Acts 18:1-23

Today’s devotion is written by Mark Crain.

“In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33 NIV)

“So he stayed….” (Acts 18:11 NIV)

“Oh! We’ve got trouble! Right here in River City!”  You may recognize the exhortations of Harold Hill, the charming con man and lead character in the Broadway Musical The Music Man.  He breezes into town and creates havoc, convincing the townsfolk that the local pool hall will result in the worst kinds of “Trouble…with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Pool!” Of course it’s a fraud, and he has offers a profitable scam to remedy.  But he wins the heart of Marian the local music teacher, and there’s a happy ending, so all is well.  Right?  Hmmm….

Admittedly, it is a stretch to compare Professor Hill’s contrived crisis in River City to what was happening to Christians in Paul’s time, but to be sure, all through the Book of Acts, there was “Trouble” a-plenty. 

Peter and John before the Sanhedrin – Trouble.

Ananias and Sapphira cheating and lying – Trouble.

The Sadducees arresting the apostles – Trouble.

Aramaic widows privileged above Greek widows – Trouble!

Stephen arrested and murdered – Trouble.

The church scatters throughout Judea and Samaria – Trouble.

Saul wreaking havoc on believers – Trouble.

Saul/Paul converted, but not trusted – Trouble.

Gentiles too? – Trouble, Trouble, and more Trouble!

Herod imprisons Peter – Trouble.

Gentiles and Jews seek to stone Paul and Barnabas – Trouble.

Paul and Barnabas disagree and separate – Trouble.

Paul and Silas are thrown in prison – Trouble.

Idols in Athens – Oh! We’ve got Trouble!

Claudius kicks the Jews out of Rome – Trouble.

I’m sure to have missed something, but I certainly get the point that the early Christians had more than than their share of…. TROUBLE!

By this time, Paul and some of the other devout missionaries have been struck blind, charged, judged, threatened, beaten, killed, scattered and generally tested beyond what reasonable persons might be willing to endure.  And still the trouble continues.  Paul has to defend himself against the local Jews, gets fed up with the situation and threatens to leave the town he is staying in.  At this point, any typical stress-handling technique (i.e., Fight, Flight or Freeze, etc.) could easily be a logical choice for Paul. 

As Paul appears ready to leave the trouble behind, the Lord speaks to him in a vision saying, “Don’t be afraid. Continue speaking. Don’t be silent. I’m with you and no one who attacks you will harm you, for I have many people in this city.  So he stayed…” (v. 9-11)

So he stayed!  For another eighteen months!

Clearly, the heart of the Roman Saul had been transformed into the Apostle Paul capable of hearing and honoring messages from God.  Time and time again, the Bible tells us how God speaks to us when we need it most.  The tiniest pinhole of light pierces the darkest moment, and the Holy Spirit says, “Be not afraid.”  Regardless of the circumstance, we can meditate on the Word and take comfort in the presence of the Lord!

By the way, the story of Harold Hill in River City concludes with his being found out and having to pick up the baton to direct the very untalented and uneducated children’s band.  Clearly, love also transformed the heart of the flim-flam music man, and so, in spite of himself, he stayed!

How will I recognize the voice of God in the midst of my own schemes and frustrations?

How will I respond when God speaks, telling me to stay in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation?

Do I believe the God who says “Don’t be afraid,” and “I am with you.”?

“Word of God speak!” 

What are your thoughts, comments, questions?

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