It’s Not Paranoia When They Truly Are Out To Get You
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Shrewd as Snakes
Jesus warns His disciples that they will need to be as shrewd as snakes. He is, literally, sending them us into the pits of vipers. The religious leaders did their very best to trap Jesus in what He said and did. And Jesus, submitted to the Holy Spirit, saying only what He heard the Father saying through submission to the Spirit of God, was able to refute them, befuddle them, confound them, and reveal their very hearts to them.
Snakes are very shrewd creatures. They make very little sound. They study their prey, and carefully calculate whether they have both the ability and opportunity to take down their prey. They slowly position themselves around their prey, giving it no opportunity for escape. For some, they strike hard. Others they reach out and coil around to slowly squeeze the life-breath out of them. Others will drop from above without warning on their prey, surprising those that aren’t looking for them.
God desires that we be shrewd as well, for we will encounter these very same types of people looking to malign the good name of The Lord God Almighty. Be aware of people and what they are trying to do. Understand their tactics and do your best to prevent yourself from being waylaid. But Jesus also gave His disciples another piece of advice – be as innocent as doves.
Doves were considered “innocent” because they have beautiful white feathers. White is used throughout scripture as a sign of innocence and purity:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.”
We are to be aware of our enemies’ ways, yet keep our ways pure. Just because we understand what they do, we are to choose the path that keeps us as far from sin as possible. Shrewd does not necessarily mean evil – it means wise. And Jesus, shrewd towards His accusers, was as innocent as white snow – He never sinned once. We must remember His example and conduct our lives in a similar manner.
God fully intends to place His disciples in places where most people would not even be able to secure a private meeting. He placed the apostle Paul in front of kings and leaders of men. Paul was faithful in witnessing to them every time he was given the opportunity. Be prepared to be arrested and brought before the authorities – Jesus has told us this in advance. And do not worry what you will say, for when you are submitted to the Holy Spirit in obedience to the word of God and His leading, He will provide you with the words that you should speak.
God Himself, through the Holy Spirit, will provide you with everything that you need to witness. We can see this in the lives of the apostles as recorded in the word of God in the book of Acts. Peter, John, and Paul were repeatedly brought before the governors and kings for proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ and His message of salvation. Their audiences were astounded when they realized that these men had been with Jesus, and apart from Paul (who had the equivalent training in today’s terms of at least a double doctorate in Theology), they were simple men who spoke boldly what they had seen and heard.
And when you are given the opportunity by God to witness, allow Him to provide you with the very words that you speak so that He may be given glory through your obedience to Him. And when you allow Him to speak through you, He will powerfully use you to bring people into His kingdom.
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask a question: Am I allowing God to use me in such a way that He is positioning me to reach the broadest of audiences and the people He wants to hear His message of salvation?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You provide for my every need. Help me to speak boldly of you every opportunity that I am provided. Help me to submit to Your Spirit that I would speak the words that You intend for me to speak, and to be in the places You intend for me to be. Help me to yield myself to You so that You can use me in the most powerful and efficient ways possible. Help me to be bold as I speak, and to completely trust that You are sovereign over my circumstances, regardless of what they are. Help me to keep my eyes firmly focused upon You, so that regardless of the outcome, You would be glorified and magnified among men. This I ask in the precious and holy name of Jesus, Amen.