Today’s Reading: Acts 22:22 – 23:11
Paul, the man who had persecuted Christians and pursued them like prey, is now the victim of the same kind of persecution. He had this incredible encounter on the road to Damascus, which became a life-changing experience. He repented of his sins, was baptized and responded to God’s call on his life. And he lived happily ever after…
No, that is not exactly what happened. Paul experienced wonderful times where the message of Jesus Christ was accepted, people were healed, and new believers were baptized. But there were also very difficult times for Paul. More than once he was mobbed, arrested, beaten and imprisoned. The crowd even followed behind him shouting, “Kill him, kill him!” (Acts 21:36)
So here is the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people? Paul is an excellent example. If Paul had submitted to the Lordship of Christ and was giving his life to preaching the gospel of Jesus, why was he experiencing such horrible persecution?
This week I learned that the Executive Director of the Prestonwood Pregnancy Center in Dallas died unexpectedly. She was recently diagnosed with a liver disease and placed on the transplant list. She leaves behind a husband and two young children – as well as a strong ministry of staff, volunteers, donors and clients.
I have a friend whose cancer is back and another friend who has received a bleak cancer diagnosis. I have friends suffering from MS and my father suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. It seems like there is more bad news every time I look at my newsfeed on Facebook.
The list could go on for pages – infidelity, divorce, disease, heartbreak, persecution, unemployment, financial hardships, loss and grief. The reality is that we live in an imperfect world. We may serve a perfect God but there is no guarantee that we will never experience a difficult time or struggle. But I am encouraged by how Paul’s story ends in this passage.
Paul had experienced two very difficult days. What started out as a morning trip to the Temple to start the purification ritual, ended up with false accusations and a mobbing, which turned into a full-blown riot. Paul was grabbed and dragged out of the Temple. As the Jews were trying to kill Paul, Roman officers arrived and arrested him, placing him in chains. The crowd was so violent they had to lift Paul over their shoulders to protect him. Paul tried to defend himself against their false accusations but the crowd interrupted him (Acts 21:26-22:23).
That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.” – Acts 23:11
In the midst of the persecution, God made His presence known to Paul.
In the midst of the difficulties, God spoke words of encouragement to him.
Knowing the desire of his heart, God revealed to Paul that he would survive this experience and have the opportunity to preach the Good News in Rome.
Isn’t God wonderful? No, He doesn’t always shelter us from hard times but He never leaves us alone. He brings comfort in the midst of struggles and encouragement to strengthen us for tomorrow. Praise God for the spirit of power, love and sound judgment that He gives us in place of our fears.
For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7