Jesus Christ was always up front and honest about the challenge involved in accepting His personal invitation of “Follow Me.” He said, “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14). He pointed out that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Further, He addressed those who would truly believe He is the Son of God and follow Him in life and death as but a “little flock” (Luke 12:32).
A takeaway from these passages is that genuine discipleship under the living Christ is at times a lonely business in terms of human companionship. Jesus Himself stood alone after His arrest when His disciples all fled into the night. So, is this sobering scenario all there is to contemplate, or is there more to consider in responding to Christ’s invitation of “Follow Me”?
Is anyone up there?
In Beyond Today magazine we point out current events in the light of Bible prophecy and straightforwardly deal with the titanic events rumbling about us and ramping up in this age of man growing increasingly farther from God.
Prophecy lays out in a “macro” sense the coming of the Kingdom of God under Christ when He returns to earth. Yet if we are not careful we can lose sight of and hope in the fact that God likewise deals with His “little flock” in a “micro” sense here and now. Amazingly, our Heavenly Father and the risen Christ are able to sort us out from 7.6 billion people on six inhabited continents in a world spinning out of control!
Yet as followers of Jesus Christ we feel alone at times and may wonder: Why me, God? Why now? Is anyone up there watching or listening? Does God even care? Has He forgotten my devotion to Him? We can all at times figuratively join the prophet Elijah on his rock bench in his darkened cave and jointly mope that somehow God’s eye is no longer on us (compare 1 Kings 19).
While Beyond Today proclaims significant truths of biblical prophecy and doctrine, these are of no value unless we have living and knowing faith that God lovingly cares for us in a world beset by vast tectonic cultural shifts and larger-than-life personalities. God wants you to realize His devoted care for you—and to see that dealing with macro events as well as intimately caring for your personal micro-existence is what God is all about!
Christ goes small to share God’s huge interest
I would like to ask you a question before going any further. Have you ever seen a sparrow you didn’t like? They are tiny, cute, jumpy, chirpy and seemingly created to make us smile. God must have enjoyed creating them because, after all, He made so many of them. In fact, about a dozen are flitting away outside my window even as I write. Yet these small birds can go unnoticed by some folks in our 24/7 world of hustle and bustle—though watchful birds of prey take particular notice of them.
Psalm 102:7 describes a seemingly forlorn condition as being “like a sparrow alone on the housetop.” But is this one, or any of us in difficulty, truly alone?
It’s by reference to the tiny sparrow that Jesus addresses our gnawing concern in a thoughtful and direct manner to show that nothing escapes God’s loving attention regarding those called according to His purpose. Ever the masterful Teacher, He draws on a common marketplace transaction His contemporary audience would have understood.
We’ll come to see that God attentively views these most fragile of creatures as an example of His care for us who are made in His very image. We might say that people are like sparrows, yet of far greater worth!
Matthew 10 captures Jesus’ encouraging words to His disciples: “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (verse 29). This is incredibly encouraging. Nothing occurs apart from what God allows, and even the little ones don’t “fall” to the ground apart from His awareness and concern. But this is only part of what Jesus said in this regard.
“Not one . . . is forgotten before God”
Luke 12:6 gives an expanded perspective, recording Christ saying: “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.” Not one is “overlooked” (Common English Bible) or “uncared for” (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition).
Here the Western mind can be hindered, because Jesus is utilizing Jewish rabbinical tact in offering a question with the answer embedded in it. Why does He hammer home this point of not being overlooked or neglected?
Combining the two Gospel accounts we come to see that one coin of the day bought two sparrows, and that two coins would buy five sparrows. But wait a minute—the math doesn’t match up. Shouldn’t it be just four sparrows in Luke? Yes! Until we realize that spending two coins instead of one would bring an extra sparrow into the deal, one not necessarily figured in and in a sense overlooked. Yet God overlooks none. He cares about all of them.
But now let’s take it a step further in defining God’s acute observation of our comings and goings before Him. Jesus is really making a larger point about human beings here. In both places, He immediately follows with: “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:30-31; Luke 12:7).
God takes great notice of us in minute detail, being intimately concerned with and caring for us. Jesus elsewhere said: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26; compare Luke 12:24).
God’s deeply caring focus on us was earlier expressed in the Psalms. David wrote: “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” (Psalm 139:17-18, New Living Translation).
Yes, a loving God truly does care and continually remains attuned to men and women like us who sometimes feel lost in the shuffle of the vast drama of historical events or become internally mired in the quicksand of personal despair that pulls us down into an abyss of loneliness.
We are not the first and won’t be the last in this dilemma. I’m reminded of the well-known 19th-century American poet Walt Whitman, who penned his broodings as America was expanding in industry and population while the individual was seemingly being crowded off the page of valued existence.
He put it this way: “O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring, of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish . . . What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: That you are here—that life exists and identity, that the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse” (“O Me! O Life! Leaves of Grass, 1892).
Indeed, every one of us is important and highly valued in the eyes of God.
Little yet the apple of God’s eye
Let’s consider for a moment that in first-century Judea, in which the Roman eagle was prominently displayed before conquered people, Jesus would counter that dynamic symbolism with the simple and yet profound care God has for one of the gentlest and neediest of His works—the sparrow. Today, in the realm of sports, teams are given names like Raptors, Falcons, Eagles, Hawks. Sparrows is not a typical moniker!
And yet it’s here that we learn the meaning of the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1: “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28).
And why? The next verse supplies the key: “. . . that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:29). We are all very small before God!
Yet the great God of heaven and earth, the One who calls Himself our Heavenly Father, continues to call a “little flock” in this day and age to “contribute a verse” as “the powerful play goes on”—a personal verse we can write only through our life’s surrendered actions tangibly declaring that His story is greater than our own.
This personal “verse” is underlined by daily living faith in His attentive love that ultimately supersedes our darkest moments of unbelief. In such vulnerable moments we need to take heart in the words of 2 Chronicles 16:9: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”
King David endearingly personalized this reality when he wrote, “Keep me as the apple of Your eye [that is, the pupil or center of vision]; hide me under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 17:8). Truly, we need to know we are not alone.
I hope you will never again look at a sparrow in quite the same way. We’re even told in Psalm 84 that sparrows and swallows find a home and nest at the altars of the Lord, at the tabernacle and temple of God (Psalm 84:3-4)—and how much more so should we!
Here’s an action item for you: Watch a little bird. And when you do, stay focused for a while. Yes, focus! And realize that God is looking at you even more intently in that same moment. After all, people are like sparrows in being noticed and cared for by God, yet in an even greater way. But mark this difference in the observing: You will move on in a world that doesn’t stop, but God never takes His eyes off of you.
God deeply cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). It’s all part of an amazing love story—of a love affair started by Him and punctuated by the invitation from God’s Son of “Follow Me.” This invitation is ongoing with an incredible promise to us who, like the sparrow, are not neglected or forgotten. As Jesus said in John 6:39 (NLT), “And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day.”