- Matthew 18:12-14–““What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
- Matthew 10:30–“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
- Matthew 11:30–“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
- Luke 11:9–“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
- John 14:27–“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Of all the teachings of Jesus, of every command, every saying, every sound bite, this category is the most important. One could challenge the notion, disagree, and even find supporters against this statement. That’s okay. My statements stands on the foundation that without understanding that Jesus cares about us, the rest of what He says is often written off as simple advice, or even the ramblings of a control freak.
After all, what nerve does this Man have to demand to control our lives? unless, that is, that He cares about us.
He cares about us.
Even more important, he cares about, you–specifically.
Read that again. And again. And again. Over and over until you truly begin to believe that this Man with so much self-discipline, so much compassion, so much grace, so much love–that this Man loves you as an individual.
In your journal, what does this mean to you?
What fears arise when you read that He loves you?
Writing out your fears puts them in front of you. It allows you to see them for what they are. And it allows you to be free from holding them in. And allows God to gently address them.
What is He saying to you about His love? About your fears?
Spend some time meditating on the love of God. Meditate on the compassion of Jesus–not for the sick, or the possess, or the lost–meditate on the compassion of Jesus for you.
Write down in your journal what you learn.
DOES HE NOT LEAVE THE 99 TO SEEK AFTER THE ONE?
Read Matthew 18:12-14. As one of the 99, I have particular struggles with this passage of scripture. “What about me?!?” my flesh cries. “Why does he get all the attention when he’s the one misbehaving?!?” my inner 3-year-old stomps.
And then I remember the times when I have been the one.
The sight of my Shepherd coming to get me has me worried about the consequences. But He gently lifts me and carries me back to where I belong.
Though I may need a good poke or two to keep me on the right path, I know my Shepherd will always come find me. This love, concern, and attention attract people to Jesus.
In your journal, list ways you can show this same love, concern and attention to others.
THE VERY HAIRS OF YOUR HEAD ARE ALL NUMBERED
Do you ever feel alone in this world? As we learned in the last section, God goes after the one who strays. But what if you’re one of the 99 who stay? A single sheep among many other sheep. Alone in a crowd. What does God have to say to us in the 99?
Read Matthew 10:29-31.
What stands out to you?
“But the very hairs on your head are all numbered.” –Matthew 10:30, NKJV
If you live with a woman with long-ish hair, or are a woman with long-ish hair, or have a long-haired cat, or a dog that sheds, or have ever visited someone who fits into one of these categories–then you know the insidious, ever-present nature of hair. It is everywhere. On clothes, in corners, wrapped around the brush bar of the vacuum. It sticks to your coat, even if you’re the one with the buzz-cut! Lint rollers, brooms, and air systems cannot control it.
We may be surprised at all the places it appears. But God knows every single one. Though we may curse them, God knows when each one left your head and where it landed. Sound absurd? Why on earth would God choose such an odd thing to reassure us of His care?
Hair. Scripture calls it a woman’s crown. And by the amount of product we buy to maintain it, it darn well better be shiny! But hair is not just a concern of women. For men, hair symbolized youth and virility. When men begin to lose their hair, there can be a significant shift in their perception of self. It is one thing for a man to shave his head voluntarily. It is an entirely different matter when he does it to prevent an odd-looking balding pattern.
Though seemingly insignificant, God knows the value we place on something so tiny as the hairs on our heads. And He’s telling us He has those numbered. He knows even those.
Read Matthew 10:29-31 again. In your journal, what is the context of this hair-y situation? What does the author compare the hairs to?
Though shed hair may seem insignificant to us, God uses it to prove a very important point: He does not overlook anything.
Read the following verses, making notes in your journal of things that stick out to you:
A woman will forget her child before God forgets you.
You are inscribed on His hands.
He will not forget.
What is God saying to you now?
What is He asking you to do?
FOR MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT
We know Jesus will come to us when we stray. And we know He doesn’t forget even the hairs on our head. But what about when life is a grind? When pressures weigh and relief seems a foreign concept? We seek rest–long for it, cry out for it. But sometimes we just don’t sense it. Where can we find assurance during those times?
Read Matthew 11:28-30.
So often we focus on the second half of verse 28 “…and I will give you rest.” Jesus promises rest, so where is it? He claims His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Why does it sometimes feel so different than that?
Use your internet search and look for a picture of a yoke. What do you notice about it?
When we choose life as a servant of Christ, we literally take His yoke. The yoke is designed to share a heavy burden between two. Jesus cares. He carries the weight of the burden. And He directs the yoke. If you fight against the yoke, you’re bound to get hurt. That seems to make logical sense, but is it supported in scripture?
In Acts 26, Paul is relaying the story of his conversion.
Read Acts 26:9-18. What stands out to you?
Verse 14 holds Christ’s emphatic proclamation that it is hard to kick against the goads. A goad is “a long stick with a pointed end used for prodding animals” (citation).
Saul hurt because he was kicking against the One trying to prod him in the right direction. Imagine our oxen friends from before. If they keep pulling in different directions, there will be bruising and frustration. They also won’t get very far. Please note: I am in no way saying that all hurt comes because we are pulling in the wrong direction. It only means that we cannot have peace if we’re kicking or pulling against God.
The question this raises in my mind i9s that this all makes sense, but how, when life can seem so heavy, can Jesus truly say His burden is light?
Read 1 Peter 5:6-7.
What does Peter say we can cast on Christ?
Why can we do that?
What should we do because we know this (verse 6)?
The visual of humbling yourself under the mighty hand of God is much like the stepping up to the yoke of Christ and voluntarily sticking your head in the yoke. Yes, it is restrictive–but without it, you’re carrying the entire load on your own.
Step up to His yoke. Humble yourself and follow Christ’s leading…”…and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Why? “…because He cars for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
What cares have you been carrying that He is asking you to give to Him?
You don’t have to carry them alone anymore.
ASK AND IT WILL BE GIVEN; SEEK AND YOU WILL FIND; KNOCK AND IT WILL BE OPENED
Yokes are scary. We’ve learned this week that the yoke is the best place to be. And we’ve learned about allowing Jesus to shoulder our burdens. But is life in the yoke simply being dragged about? Or do we get a say in the matter? When we step into the yoke with Jesus, do we mindlessly trudge along, or can we participate in the path-choosing?
Read Luke 11:5-13.
Why does the friend finally arise from his bed (vs. 8)?
What kind of gifts are described in verse 13?
According to this passage, to get good gifts, we must be persistent. So what is persistence? What should we persist in? Read the following verses and make notes as to what stands out to you:
What is the recurring element in all these passages?
How do we know if what we ask is in His name? We know it’s more than simply tagging “…in Jesus’ name, amen” to the end of our prayers. But what is it?
Read John 15:7. What does this verse say about living in the name of Christ?
Read John 8:7. This verse is embedded in the story of the adulterous woman whom the men wanted to stone in an attempt to make Jesus stumble. How did Jesus respond to their persistent requesting?
So if you are persistently asking and not getting what you think you need, shift the focus of your persistence back to abiding in Christ. Taking this step back can allow room for new perspective, more full understanding, and can continue to develop the character you need in order to successfully handle the very thing for which you are asking. Shifting from asking to abiding will produce results beyond your imagination.
Close your time by meditating on Ephesians 3:20-21. What is God telling you?
LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED
Abiding in Christ is not an easy thing. Even just the concepts we’ve studied this week can bog down a heart and mind:
- caring for others
- remembering we’re inscribed on Jesus’ hand
- choosing the yoke of Jesus
- persistently abiding so we can persistently ask for things in His name.
Each are weighty concepts. And yet, amid all of that, He promises peace. John 14:27 proclaims:
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
“Do not let your heart be troubled.”
The third word of that phrase is the most powerful word of the bunch. “Let”
So often we believe things cause us to feel a certain way. But truly, it’s because we “let” our hearts feel that way.
From letting yourself believe things cause us to feel a certain way. But truly, it’s because we “let” our hearts feel that way.
From letting yourself believe you really can win the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes all the way down to letting yourself believe nothing good can ever come of something, we “let” ourselves get wrapped up in so many things.
“Letting” can also be understood as “allowing.” As you let your children play sports or let your wife have the remove control (insert shocked gasp here), letting is stepping back and allowing something. We often think of it as losing control. However, it is entirely different. Yes, by letting your son play football, you risk him being injured. But look at the team-building, strategy, discipline, and healthy conditioning he receives as a result. All those benefits gained because you let him play!
Read Genesis 1:9 and note anything that stands out to you.
“Let the dry land appear.” We would never say God didn’t control the creation of the world. But He did speak in terms of “let.” The waters separate and a mountain or plain emerges. What once was wet is now dry, all because it was allowed. Letting is powerful. It is not chaotic, nor is it irresponsible. It is disciplined and refined.
Paul spoke of letting in the context of spiritual warfare.
Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. Note what stands out to you.
It helps us remember verses when we write them out.
Write out 2 Corinthians 10:5.
What are you letting happen in your life? What things need to be reined in?
What things need to be loosened?
Review John 14:27 again. Jesus offers peace, and says to not let your heart be troubled.
Do you sense this peace? What have you let in the way of this peace?
Give it all to Him. Right now. it may not be easy, for there is a battle at hand. And the kingdom of your heart is at stake.
Sometimes things stand in the way of that peace.
Read Romans 6:12-14 and make note of anything that stands out to you.
“…do not let sin reign…”
It is a choice.
Read Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and make note of what stands out to you.
Read Joshua 24:14-15. What stands out to you?
Like the Israelites, you have a choice.
What do you choose?
Assuming you chose God, read on in Joshua 24:21-27. Choosing God is serious business. Joshua chose a stone as a reminder of this choice. How will you remember this commitment? It is your choice. Thank God for giving you the choice. And ask Him to help you make the right one every day.