by Pastor Matthew Bishop
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‘So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord … The people of the city were divided’ (Acts 14:3–4a).
Unless you live in a bubble, avoid all news and only talk to other Christians, then strictly about the good God is doing for you, you’ll know that Christianity is ‘on the nose’ in western culture.
Sometimes I hear Christians gushing about the early church as if it were so much easier then. Maybe they haven’t read the Acts of the Apostles in a while! Today’s reading shows it was anything but easy. People refuse to believe. Then they stir up others and poison their minds against Barnabas and Paul. The word divides. And the apostles find themselves running for their lives, despite the signs and wonders that should have proved the worthiness of their message beyond question. Right?
Three things give me comfort in all of this. You’ll likely have others. The first for me is that it’s always been this way. Thus, I find the difficulty we still face is a confirmation of the genuineness of what we are doing. Secondly, we stand with the Apostles, indeed Jesus himself (see, for example, John 6:60–66), with a message of good news that not everyone will want to believe. Hence, ‘failure’ is more of a reflection of faithfulness than it is a deficiency. Thirdly, the tools of the trade are still the same: speaking boldly for the Lord (verse 3), and when it’s time to move on, still speaking boldly for the Lord (or ‘proclaiming the gospel’ as verse 7 puts it). So we know what to do! As you go in the gospel, wherever you live or share it, may God comfort you, hardships and all.
O Holy Spirt, comforter of priceless worth, please keep guiding us to speak boldly for the Lord. Bless all missionaries. Uphold those who are persecuted and lead those who persecute you to believe in Jesus our Lord. In his name, we pray. Amen.