#carmelprays – Acts 14:1-7
Opening Song: Before The Throne Of God Above
Read Scripture: Acts 14:1-7
Faithfulness in a Divided World
Chapter 14 of Acts begins on a positive note. Plenty of people, both Jews and Gentiles, were responding to the Gospel at Iconium (v1)! But almost immediately, Paul and Barnabas began to face severe backlash (v2). The Bible is clear that that the Gospel is naturally divisive. Everyone who hears the good news of Jesus either accepts or rejects his offer of salvation as the Son of God – there is no middle way. To those who reject Jesus, Christians seem at best deluded and at worst actively dangerous, for there is nothing more radical than a people willing to submit themselves to persecution for the sake of their God. We can be sure that encountering opposition is part of being bold about our faith.
In the face of such hostility, what did Paul and Barnabas do? Jews and Gentiles at Iconium hated them, ‘so they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord’(v3). At first glance, the word ‘so’ here seems really strange. Why would anyone decide to stay and continue their ministry because of the opposition they faced there? My first instinct would be to run as far away as possible, to safety. But it is so clear in this short passage that opposition to God’s word is not only something we expect, it is something we actively work against. If we flee at the first sign to hostility, taking the good news of Jesus with us, we are indicating that our personal comforts are more important than fulfilling the purpose God has expressly made us for – to bring Him glory through every thought, word and deed.
The prospect of persecution and suffering can be really discouraging. Here in Singapore we enjoy considerable freedom to live as Christians, but that doesn’t mean that we should expect to be completely at ease. Living for Jesus may mean having uncomfortable conversations with loved ones, being held back at work for doing the right thing, accepting positions of influence and responsibility in a way that enables us to live out Gospel truths and refusing to participate in the rat race for money and prestige. For many Christians around the world, speaking the truth about Jesus may mean risking their lives. How then can we prevent ourselves from being discouraged? Romans 5:3-5 offers a radical way to view suffering. In the midst of suffering, we experience the reality of God in great measure through the work of the Holy Spirit.
‘Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.’
When Paul and Barnabas are finally forced to leave Iconium, they simply move on to other cities, where ‘they continued to preach the gospel’ (v5-7). We have to keep going, not in a slow slog towards the finish line but with joy in the knowledge that we’ve been given the one thing in the world that matters – the privilege of experiencing the beginnings of abundant life here on earth knowing that this seed of eternal life will continue with God in paradise. How can we keep this to ourselves?
Pray in Response
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word that is a lamp to our feet, and provides light to our path. We thank You for your gracious gift of salvation and forgiveness through Your Son Jesus Christ. This is truly the Good News that so many need to know, and we constantly need to remember in our lives.
Empower us to boldly share this Good News as we remain sensitive to the prompting and guidance of Your Holy Spirit. Strengthen and encourage us when we encounter resistance and disappointments. We rest in the knowledge that You are the One who can break strongholds, change hearts and illuminate minds to see Your Goodness and respond appropriately. Thank You for the opportunities we have to be used by You, to experience and reflect Your love and grace. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Response Song: This Life I Live
By Emma Chai