Motto for the summer, courtesy of a fictional children’s hero:
“Get scared later.”
I have been blessedly led to an internship in The Suburbs. I have been working with H the Women’s Ministry Director. I have been thrown into ministry and tested and humbled and busy with writing and loving my grandmother, aka my landlord for the summer, along with my Jesus-needing extended family and the aging neighbors down the street. I am being filmed every time I teach. I have been riding the train alone, driving down the scariest highway in the state, navigating a relationship, praying for my friends serving overseas, dealing with future and money.
I am being taught so much. It’s a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a summer of insanity that I couldn’t have imagined 9 months or a year or five years ago. It seems scary, and I joke about my mantra, but by the Spirit, I’ve been able to do it with confidence!
Paul was catapulted into the explosive pot of the early church. His dramatic conversion launched him into ministry in the tumultuous and sweet and surreal situation of preaching the Gospel to the Jews AND the Gentiles.
As I’ve been reading through the book of Acts, I came to Paul’s first missionary journey to Iconium and Derbe. Barnabas and he were teaching in the synagogues, speaking boldly for the Lord, and the locals were in an uproar. They were divided over the truth, but the naysayers won out and drove them away. However, the guys kept preaching in the next town over–they kept going, instance number 1.
The conflict didn’t stop–the next town tries to worship the messengers even after Paul and Barnabas protest vehemently. Just as it looks like the Gospel is about to win more hearts, anger gets stirred up again as the mob FROM THE OTHER TOWN shows up. And then…this:
“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” (Acts 14:19).
Paul is stoned. Most likely dead. Outside the city, beaten and dragged. How about THAT for scary? Can you imagine being driven out of one town, running to safety in the next one, CONTINUING the mission, being attacked and separated from your team and left for dead by the crazy locals?
Welcome to your FIRST missions trip, kids.
I couldn’t believe what I read next:
“ 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” (Acts 14:20).
First of all, wow, Paul isn’t dead and praise God. He must’ve been in really bad shape, though. Secondly, props to the Christians who went to find him.
But…what does Paul do? He. Goes. Back.
He doesn’t flee, doesn’t leave town ASAP…he goes back.
I don’t know if Paul went back for purely logistical reasons, to recoup and to rest up. Maybe he was just trying to reunite with Barnabas. Luke is pretty curt and clear, though. Paul got up. Paul went back.
Absolutely not. I couldn’t imagine the trauma: mentally, physically, emotionally. But here’s the catch: the ridiculous boldness is not Paul. The getting-up-and-moving-forward is not in his own power. No, this is the Holy Spirit working tremendous strength and courage into his life. This is the same Spirit who dwells within each believer, equipping us EACH to live the unexplainable life, too.
This is the Spirit who makes us capable to speak to the woman next to us on the train about the Gospel. This is the Spirit who gives us the bravery to go back to that relative who hates Jesus, to forgive the church who hurt us, to love the person who scares us with their differences.
This is the Spirit who makes it so we do not have to fear. We can continue the mission to preach the Gospel and make disciples.
Like Paul, we will face horrible things in the Christian life. We will face good things, too, that take a lot of energy and trust and reliance upon him. In all of it, we need the strength only he can give by the Spirit. And we access this through believing in Christ, the gift of faith our Lord gives us and the enablement he provides so we can repent from our sin.
Are you scared?
See the truth and ask the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, that kept Paul going, to fill you and enable you.
There’s work to be done.