Monday, April 20, 2015, 3:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 14 (selected vv. ESV).
Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel. ~ vv. 1-7
Paul and Barnabas had been set apart by the Holy Spirit for the work to which God had called them. They traveled to many cities where they preached the Good News of our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Nearly everywhere they went they had people who received the message of the gospel with joy, and they had people who opposed them strongly. When God is at work in the hearts of people, Satan is at work in trying to destroy the work of the Lord, yet God allows this for his purposes and for our strengthening.
I am encouraged by this story. Although the Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the followers of Christ, it says “So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord.” I looked up the Greek word translated “so” in English. It means “therefore,” which means “for that reason; as a result; consequently; in view of the foregoing” (M-W). Basically what this is saying is that this persecution against the apostles backfired on those doing the persecuting, because it only gave the apostles all the more reason to remain in the city and to preach boldly in the name of Jesus.
I wonder, how many times do we retreat in the face of such opposition rather than use that persecution as a springboard (incentive) to be even more determined and bold in our witnessing? We have to remember that our God is all powerful and completely sovereign over every aspect of our lives. I am reminded of this often. He created us all for a purpose. When he created Lucifer he was an angel in heaven, yet God knew that Lucifer would rebel against God, and that he would take many angels (now demons) with him. God also knew that Lucifer (Satan) would then go after God’s people. Yet God sets limits on Satan. Satan can do no more to us but what God allows, and he allows for a purpose. Satan means it for evil in our lives, but God means it for good, so we need to not let Satan’s attacks against us undo us, but we need to let them be the motivating force behind our determination to be even more bold and determined in speaking the truth of the Word of God.
Yet, there is a time when God says “Stay,” and a time when he says, “Go,” so we need to be listening to his voice, so that we obey what he wants us to do. Yet, even the “going” should not be a retreating from following the Lord in obedience or an escape from doing the will of God just because things got harder than we had imagined. When the apostles fled because they were about to be stoned, they continued to preach the Good News. Amen!
They Brought Good News
Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. ~ vv. 8-15
Satan not only uses opposition and persecution to try to persuade us to jump ship and to give up, but he also uses the praise of humans to try to get us to be prideful and to take credit for what God has done through us, as though we did it in our own strength and wisdom. In either case, we must refute Satan’s lies, and we must tell the truth. We are merely human beings, mere clay vessels in the Potter’s hands. All glory goes to God for anything that is accomplished in and through our lives for God’s purposes, i.e. for that which is done in the power and wisdom of the Spirit within us.
Not only should we not take credit for what God has done, and in all humility we should tell the truth about ourselves, and give glory to God, but even the praise of humans can be used as a springboard (motivation) to give praise, honor and glory to God by proclaiming his gospel of salvation. So, we need to be open and sensitive to these divine appointments so that we do not miss them, and so that we don’t fail to take advantage of these golden opportunities to give glory to God by sharing the truth of God’s Word.
The apostles took such an opportunity to tell the people their true reason in being there. They were there to bring them the Good News of salvation from sin. Then, in a nutshell (in a very brief statement), the apostles told them what this “good news” was all about. They were to “turn from these vain things to a living God.” This is the essence of the gospel message.
Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, not just so we could escape hell and have the hope of heaven when we die. He died so we could die with him to sin, and so we could live in him in walking daily in his holiness and righteousness (See: Luke 9:23-25; Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 6-8; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24-25; & 1 Jn. 1-5). He died so we would no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave himself up for us (See: 2 Co. 5:15).
But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. ~ vv. 19-23
What I learn from this story is to NEVER EVER GIVE UP! Satan may beat us down and wear us down, and in our flesh we may find it hard to get back up and to continue to fight off his attacks against us, and to continue to be bold in our witnessing, but we must remember that God is with us, and he is in us, and we operate not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, so Satan cannot defeat us. He may injure us, and it may appear, at times, as though he has gained the victory over us, but we must continue to remember that God is absolutely in control, he has already defeated Satan, and he will work out all things for good for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (See: Ro. 8:28). Amen! Even though Paul had just been stoned and left for dead, he got back up and went back into the city. Only in the power and strength of the Spirit within him could he have done this.
The next day they left for Derbe. There they preached the Good News, and a large number of people became followers of Jesus Christ. Because they followed the Lord Jesus in obedience, and they trusted in the strength of the Lord and not in their own human flesh, they were instrumental in seeing many people come to faith in Jesus Christ. Awesome!
Then they returned to where Paul had just been stoned and left for dead. Why? They went back, it appears, so they could strengthen and encourage the disciples there in their walks of faith with Jesus Christ. They did not want them to become discouraged, I believe, by the persecution they saw Paul face. He and Barnabas encouraged the followers of Jesus there to remain true to the faith, in spite of all opposition and persecution. In fact, he let them know that such hardship and persecution was to be expected, and that it was part of God’s plan for our lives. I believe God allows us to face such opposition so that we learn to not rely upon ourselves but on God, so we can encourage others who are going through such suffering, and so we mature in our faith and gain greater determination and perseverance in continuing in our Lord and in continuing to share his gospel of salvation so that many can also come to faith in Jesus Christ and be set free from sin and walk in freedom.
Seek the Lord / An Original Work / July 20, 2012
Based off Isaiah 55
“Come to Me all you who thirst; come to waters.
Listen to Me, and eat what’s good today,
And your soul will delight in richest of fare.
Give ear to Me, and you will live.
I have made an eternal covenant with you.
Wash in the blood of the Lamb.”
Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him.
Let the wicked forsake his way, in truth.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will receive mercy.
Freely, God pardons him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord, our God.
“My word that goes out of My mouth is truthful.
It will not return to Me unfulfilled.
My word will accomplish all that I desire,
And achieve the goal I intend.
You will go in joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains will burst into song… before you,
And all of the trees clap their hands.”