When You Feel Beaten and Left for Dead
My New Testament Bible reading for today was in the book of Acts chapter 14. As I read the chapter, I re-discovered something that I'd overlooked all of the other times I've read it.
In verse 8 of the chapter, the Apostle Paul is preaching and teaching the Greek people in the ancient city of Lystra (in what is now modern day Turkey), and he stops to heal a man who had been unable to walk for his entire life.
Then this happens:
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”The people in the town are so enamored with Paul and his companion Barnabas, that they refer to them as the embodiment of Zeus and Hermes. The local religious leaders even come out to offer sacrifices to them, but Paul finally dissuades them from doing so, giving glory to God alone for the healing.
Then, one verse after all of the aforementioned brouhaha, we get this:
Then some Judeans came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.In one moment the Apostle Paul was likened to a god, and then in the next people are throwing rocks at him and leaving him for dead outside the city.
Some years ago, I decided to add some creative elements to a sermon, which included a video of a Johnny Cash song. After the service, more than one person told me that it was one of the most impactful sermons they'd ever heard, and they loved the video.
By the next day, however, I'd received at least four emails complaining about the use of the video, an angry handwritten note accusing me of desecrating the church, and an in-person dressing down by a woman who threatened to leave the church if I did something like that again.
When all was said and done, I felt a bit like Paul---covered in bumps and bruises, and dragging myself to my feet outside the city walls, wondering what happened.
What have your Lystra moments been like? Did you get dragged outside the city by a co-worker or a close friend who turned on you? Did you discover that everything you worked hard to achieve had been shattered by a nasty comment or a litany of gossip?
The important lesson that we learn from Paul in this story is that he didn't let any of this affect his ultimate sense of purpose and call.
In the end, he picked himself up and then moved on to the next challenge. And he never stopped preaching and never stopped proclaiming the Good News that through Jesus God was saving the world.
If you find yourself feeling beat up and left for dead today--don't lose heart. People are fickle and frail. All of us. And we constantly hurt one another, and let one another down. Which is why it is so important for us to keep our focus on Jesus alone, and what it means to follow him.
Pick yourself up. The bruises will heal. Your wounded spirit will be made whole. There's work to be done, and a light to share. And God means for you to accomplish the work and share your light.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.