…be ye therefore wise as serpents.
— Matthew 10:16
Yesterday we began looking at what Jesus had to say about being “wise as serpents.” Today I want to continue because there is more truth to glean from this verse. The word “wise” in Matthew 10:16 is the Greek word sophos, and it depicts special insight and a wise approach to a matter. According to Jesus, serpents are “wise” in the way they do things, and there is something we can learn from their actions.
One particular aspect we can learn from the serpent’s behavior is the importance of timing. This is so key to fulfilling any assignment that God may give us, because knowing when to act is as important as knowing when to lay low.
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For a serpent, this knowledge is key to its very survival. When prey passes before the serpent, it instinctively knows when its time to strike. If it waits too long, the opportunity will pass irretrievably, and the serpent will go hungry.
So what can you learn from the serpent in this arena? When it’s time for you to act, you must put aside all fears, emotions, and second-guessing — and seize the moment!
I have seen so many young ministers fast, pray, and wait for that golden moment of divine opportunity to come to them. Then at last, that time arrives! A great door of opportunity stands directly in front of them. It’s time to act. But rather than seize the moment and walk through that door, they pause to pray just a little bit more. God brought them exactly what they’d been praying for so long, but because they hesitated, they lost the opportunity. When they finally got around to saying yes, it was too late.
Let me give you another personal example.
Back in 1993, I earnestly prayed and sought God to open television ministry wider to us. One day I received a phone call from the top directors of a national television station in the former Soviet Union. They asked me to meet them and talk about putting my program on national television. My associate and I booked the next available flight and flew to meet those two powerful men in their offices.
My heart was filled with anticipation as the plane carried us to that meeting. Was this the opportunity I’d prayed for? Was it actually happening? Was God really answering my prayer?
I had a sense that something great and awesome was about to transpire, and I could hardly wait to arrive at the meeting to hear their proposal.
I had already done my homework. I had studied the statistics about the full reach of the TV channel on which they were about to offer me time. I spoke with pastors and churches throughout my region to find out what they thought of that channel. My time of “lying low and blending into the environment” had given me the “wisdom” I needed when I stepped into that meeting with those directors. I was equipped for this long-awaited conversation.
Armed with information and supported by the prayers of our partners, the meeting began. Those directors asked me, “Would you like to broadcast on our national channel and penetrate every single home in the nation with your program?”
This is exactly what I had been praying and waiting for — for such a long time! The opportunity of a lifetime was sitting on the table in front of me in the form of a TV contract. I held my composure, not wanting them to know how excited I was at this chance to reach every home with the Gospel. I waited to hear how much this divine door of opportunity was going to cost our ministry each month.
When I heard the price of the time slot they were offering me on that channel, at first I felt some hesitation. Fear tried to form in my mind that we wouldn’t be able to come up with the cash each month. Yet I knew a door had opened before me that had never been offered to anyone else before! Only God could open such an incredible door for the Gospel. There was no doubt that He was orchestrating the entire event.
My head and logic said, “Don’t do it,” while my spirit said, “DO IT NOW!” In my heart, I knew it was the moment to strike and seize this opportunity. Within a few minutes, I picked up an ink pen and signed my name on the dotted line. National television had fallen into my hands!
Within days of signing that contract, politics radically changed, and if I had not seized this divine opportunity at that exact moment, I would have lost it. Just one week later, that same wide-open door would have been tightly closed. Because we seized the moment at just the right time, our television program was locked into a contract that this new government had to honor! As a result of acting at the right time, our television program and our ministry became one of the most powerful spiritual forces in that part of the world. Since 1993, when we walked through that door, we have made a strong impact to affect that nation with the teaching ministry God has given us!
I thank God that I had the spiritual guts to act at the right moment. I had already prayed and prayed. Then there came a time to seize the moment and strike!
The Lord has taught me over the years that there are moments to “lay low” — and there are other moments to “strike fast.” Surely, this is a key part of what Jesus meant when He told us to “be wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16).
You may be asking, “But how do I know when it’s a time to lay low or to take action and seize the moment?” The Holy Spirit will lead you and cause you to know — if you will be sensitive to follow His leading. And believe me, if you will listen to and follow Him, He will guide you past every obstacle, camouflage you from every attack, and show you exactly when to take action in your family, your business, your church, or the assignment God has given you.
Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” The word “led” is the Greek word ago. It means to be gently led about and was the same word used to describe a man leading his cow about on a rope. The farmer is the leader, and the cow is merely the follower. The cow doesn’t argue with the farmer; the animal simply trusts and follows.
This is how we are to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. He is the Leader!
Many people are afraid to obey what the Holy Spirit puts in their hearts to do. Fearful that they will be led astray or that they will make a mistake, they sit on the sidelines and watch other people achieve success, while they remain right where they’ve always been.
But let me assure you from very personal experience: You can trust the leading of the Holy Spirit!
In John chapters 14-16, Jesus called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of Truth” four separate times! It seems that Jesus thought this was a truth worth repeating! Jesus was emphatically assuring us that the Holy Spirit will not lead us in a wrong direction. He is “the Spirit of Truth” on whom we can rely.
If the Holy Spirit is prompting you to take action now, it’s because He sees and knows something you may not see. Let the Holy Spirit become your eyes and ears to key moments and divine opportunities for your life, family, business, or ministry.
Timing has been a major key to the success of our ministry, and it is the key to your success as well. Denise and I are not brilliant enough in ourselves or by our own reasoning to figure out the right timing for everything we’ve been able to do in the former USSR. We give God all the glory, because we know our timing has been directed by the Holy Spirit, not by us. Denise and I have depended on the Holy Spirit’s leading through the years, and as a result, we have walked through many strategic doors at key moments. We’ve learned that when He says, “NOW!” — He really means exactly that!
So don’t move too fast, and don’t hesitate when the time is right to act. And now you know what Jesus meant when He commanded us to “be wise as serpents”!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Heavenly Father, I thank You that You are faithful to lead me in the direction I should go and in the decisions I must make. Help me recognize when it’s time to lay low and blend into the landscape and when it is time to strike! I have prayed for divine opportunities, so when they present themselves to me, help me to recognize them and to have the courage to step out by faith to accept the assignment. Holy Spirit, I know that You are a faithful Leader, so today I put my trust in You to lead me in each and every step that I take!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am wise as a serpent! I know when to lay low, how to blend into the landscape, how to learn my new territory, and how to discern and recognize when a God-given opportunity passes my way. Fear does not hold me back. Hesitation does not stop me. Because I have prayed and done my homework in advance, I am well prepared for that golden moment when God gives me the opportunity for which I’ve waited for so long. The Holy Spirit is my Leader, and He is leading and guiding me every step of the way.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you had a moment in your life when the Holy Spirit instructed you simply to lay low and blend into the environment so that you could learn more about your new territory? When was that and what was the result of that course of action?
- What spiritual disciplines and practices have you built into your daily life to develop your discernment and sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit? Do you read your Bible, meditate in the Word, and pray daily? If not, what steps can you take to make your personal time with the Lord a non-negotiable necessity in your daily schedule?
- Can you identify your own patterns and tendencies for taking action on something God has put in your heart to do? Do you move quickly or do you procrastinate after you know what to do? What steps do you plan to take to ensure you are moving in sync with the Holy Spirit’s leading to avoid a misstep or mistake?