Tuesday, May 21, 2013
When we hit opposition or difficulty
Acts 13:52 NIV
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Key teaching: The Spirit-filled experience gives us a very real sense of partnership with God in His mission – and being teamed up with Jesus is a secure place indeed.
It all went well until…
Paul and Barnabas and their small team made their way inland from Antalya, in modern-day southern Turkey, to the Roman colony city of Antioch where there was a synagogue which they visited on the Sabbath. Following the custom, the visitors were invited to speak. Paul stood up and gave them a potted ‘salvation history’, starting with the 40 years in the wilderness, moving on to the kingships of Saul and David, and explaining to them the family line that was the ancestry of Jesus. Jesus, he told them, had been sent by God to Jews – like themselves.
He explained Jesus’ death and resurrection and the good news of salvation through believing in Him, and the meeting broke up with hearers begging for more of this teaching the following week. Many were becoming convinced. When Sabbath came round again, almost everyone showed up – Gentiles joining the Jews. This was looking like a story of a successful mission – but not in everyone’s perspective. The hunger for God that these Gentiles were showing angered some of the Jews, who began to contradict Paul and do their best to rubbish him. Paul and Barnabas reminded them that the Jews had been, rightly, the first to hear the message, but that it was “a light for the Gentiles” also.
On the one hand the Good News was spreading throughout the region, but on the other some of the Jews were inciting the influential Jewish women and prominent men to action, and the mission team was driven out. They travelled some distance to Iconium and you might expect them to be asking themselves: “Where did it all go wrong? What can we do after this?” Not at all. The Bible records: “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”
The message was about God’s unconditional love and grace, and this provoked anger among a religious minority. It usually does. The characteristics of religion are both legalistic and conditional. There was a spiritual clash.
Here’s the lesson. Even when it all seems to go wrong (perhaps especially when it all does go wrong), with a Father like ours there is extra grace… to be filled again with the presence of God and with His joy.
Difficulty can do one of two things: It can rob us of the anointing, or bring us into greater anointing. It depends how we respond.
Spiritual conflict goes with the territory. A religious spirit is just one opponent that we commonly contend with. That is why we need to be continually filled with the Spirit, to be aware of what is going on around us, and being empowered to deal with it. As on this occasion, we don’t always look ‘successful’. So what? God does not follow our rules in defining success, or rewarding success. The anointing is received through humility and obedience to His leading – and joy in the partnership is the result.
How do you respond to spiritual opposition? (1) Why is God allowing this to happen to me? Or (2) Why! God is allowing things to happen through me (and the devil doesn’t like it! But I’m in partnership with Jesus!). How good are you at moving from (1) to (2)?
“…Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Neh. 8:10b
James 1:2-3 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
1 Peter 1:8 “… rejoice with joy that is inexpressible…”
2 Cor. 12:9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.