Thursday, June 22, 2006

trouble with a capital T: what it means and doesn't

In Iconium, Paul and Barnabus speak in the synagogue and tell the people about Jesus. Some believe, but some get mad and plot to kill them. So they go to another city...

In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, "Stand up on your feet!" At that, the man jumped up and began to walk
Acts 14.8-10
Would you be excited about that? I sure would! But trouble comes all too soon: When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" (Acts 14.11)

The people want to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabus, who they call Zeus and Hermes. Talk about trouble! They try to explain that this was done by the power of God's son Jesus, but some people still want to sacrifice to them.

And another kind of trouble comes right after that.
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.
Acts 14.19
Does that remind you of another polarized crowd? Remember when Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem, and the people welcomed him... and a few days later were calling out, "Crucify him!"? I wonder if the Scriptures are telling us something to think about when trouble comes.

Now I have never had people throw stones at me until I seemed dead, but we have had some experiences where we feel some kind of oppression soon after a significant ministry experience. In fact, after helping out at a Christian camp for troubled youth, we were advised to pray for spiritual protection, because whenever we do something to promote the Kingdom of God, the forces of darkness have a kind of immune response.

Sometimes there's just a depressing feeling, sometimes an astonishing set of family problems suddenly crops up. Sometimes things just go wrong -- car problems, pet problems, problems with appliances. Can I say definitively that these things happen more frequently after a ministry experience? Have I established this scientifically? Nope.

But what the scriptures seem to tell us is this: If you encounter trouble, it doesn't mean you're doing the wrong thing. One obvious example of this is Jesus, who did his Father's will, and then died a horrible death on the cross. Come to think of it, there's a verse about that somewhere. OK, here it is:
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted...
2 Timothy 3.12
More about that another time.

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