When There Are No Words

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It’s not exactly good recruiting policy to tell your prospective employees that deprivation and death are likely to be their on-the-job experience. But that was the gist of Jesus' message to His followers in Matthew 10. They were going to be “sheep among wolves” (10:16) as they went out with the message of the Gospel. Serving Him would be dangerous.

If I were delivering such a discouraging message I would be tempted to temper it with assurances that I would be looking after their worries about provision and protection. But Jesus doesn’t really do that. Instead He tells them not to worry about what they should SAY when they are arrested and brought before their accusers.

Okay, then we should rehearse our explanation, “get our stories straight” as they say in the crime dramas. But no, that wasn’t what Jesus told His followers to do. They were to exercise faith.

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, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (10:19, 20).

I was arrested once. It didn’t have anything to do with the message of the Gospel; I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and got swept up in a riot of university students and the police net that gathered them all up for processing. In that particular case, the Lord shut my mouth so that I couldn’t say anything when I was confronted by a very belligerent policeman just looking for an excuse to use my words against me. Since this happened in Colombia and Spanish was the language we were using, it would have been easy for me to say something unintentionally that he could misunderstand. At the point that he demanded an explanation from me, my mind went blank. I couldn’t think of anything to say to him! How could he accuse us of yelling something obscene at him when I couldn’t even answer a simple question in his language? He walked away and happily, so did we.

Just as God can empty our mouths, He can also open them and supply the words that we need to say at the appropriate time.

Both silence and speech are an exercise in faith. We believe that God will speak when we can’t and that God will speak through us as His mouthpiece. There are times when we need to prepare what will we say. Even then we need to rely on Him to give us those words. But here in this passage we are reminded that faith needs to be exercised in those unexpected moments we can’t prepare for as much as in those planned moments that we are able to prepare for.

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