From Hero to Zero!
Father, sometimes I’m torn between where I’ve been and where I’m going, between my will and Yours. Help me choose Yours.
Read Acts 14:8-20
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“If the world hates us as it hated him, then he is the model of inner joy and blessedness that we ought always to have in mind when we face persecution for righteousness’ sake” (John Killinger).
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…” Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem is relevant to the Christian minister, missionary or disciple. Indeed, Paul will give that advice to young Timothy: “Keep your head in all situations” (2 Tim. 4:5). It is especially important when faced with crowds. Their judgment is often suspect and can be very fickle. That is why we need to be at our most discerning when faced with the latest spiritual fashion or cause.
Here it is a miracle that first provokes the crowd to putting the Christians on a pedestal—the most dangerous place to find yourself! Paul and Barnabas are treated like gods. Many a head has been turned over the years by unwise flattery; Christians are as capable as anyone else of believing their own publicity. However, Paul and Barnabas had a strong enough grasp of the Gospel to see the dangers and even to use this as a further Gospel opportunity (15-17). We, like them, need to guard ourselves and keep our Gospel passion in such circumstances.
Then comes the reaction. In Iconium there was a threat of violence. Here it is the real thing, with a lynch mob stoning Paul and leaving him for dead (19). Luke is astonishingly matter-of-fact as he records Paul’s response to this near-fatal, brutal assault (20) and the breathtaking observation that what they did next was to preach the Gospel again (21). I have met Christians who have lost education, jobs, freedom and family for Christ. It is their perseverance in the face of all this that is so astonishing and so brave. “What else can I do?” one such disciple asked me, “Who else will tell them about God?”
Is it time to revise my praying? Do I pray for myself humility and persevering boldness? Do I pray for the persecuted church, my brothers and sisters?
Deliver me, Lord, from going along to get along, from letting the world squeeze me into its mold. I want to live with convictions and courage.
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