Thursday, February 2, 2012


Have you ever met someone and they were not what you were expecting. They looked different, they sounded different or they acted different from how you had them pictured in your mind? As I was reading last week I came across the following passage and it made me think abou this. Take a look:

Acts 14: 19-23 - 19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. 21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
Sometimes when I read a passage like that my mind wants to fill in some of the details. Here's what I mean. Imagine the scene, Paul has just been stoned and left for dead. Not only does he somehow pull himself together but he goes right back into the city. Maybe he went back to get Barnabas to let him know he was still alive. Maybe Barnabus was sitting somewhere thinking now what, Paul is dead and I may be next. My guess is that Paul did not simply dust himself off and walk back into the city as though nothing happened. I think Paul may have been in such bad shape physically that had Barnibus not seen what happened he might not even have recognized Paul. I have never seen someone after they have been hit by rocks all over from head to toe but I have seen men after they have gone toe to toe with another boxer or ultimate fighter. The aftermath can be rather gruesome. Typically their eyes are swollen shut, their nose is broken and crooked, their lips split and most times they have a cut or two on their face that looks as though it will need stitches. And this after guys are hit by someone with gloves on their hands, not large, heavy, jagged rocks. Who knows, Paul may have had some of his teeth knocked out, his jaw or ribs broken. We really don't know but I feel sure he looked pretty bad.

As we get to verse 23 we are only a few days removed from the stoning Paul endured. I imagine he still looked pretty bad. His swelling may have gone down but my guess is that he was probably black and blue all over. His cuts were probably forming a few good scabs and he may have been limping. Again, I am simply trying to fill in a few blanks with my imagination. Never the less he and Barnabas get down to the business of appointing elders. How would you respond if you are sitting in a room waiting to meet with the unofficial head of the Christian faith, the Apostle Paul and he walks in looking like he probably looked. Would you wince as you looked at him, would you look at the obvious wounds trying to ignore them, would you wonder should I ask what happened? Would you have some hesitancy in your decision to take on the position of elder? Would you begin to look for an excuse to possibly get out of this?

Paul did not sugar coat the life he and others like him were called to live. In verse 22 he tells them that there would be hardships that they would have to endure. It is one thing to talk about it and quite another to actually live it out. I wonder if Paul said just look at me! For most of us our fear is not of physical scars but more psychological scars; the scars of rejection, ridicule and ribing.

As I sat in church Sunday our pastor read a passage that was an encouragement to me and maybe to you. In Acts 4 we see a prayer of the early church:

Acts 4: 29-31 -29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Our pastor stated the obvious, something I overlooked. You usually pray for something you do not have. They were scared, like me at times, and they prayed for boldness. I do not think we need to seek our opportunities to get stoned, I simplythink we need to look for opportunities to be bold. God help us!

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