While walking up a country road in New Jersey, I had a good talk with my Lord. “Lord, I can't live with fear and worry of all kinds. I want to face whatever the future holds with rest, joy and simple trust!”
The Holy Spirit quickened to me: “One of the keys to freedom from all fear and worry is found in the word sparrows. Remember that I told you, ‘One of them [sparrows] shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered’” (Matthew 10: 29-30). It sounds so elementary, so very simple—but what Jesus tells us here is very profound.
In the Old Testament, King David could boast, “[He] delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). How did David find such freedom from fear? By obtaining a vision of the greatness of “Him who made heaven and earth.” When David had his eyes on the Creator of all things, he discovered how big God is!
I want to be like David—an example of a shepherd who has learned how to be free of fear and worry, able to lead a people into that same freedom.
I did a study on sparrows and began to get a revelation of David’s immense Creator God who was interested in every tiny detail of His creation!
Sparrows! Like all birds, sparrows are wonderfully made. Their thin, small bones are strong and specially equipped for flying. Modern science still cannot copy the intricate wing system that allows them to migrate two and three thousand miles. Each sparrow has from 1,300 to 2,600 feathers. How intricate and detailed they are! Our Creator God designed them perfectly. He designed every bone, every feather—and He counted every one of them.
Most sparrows build their nests in the ground and during Christ’s time they were trapped with trip nets into which they fell while preparing their nests. In Jerusalem Jesus saw sparrows being sold on a skewer, two for a penny. They had all been trapped with trip nets because Jews could not eat those that died by themselves.
Of these birds Jesus said, “Not one of them was trapped without My Father's knowledge.” He knew where each one of them was until its little lungs took its last breath. He fed them. He knew every sparrow—even those on the skewers.
Paul introduced the possibility of falling into a satanic setup in his letters to Timothy. He understood the dangers of a satanic trap or snare: “Lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7). But he also gave a recovery from that satanic trap: “That they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:26).
The Greek word for “snare” used in both of these Scriptures means a setup, the preparation of a noose for the neck. It refers to a well-conceived trap. “The proud have hid a snare for me . . . they have set [traps] for me” (Psalm 140:5). It is clear that Satan is building a gallows.
Years ago The New York Times had a front-page picture of a fallen evangelist in handcuffs. He was weeping! Incoherent! Chained! Satan had set a trap, a well-conceived, well-planned snare for this brother.
I don’t care who you are, how holy and pure you are, how long you’ve walked with God, or how old or young you are. I don’t care how much you insist you couldn’t do anything like that—beware! The devil is out to trap you, too. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10).
Do you know that all of us have the capacity to fall just as low, just as far into horrible sin with all its deception, cover-ups, lies and uncontrollable lusts?
When I saw the fallen evangelist’s picture I did not ask, “How could he do such foolish things with his eyes wide open?” Instead, I wept, saying inwardly, “Lord, that could have been me! We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Looking back I can see where the devil laid numerous well-planned and intricate traps for me because he wanted to destroy me. I can say with David, “Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped” (Psalm 124:7).
The Lord desires a people who will keep faith even if they suffer the loss of all things.
“But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions . . . and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Hebrews 10:32, 34).
This is speaking of God’s people who had been greatly afflicted “after they were illuminated.” They had seen the light! Their goods were lost, but faith made them joyful because their eyes were on a more “enduring substance.”
If you lost all your earthly possessions, would you cast away your confidence?
Paul kept the faith in good times and bad times. In his final days he could boast, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). He could say, “Satan sent messengers to fight me in Jerusalem, Damascus, Asia, Ephesus, Antioch, and Corinth. But I kept the faith! Five times the Jews beat me with thirty-nine stripes. I’ve been cast into prison so many times, beaten with rods three times, stoned, robbed, even by my own countrymen—but I kept the faith!
“I’ve been so weary at times, full of pain, hungry, thirsty, cold and naked, loaded down with cares of all kinds, yet I kept the faith. I’ve been troubled, perplexed, distressed, persecuted, but never cast down, never destroyed, never shaken in my faith.”
These words will sustain us in the days ahead: “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7).
“The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (Psalm 121:7-8).
“For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5).
“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).
I believe it has never been more important for the Church and the world to know the real Jesus than it is right now. By “the real Jesus” I mean the only source able to satisfy every human need and longing; every desire to be loved, known and accepted; every hope to have a life of value, worth and purpose.
These things aren’t found in the world. Our culture is fully focused on American Idol-type fame, telling us we’ll be satisfied by money or good looks or popularity. As lovers of God we know that our deepest desires can be satisfied only by Christ.
And yet knowing this, we in the Church often try to reduce Jesus to our own image. Many of us want a Jesus who suits us—a right-wing Republican Jesus or a liberal-leaning Democratic Jesus. There is a black Jesus, a brown Jesus, a white Jesus (whom I call the Holiday Inn Jesus—the one with blow-dried, blond hair who seems to float through the air).
When I speak of “the real Jesus,” I mean the One who satisfies every human hunger and thirst. He cannot be reduced to some limited conception because the Bible says Christ can be known only in His fullness. It takes the whole counsel of God—the full biblical picture—for us to receive, know and faithfully serve Jesus. “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16, ESV). In short, we are able to walk in Christ’s grace only as we know Him fully. Anything else is a diminished walk of faith.
John also says, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (1:11). This speaks of Christ’s rejection by the Jews, but how much of our Lord do we ignore today? Do we emphasize some of His teachings over others because some are uncomfortable? To what degree have we not accepted Jesus in His fullness?
In the book of Genesis, we see Abraham, our model of faith, grow, flourish and increase in his fulfillment of what God had prepared for him. Through his life and example, the Bible proposes a life of growth and progress to every believer where he or she who wants to can walk “from faith to faith and strength to strength.” In the 14th chapter of Genesis, Abraham reveals to us one of the most important and yet widely unrecognized secrets of the walk of faith. It will take “increase our faith” deep into our everyday lives and will be of eternal consequence (see Genesis 14:17-24).
This passage shows Abraham returning from the battlefields with a victory. As he came back, Abraham met two kings: the king of Sodom and the king of Salem. The king of Sodom came from the place of fire, of flames. The name “Sodom” means “a scorched place.” Please read his words carefully, for the enemy of our souls still speaks the very same today, in your life and mine. “The king of the place of fire, the scorched place, says, ‘Take the goods, I want the souls.’” Did you get it? Do you hear these words? They make me shudder. There is a modern-day, selfish and egotistical church, ravenously materialistic and hideously self-centered. Her only goal and preoccupation is her wealth and the only message she tolerates is one of blessing, prosperity and material fulfillment. She has been blinded by the eternal nature of this diabolical temptation inspired by hell itself.
Dear reader, have we been influenced by this gospel, obsessed with its own blessing? Have we surrendered the “souls” to our eternal enemy? Jesus teaches that there is a thief that comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. Faith that will refuse and resist in the secret place says “no” to the damning offer from the king of Sodom to live for the “goods,” for this faith is passionate about what is eternal. This faith lives for “the souls.” Faith that resists in the secret place is made possible by the daily renewing of His Spirit burning His divine character in us—pressing us, mobilizing us, renewing in us a passion to serve, to pray, to love, to give, and to simply and daily do whatever is in our power to fulfill that which is our eternal call: to win souls. We resist and refuse to “keep the goods” and lose the souls.
Claude Houde, lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada, is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.