#carmelprays – Acts 14:19-28
Opening Song: Still
Read Scripture: Acts 14:19-28
Today’s passage portray the trials Paul experienced and his absolute resolve in preaching the Gospel. Despite performing a miracle for the people in Derbe (Acts 14:10), the crowd proved to be horridly fickle-minded – worshipping him one moment (Acts 14:11-13) and stoning him the next (v19). On top of continuing their mission the very next day (v20), Paul and Barnabas went back to encourage the disciples they had made at Antioch and Iconium (v21-22); the cities where they were met with considerable opposition from the Jews earlier (Acts 13:50-51, Acts 14:5). Through Paul and Barnabas’s tumultuous journeys, we see their steadfast commitment in sharing the Gospel not just with Jews but with the Gentiles (v27).
There are a few key points to ponder about in the passage today. Most directly, it is evident that Paul’s main and perhaps sole priority in his life, is to preach the Gospel to as many people as possible, even at the expense of his life. Do we similarly place God first in everything that we do and choose to do?
Even if we think that we do, how do we know for sure that what we are doing is called according to His purpose? While not answering the question directly, the passage offers us some advice. For one, we know that we should never do things simply for the sake of pleasing others. If we do, it becomes incredibly easy for us to stumble from others’ sin. Not only did we see the Jews’ jealousy ruling over their religious bodies, the crowd’s deep-rooted belief in superstitions and their pagan gods led both groups to commit a grievous sin against an innocent man. For if Paul was not their god, the crowd found it hard to believe that Paul was a human (Acts 14:18) and likely mistook him to be a demon. In short, one way to know we are placing God first is to guard our hearts and minds in His Word, to be rationally obsessed in abiding to His Word as the Spirit teaches us as a believing community.
Also, the passage shows us that encountering obstacles is not necessarily a sign from God to give up one’s work. Instead, it could simply be a sign to modify and improve what you are currently doing, a test of one’s faith in God. We see that Paul simply moved on to other cities after trying his best (v20). Conversely, we should not depend on current notions of success to gauge our efforts in serving Him. At its heart, we ought to prayerfully dig deep within ourselves to reflect on our true intentions for the things we have chosen to do. Do we work hard for the sake of recognition, money or for God’s glory? If His purpose is mixed together with other material priorities, it becomes very easy for us to deceive ourselves into believing that what we do is for God. When we have affirmed that our intentions are pure, it becomes much easier to wholeheartedly give our all without fear that we are labouring in vain.
Pray in Response
Dear God, thank You for giving me this moment of peace to reflect on Your Word today. I confess that I have not always been able to resist the temptations of sin and have not been keeping Your Word in everything that I do. As I continue to live for You, please guard my thoughts and deeds in You so that I may not be distracted by the temptations of this world. Please align my purpose according to Your own, just like Paul had done. Grant me the strength to continue giving my all and to look to You alone regardless of the trials and temptations placed in front of me. Amen.
Response Song: In Christ Alone
By Sean Chen