Just a thought to share from my Paul study this morning:
My Tuesday morning ladies' study is doing Beth Moore’s “To Live Is Christ”, and in this week’s lesson, we’ve just started following Paul and Barnabas along the first missionary journey. In Acts 14, we see Paul and Barnabas go to Iconium, and then on to Lystra.
In Iconium, they begin teaching in the Jewish synagogue, where “a great number of Jews and Gentiles believe.” However, they also are met with some opposition from both the Jews and Gentiles there, who plot together to stone them. Paul and Barnabas find out about this and flee to Lystra.
In Lystra, after the people mistakenly assume Paul and Barnabas are gods and attempt to worship them as such, some of the same Jews from Iconium also come to Lystra to stir up the crowd there. They succeed, and Paul is stoned there at Lystra, to the point of being assumed/left for dead.
However, Beth Moore then points us to Paul’s comments near the end of his life, regarding the happenings at these places. In 2 Tim. 3, Paul states “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from them all.”
In one instance, Paul and Barnabas find out about the plot against them and escape before they are harmed. In the next, Paul’s life is nearly taken from him. And yet, Paul describes both instances as the Lord’s rescue. As Beth Moore states, “Any person in her right mind would prefer to be rescued before the first stone’s thrown, not after the last!”
I guess the challenge here is recognizing both kinds of instances in our own lives as the Lord’s rescue. “Every time God delivers us, the point is ultimately to draw us closer to Himself. Whether we get to avoid pain and suffering or we must persevere in the midst of it, our deliverance comes when we’re dragged from the enemy of our souls to the heart of God.”