Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 23 February 21:
Acts 14:2, 3 – “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time….”
When to stay and when to go? Paul and Barnabas did not shy away from a challenge or conflict. When the unbelieving Jews stirred up trouble, Paul and Barnabas doubled-down their efforts. However, when they saw that the situation was getting dangerous, they “fled to Lystra and Derbe.” (Acts 14:6) However, there they went right back to teaching.
Paul and Barnabas fled Iconium, not due to fear, but rather so that nothing would hinder them from continuing to spread the Gospel. In fact, Paul was still stoned in Lystra and left for dead. But immediately after his stoning, Paul went to Derbe and continued to preach the Gospel without hesitation. Paul was bold in proclaiming the Gospel, but he avoided persecution whenever possible, but sometimes it just wasn’t possible. Even then, he didn’t let persecution slow him down.
How do we decide when to stand up against challenges to the God’s word and when it’s best to walk away or remain silent? First, we should prayerfully seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit. If direction remains unclear, we should seek to do whatever seems most profitable for the advancement of the Gospel overall – “anything but denial of the truth.” “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 115:17, 18)
Once again, concerning when to face persecution and when to leave, John Bunyan’s 1684 comments shared previously are well worth review:
“Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly; if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Ex. 2:15; Moses stood, Heb. 11:27. David fled, 1 Sam. 19:12; David stood, 1 Sam. 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jer. 37:11– 12; Jeremiah stood, Jer. 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 19:10; Christ stood, John 18:1–8. Paul fled, 2 Cor. 11:33; Paul stood, Act 20:22–23. … There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly…. Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 23 Feb 21: Pray that God will give you a heart truly receptive to the Holy Spirit’s leading when sharing the Gospel becomes potentially risky. Pray that God will give your boldness and strength when required to stand, and the wisdom to know when to disengage, and pray for confidence, fidelity, joy, hope, and peace in any case. There is always an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone somewhere – God is at work all around you.