Purposeful Persecution – Acts 8

Click here to read Acts 8 on BibleGateway.com

gymWhy is it that the right thing is always so painful? Why do you have to work so hard to work out? Why is it better to save than to spend? Why is it better to think of others instead of ourselves? Why is it better to eat asparagus instead of a dozen snickerdoodles? One would think that God would make all the stuff that’s good for us also the easiest, wouldn’t one?

Well, today we get a little insight into God’s perspective on the whole pain thing. Let’s jump back just a bit to set the stage: in Acts 1, Jesus tells his disciples “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Sounds pretty good; a little talking, a little traveling, and it’s all good. But as Acts progresses, the disciples seem to be a little slow-going. We read how “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts…and all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade.” The new believers enjoyed their new-found fellowship and joy, but they weren’t really doing what Jesus commanded.

COURSE CORRECTION

So, now we come to Acts 8, and Saul (soon to be Paul) gets his Pharisee Posse together to round up them nasty believers. He goes from house to house and puts anyone he finds into prison. Thus “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Sound familiar? The disciples had been reluctant to leave the comfort of Jerusalem and the home church and carry the Good News to the rest of the world; so God either sent or allowed persecution to come against them, in order to encourage them.  A little divine swat on the tushy, if you will.

Notice how many of the great stories of Acts come after this point. It was the persecution that laid the groundwork for the great things that God did in the future. Though it’s unlikely that the disciples appreciated the persecution at the time, there’s little doubt that the miracles and wonders came as a result of the disciples being “forced” to obey Jesus’ command to spread out. God used the pain of persecution to get the believers back into his will and to show them a fuller glory.

RICE CAKE AND RAISINS

This is not to say that all pain in our lives is sent by God (after all, this world is not how God intended it thanks to Adam and the Evester), but Romans tells us that God works all things together for our good. Whether or not God is actually sending the pain is a matter of debate for the tweed-suit crowd, but we can trust that God is using that pain to advance his kingdom and bring us closer to himself. That means we should not necessarily be asking God to deliver us from pain or ask “Why are you doing this?” but rather we should be asking “How are you using this?” It’s not easy to change our perspective (actually, i’d rather have my toenails pulled out) but it’s important to understand that God’s desire is not necessarily for us to have an easy life, but rather a fulfilled life.

Now I have a choice to make: here sits my yogurt and my Hershey Kisses. Decisions are painful.

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