thing you have to go through or do each day. Now let’s compare that with what really is the hardest thing. Jesus describes what that is in our text. We read, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.” The hardest thing a Christian can go through is being persecuted for his faith by the people he loves. Also, in our text Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament book of Micah. Actually Micah was describing how unbelievers treated each other. He said, they would plot, they would manipulate the legal system; they would cut each other to pieces with their lies. One minute they would pretend to be someone’s best friend and the next minute they would betray or even kill him. By quoting Micah, Jesus was warning that this how unbelievers may treat Christians. But why? Well, when our first parents fell into sin and put themselves on the side of Satan, God said to Satan so Adam and Eve could hear it too, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel – Genesis 3:15." Notice the matchup. There is warfare between Christ and Satan, and between Christ’s followers and Satan’s followers. Now, as Christ’s followers we don’t want to back down. He is our Savior. He is the center of our life for time and eternity. Also, it is our deepest desire that others believe on Him, so that they too can be with us in heaven someday. This priority affects everything about us. It affects how we use our time and money. It affects our faithfulness on the job, and how we talk and even what we do for entertainment. People, who are on Satan’s side, can’t stand any of that. For this reason, the only they will ever be at peace with us, is if we go over to their side and agree with them that all styles of morality are equal, and that all ways to heaven get you there. On the other hand, if we don’t go along with these things, Satan will make sure that his followers keep treating us as enemies. Have you ever experienced what I’m talking about? If it’s just a few people at work or that one cranky neighbor across the street, that’s bad enough. But how do you handle it if the people you love the most are the ones hurting you the most? If we find ourselves in that kind of situation, the first thing we’ll have to do is make a choice. We read, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow 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.”Even on an earthly level, peoples sometimes will choose short-term fixes to get away from their problems. For example if your short-term fix is buying something, or having a stiff drink, or eating something fattening, you will feel better for a while. But you’ll still have your problems, and now on top of that you’ll have more credit card debt, or fewer brain cells, or more weight to lose. In the same way, if we hide our Christianity, if we just go along with everything, we will have “peace” for a while. But in the long run our hearts will become empty, and in the life to come we will be eternally separated from God. Not a good choice. Here’s a better one. If we give up the “good” life for the sake of standing firm on our faith and living it, Jesus will reward us. We read, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me – Matthew 10:40.” When we receive what the Bible says, we are welcoming Jesus into our life. And when we welcome Jesus into our life, we are also welcomed into the presence of our Heavenly Father. However, there’s something here I need to clarify. When Jesus talks about receiving him, he’s not talking about coming to faith. We cannot come to faith by our own power or decision. Faith is God’s gift through the Water and the Word. However, once we are in faith, we can choose to not go along with this world or with Satan or with the sin that still clings to us. Also, we can prioritize His Word in our life, and we can daily look to Him for guidance and strength. Our reward for this is God will give us a greater awareness of His presence in our life. Reading on in our text, “Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward – Matthew 10:41.” The prophet Daniel tells us that people who lead others to faith, in the life to come, will shine like the stars. I don’t know what that exactly means, but whatever it is, I’m sure it’s good. And now by listening to the writers of the Old and New Testament, by listening to your pastor as he teaches what the Bible writers taught, whatever reward they get for leading people to Jesus, you get also. In other words, hang in there in the Word, and hang in there in following the Word and sharing it, because in the life to come, like Daniel and Moses and Elijah, you too will shine like the stars. However, there are also earthly rewards. In Psalm 91 we read, “If you make the Most High your dwelling-- even the LORD, who is my refuge-- then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” What happens if we do things that are illegal, immoral or just plain stupid? Usually there’ll be consequences. But what if instead we seek first what God desires and what our new man in us desires? God will take care of us: and He will bless all that we do, which brings us to yet another reward for living our faith. Not everyone who is on the side of Satan is going to stay on his side. Rather by our example combined with the Word of God we share, some are going to cross over to Jesus’ side. Whenever see that, God lets us experience joy just like the angels have. On the other hand, even when we don’t get to see that, there are still rewards for doing the little day to day things we do. We reading, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward – Matthew 10:42." Again, there’s something here I need to clarify. We don’t do what’s right to earn God’s favor. God has made us His children through Christ. We HAVE His favor. But now, because we are his children, when we see something that needs doing, we just do it. And the reward for that is it feels good for having done it; not to mention there are going to be even more rewards for it in heaven. What a deal, huh? Being rewarded for what we want to do anyway. But then it’s not even really a reward. It’s grace, for it is God who works in us to will and to do His good pleasure. So now, in view of all that God has promised, how do you feel about all those hard things you have to go through or do? Do they seem easier now? Sometimes it works that way. By faith we end up breezing through some really tough things – and this glorifies God. At other times if this is what God determines, things may go on seeming just as hard for us as ever. But either way, be encouraged, because we are His, and because the day is coming, when we will be able to look back and see that everything we endured or did for Jesus’ sake was more than worth it! Amen.

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