When the Apostle Paul’s life was winding down, he had a particularly poignant point to make in a last letter to his young friend Timothy. And it all began with remembering a journey he had made some 20 or so years before…
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra– which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 2 Timothy 3:10-11 (ESV)
Sure enough – it’s Paul remembering his very first missionary journey with Barnabas, the very one Acts 13 and 14 tell us about. But, then again, how could he forget?
The Lord worked mightily all through this journey, but the Jews who had hounded Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia and Iconium finally caught up with them in Lystra, stoning Paul and dragging him out of the city. Though many believed over the two years or so that they were gone, it was a painful recollection for the old man; and looking back 20 years later, Paul has a haunting word for Timothy and the rest of us:
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV)
Of course, the recent murder of Christians by ISIS is an obvious example of persecution, but it’s not hard to make application to our culture in North America today. Most believers in the U.S. (not including African American Christians, among others) have been living in a surreal world of welcome and praise over the last 200 years. Christianity was the “it” religion, and we Christians shared general agreement about morality with the rest of the culture.
But times are changing. One has only to consider the couple forced to close their bakery doors for refusing to serve a same-sex couple’s wedding. My impression is that these sorts of items are cropping up around the nation. And unless revival comes, we can assume events will only continue to move this way more and more.
But that’s okay. This was never “our” country in the first place; it just felt like it. And now, reality has struck: non-believers in America are beginning to act more and more like they acted in the Bible. Meantime, our role has never changed. We, like Paul and Barnabas 2,000 years ago, are called to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying humanity.
And from now on, more than ever before, we can know if we are proclaiming this message well, because if we are…we will be persecuted.
For Monday, March 2: Acts 15