I start my time with the Lord on this Monday morning, with the week looming ahead, with the lively song “Who can be against us if our God is for us”.
I am assured, by faith that the Lord is very present with me. “I am here in the full power and might of My presence – that power that I used to create the universe – I am here fully in this room with you today. Now let me lift you up into the celestial world where you can float on the clouds and look down and see the bigger picture – see My plan being worked out fully – driven by My love – which is the most powerful force in the universe – and that power is working all things together to complete My plan – even to where My judgement falls – and the promise, My personal promise to you is that you are a recipient of that powerful force of My love – which is driving every part of your life – and nothing can separate you from it, even the combined forces of all the evil. So now feel and experience the lightness of your burdens lifted – take My yoke – feel it – it is easy and it is light and in no way should it make you feel burdened again. Just take one step at a time – do the next thing that you must do – don’t try and live in the future. Make the most of every moment with Me – even when difficulties come your way. Remember My power released in My love, is protecting and shielding you.”
While I have been munching through Galatians I have picked up the story we were reading in Acts again. In ch 21 Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem is described. Stott makes the point that from that time on Paul was never again to be a free man. This section to the end of the book describes 5 different trials that Paul faces. The main subtheme seems to be the difference in the attitudes of the Jews and the Romans to Paul. As this is narrative compared to the concentrated teaching in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, it is often a bit more challenging to hear Jesus speaking to us from it.
Today I am reading the defence of Paul in his trial before Felix in chapter 24:9-21. To understand the context one should probably read from ch 21. I am going to focus just on these few vv.
So in the background the question continues to hover, “Why is God allowing Paul to experience such opposition, especially in the light of Romans 8:28? Have you ever pondered that? So where Romans 8 shows God’s attitude towards the individual, this needs always to be seen against the background of the bigger picture. The bigger picture of Paul’s ministry, however shows that God always has the growth of His Kingdom, represented by His church as His main objective. Of course the real issue that God affirms in Romans 8 is that whatever His bigger plan is, His personal plan for each one is driven by His love for us and what we experience is always for our ultimate benefit, as well as the benefit of the church. So we must draw the conclusion that opposition will always result in benefitting the spread of the Gospel and the growth of the Kingdom as well as our personal sanctification.
This is not a question of God being nasty. The fact of opposition is one of the main motivators to persevere and carry out any plan. Considering that it is necessary for one to be sure that the plan is the correct one, opposition will often start one examining the plan again to confirm that it is the right way to go. So in a way it purifies the purpose and the implementation of the plan. I have experienced this first-hand in my early years in Stellenbosch. Being involved in a church with a very powerful evangelistic ministry I became convinced of the need to follow that with a concerted discipleship program. For a number of years I worked on developing such a plan and am still in contact with some of the people who were part of that program.
However rather than support from the leadership in the church I found them being responsible for the most opposition. I also experienced attempts to hi-jack the program for personal gain. The net effect was that I worked harder than ever, trying to improve the program to avoid unnecessary criticism and looking back it was a time of glorious growth in a personal way as well as in numbers, giving God all the glory.
Back in Acts 24. To pick up what Jesus is saying to me I would start by reminding myself of the main theme of Acts: the description of how God, through His Spirit, used the Apostles to take the fledgling message, the message which will result eventually in the completion of His Kingdom, into the then known world. Luke repeatedly remarks how the word spread and grew, in the various places where it was taken.
What can I see in this passage that speaks to me? 1. The accusers use ‘fake news’ and hearsay to bring their accusations against him, whereas Paul sticks to the truth. This strikes me as an important point in making a defence for the gospel – not to be dragged down by these tactics, rather sticking to the truth as it is recorded in God’s word. 2. Paul’s interaction with the Law and the Prophets is interesting, especially in he light of what he wrote in Galatians about the law. Perhaps you would like to think that one through. 3. Whatever his defence, he uses it to steer the conversation back to the central point of the gospel. In this case he focusses on the resurrection, cf vs 16,21. This was probably the most controversial point of the gospel, yet Paul doesn’t hesitate to bring it forward, to turn the interaction into an opportunity to explain the gospel. Opposition often throws out red herrings in an effort to distract us as we present God’s truth.
These things all remind me of the supreme importance of all of us being prepared to be a representative of and speak out for the gospel at all times.
But you may be saying, “I am not a bible teacher. Or someone who can go and confront people.” That is why I cannot tell you what Jesus is saying to you. You must be listening to His voice to you personally. What I can say is that every one of us is called to place the gospel central in our lives and thinking so that we will be its representative. How that manifests itself will vary, as we are all individuals with unique gifts and personality. It may mean just a smile at the right time, a word of encouragement, a prayer or open offer to pray, a gift in Jesus’ name, a little card or posy, a loving visit or even just a phone-call. The Spirit will guide each one of us, if we are sensitive and listening to Him. The important thing is that you won’t be led by Him if you aren’t listening to Him. For instance, for many years Emily used to buy packs of small cards with Christian messages on them. These she would post or hand out whenever she felt led to do it.