Christ described the last days as a troubling and frightful time: “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth…. Upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity” (Luke 21:26, 25).
What did Jesus give us to prepare us for these calamities? What was his antidote to the fear that was going to come?
He gave us the illustration of our Father watching the sparrow, of God numbering the very hairs on our heads. These illustrations become even more meaningful when we consider the context in which Jesus gave them.
He told these illustrations to his twelve disciples, as he sent them out to evangelize the cities and towns of Israel. He had just endowed them with power to cast out demons and heal all manner of sickness and disease. Think of what an exciting moment that had to be for the disciples. They were given power to work miracles and wonders! But then came these fearful warnings from their Master:
“You won’t have any money in your pocket. And you won’t have a home, not even a roof to sleep under. Instead, you’ll be called heretics and devils. You’ll be beaten in synagogues, dragged before judges, thrown into prison. You’ll be hated and despised, betrayed and persecuted. You’ll have to flee from city to city to avoid being stoned.”
Now picture these men wide-eyed as they listened to Jesus. They must have been gripped with fear. I imagine them wondering, “What kind of ministry is this? Is that what the future holds for me? This is the bleakest outlook on life I’ve ever heard.”
Yet, in this very same scene, Jesus told these beloved friends three times: “Fear not!” (Matthew 10:26, 28, 31). And he gave them the antidote to all fear: “The Father’s eye is always on the sparrow. How much more will it always be on you, his beloved ones?”
Jesus is saying, “When doubts flood in— when you’re at your wits’ end and you think no one sees what you’re going through—here is how to find rest and assurance. Look at the little birds outside your window. And run your fingers through your hair. Then remember what I told you, that these small creatures are of immense value to your Father. And your hairs are to remind you that you’re of much greater value to him. His eye is always on you. And he who sees and hears your every move is near.”
That is how our Father cares for us in hard times.