That’s it, fellow Christians. We’re done. We had a good run there for a few thousand years but it’s over now.
Just look at the news.
Gay marriage is gaining more and more acceptance. Pretty soon it will just be called marriage.
Christian military chaplains are being told to tone down the chaplain part of their duty.
Our own government is forcing some of us out of business if we refuse to fund our employee’s abortions.
The Braves are leaving Atlanta.
Tim Tebow doesn’t have a team to play for anymore.
When we focus too heavily on the situations around us, it’s easy to forget certain things that are important to our faith. Namely, God’s rule over all things and his faithfulness in piecing those things together for the good of his people.
The facts are clear. Christian influence in American culture is diminishing. Our backs are against the wall.
But that’s not all of the facts.
Even a quick survey of the history of Christianity reveals that opposition to the gospel always leads to greater opportunities. Paul is a good example. He was kicked out of Thessalonica so he took his message to Berea. When trouble caught up to him there he moved on to Athens to share his hope with pagan philosophers.
But eventually he got caught. This had to seem like the end for many of the young believers who had only recently repented and believed in Christ. Their earthly leader was on trial for his life. What would this mean for their new found faith? As usual, Paul serves as an example to believers (Philippians 3:17), then and today, who struggle with obeying God’s command to take the gospel to the world when the world seems to want nothing to do with that message. Or those of us who carry it.
It all starts with a command. And a promise.
Jesus commands his followers to make disciples of all nations. He promises us that he will be with us during the process (Matthew 28:19-20).
For Paul, the command and the promise was a bit more specific.
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so yo must testify also in Rome.” Acts 23:11 (ESV)
Essentially, the message from Jesus is the same for us as it was to Paul.
Things will be difficult. People will oppose you. But I have a job for you. And I am with you. So be brave.
And that’s just what Paul did as he endured opposition from angry mobs and corrupt leaders. We would do well to imitate Paul’s faithfulness as his back was against the wall. Here are five reminders for us as we try to finish our mission when it gets hard.
1. Remember that you live in a corrupt world (Acts 25:1-12).
Festus was overseeing this portion of Paul’s trial. He knew that he had nothing on Paul but he let things go on as a favor to the Jews who brought serious charges against Paul, “that they could not prove” (25:7).
Mob rule has not gone out of style yet. Neither have corrupt government officials. And we are not immune from the consequences of such evils.
2. Remember that your true identity is not in this world (Acts 25:13-27).
By this time Agrippa and Bernice have come to hear Paul’s defense. They are corrupt leaders and proud about it. The Bible says that they show up with “great pomp” (25:23). Think Super Bowl halftime show.
And then there’s Paul.
Chained. Bruised. But content.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV)
Great pomp usually exists to mask the lack of substance. Again, think Super Bowl halftime show. But contentment is the result of being ever aware of our standing in Christ. Even if our bodies carry the marks of abuse from a world that opposes us.
3. Remember who you used to be (Acts 26:1-11).
Paul never tried to hide his former life. Here he goes into great detail describing who he was before Christ rescued him. The words and phrases he uses are very important.
“Opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth.”
“Locked up many of the saints.”
“Punished them often.”
“Tried to make them blaspheme.”
“Persecuted them even to foreign cities.”
These were all things that were being done to Paul. It’s as if he was saying to his accusers, “I was just like you. Apart from Christ, we are no different.”
We must look at our world the same way. The sins we see, we were either once guilty of ourselves or we would be guilty of were it not for Christ. Apart from Christ, we are no different than those who oppose us.
4. Remember your mission (Acts 26:16-23).
Sometimes I think that the world would be a much better place if we had smaller government. That just might be true but the aim in such thought is too low. While Christians absolutely must be involved in improving this world, we kid ourselves if we ignore the next world.
Jesus’ assignment to Paul was clear.
“To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:18 (ESV)
Great politicians and well mannered, politically informed masses still go to hell without Jesus. While addressing the temporary we must never forget the eternal.
5. Check your passions (26:24-32).
It’s one of the most compelling scenes in the New Testament. King Agrippa seems to be responding favorably to Paul’s message. He even asks Paul if he is trying to persuade him to become a Christian (28).
Paul’s response is a memorable one.
And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am – except for these chains.” Acts 26:29 (ESV)
When Paul looked across the room at King Agrippa, he didn’t see an enemy who deserved eternal punishment. He saw a human being, blinded by Satan from grasping the beauty of the gospel, who deserved eternal punishment. And Paul wanted desperately to see the king’s eyes opened. Just like his were years before.
Our heart must beat the same as Paul’s. How can we expect anything to change in the heart’s of those who oppose our Lord if we don’t love them enough to want to see them enjoying the same hope that we have?
The world really is a dark place. But sometimes darkness is the best place for light to shine.
When we understand that we just might begin to see opposition to the gospel as an opportunity for it to spread.