Sheep and Snakes

May 26 2023 - Eric Buresh

One of the many things I love about Grace is our church-planting vision. We are entering the season where we are starting to send out our current residents. Some are still waiting for God to show them the details of their next steps, and some have their God-given assignments and are ready to go out and plant churches. After recently sending out a resident to Japan, we now have residents just about ready to go to two Muslim-majority countries and a third is ready to plant in downtown KC in an area many would consider too dangerous for prudent living.  

Let me just say off the start: please support each of these church planters if you are able. Buy an interest in the spiritual fruit their ministries will produce, an interest that will accrue to your heavenly account. They need resources to do what they are doing, and it is a good Kingdom investment. Please reach out to them and ask how you can get involved. If you don’t know who they are, ask your campus pastor for an introduction. It is a great opportunity! 

One of my great joys is getting to spend time with our residents and getting in the Word together. As I was praying for each of them, here’s what the Spirit laid on my heart (you all get to listen in): 

“Go out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” Matthew 10:16. Jesus promised His Kingdom workers they were going to be among the wolves. Just look in the context of Matthew 10. It’s not pretty. And yet He calls you to be vulnerable and defenseless, like sheep. It seems almost surreal for sheep to walk toward wolves instead of running away, but that is what you’ve been tasked to do. Worry not, while you might be defenseless in your own right, you have a Defender. The Great Shepherd. He is with you always. His rod and His staff, they comfort you. You will not suffer anything that is ultimately bad for you. Whatever comes, the Great Shepherd promises it will be for your greatest possible good and His glory. Trust Him. Depend on Him. Always. 

“Be wise as serpents.” Matthew 10:16. Jesus doesn’t always expect or want you to stand in harms way. Serpents are smart, when they see danger coming, they slither away as fast as they can go. They don’t sit still and wait for the blow to come. There are times when Jesus says to “flee.” (Verse 23). God may call one or all of you to suffer persecution, or even die, but He may also call you to flee and live to serve another day. Both paths may be correct, and the right path is the one that is obedient to the Spirit’s leading in your circumstance.  

How do you know the Spirit’s leading? While I’ve never been faced with this choice, I have it on good authority =), that it’s the same as any other decision in life where you are choosing between two or more options that are not inconsistent with God’s revealed will in His Word. First, make sure you are currently walking in/led by/submitted to the Spirit. That is a foundational assumption, and you cannot make up for a lack of this foundation in an emergency. Then, 1) take in all the inputs that are relevant to the situation that you can from a human perspective (facts, data, and counsel from fellow followers), 2) with those inputs in mind, ask God to give your heart the desire that is in accordance with His will, and 3) do whatever that desire is without further hesitation or second guessing. That may mean you stand and sacrifice, or it may mean you flee. In obedience, you do either one with great confidence in His perfect plan. 

I’ll leave you with a short excerpt from John Bunyan’s 1684 book titled Seasonable Counsels, or Advice to Sufferers. Bunyan, the author of the more famous The Pilgrim’s Progress, personally experienced this choice. In the 1660’s Bunyan was told to stop preaching the gospel in England or face imprisonment. He chose 12-years in prison to the great hardship of himself and his family. Here is what he said about the decision process: 

Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly; if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth. He that flies has warrant to do so; he that stands has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Ex. 2:15; Moses stood, Heb. 11:27. David fled, 1 Sam. 19:12; David stood, 1 Sam. 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jer. 37:11-12; Jeremiah stood, Jer. 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 19:10; Christ stood, John 18:1-8. Paul fled, 2 Cor. 11:33; Paul stood, Act 20:22-23. 

So, walk in the Spirit who will lead you by your heart’s desire! Love you all!