We are all probably pretty familiar with Jesus’ teaching on worry in the Sermon on the Mount. We are not to worry about our life, our food, our drink, our clothes, or tomorrow (Matthew 6:25-34). That covers just about everything that we can worry about. But being familiar with the teaching is not the same thing as obeying the teaching. That’s the hard part.
Why are we told not to worry? Because our life is more valuable than food, our body is more valuable than clothing, and God is overseeing all these things. He knows we need them, and He cares for us more than He cares about the birds (and He feeds them), and more than He cares about the flowers (and He decks them out gloriously).
Yes, but what about tomorrow? Tomorrow is the unknown. We know about the needs for today, but we don’t know what might happen tomorrow. And we are practiced at writing bad stories in our heads about what might happen tomorrow. But Jesus says, let tomorrow worry about itself. Today is enough for us creatures. Don’t we have enough troubles today? Why should borrow more from tomorrow? Read More
Paul and Barnabas got in plenty of trouble in their day, but I was recently struck in particular by the chronology of their troubles in Antioch as recorded in chapter 13 of Acts. It’s not that different from some of our modern-day troubles. One of the encouraging things about this episode is though we sometimes see trouble as simply trouble, we are actually supposed to see some troubles as signs of true success. You might want to take the time to read the entire context (Paul’s sermon is Acts 13:17-41), but this is what happens as a result of his faithful preaching of “glad tidings.”
Things are looking promising. The crowd is growing, and people are begging for more.
- Paul declares the glad tidings (vs. 32) in the synagogue.
- “So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.” (vs.42-43).
- “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.” (vs. 44).
But now the “trouble” begins. Someone is not all together happy about the success of the ministry.
- “ But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy (vs. 45a).
- “And contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul” (vs. 45b).
- Then Paul and Barnabas spoke with more boldness (vs. 46).
- “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region” (vs. 48-49).
- “But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region” (vs. 50).
At this point, some of us may think the persecution was a success. After all, Paul and Barnabas got kicked out of town. But read on. The story is not really over.
- So Paul and Barnabas dusted off their feet and headed to Iconium (vs. 51).
- “And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Spirit” (vs. 52).
So here are a few take-way lessons for us.
- Successful ministry breeds envy. In this case, the envy was among the religious leaders of the Jews.
- Envy stirs up controversy, and the ensuing controversy has two effects:
- It causes more boldness in the preachers themselves; it causes some of the chief men and prominent women to join the wrong team.
- Sometimes the result looks like failure because the preachers are chased out of town (or out of their pulpits), but the actual result in the church is joy and the Holy Spirit.
We don’t know the names of those chief men and honorable women who were “stirred up” to join in the persecution, but we do know Paul and Barnabas, and we know that the ministry in Antioch continued to flourish. Pity those women who were deceived into joining the wrong team, especially since they were prominent women in the community. They were women of influence, and they used their influence to run Paul and Barnabas out of town. But they did not succeed in stopping the spread of the “glad tidings” of the gospel. They did not stop the Holy Spirit from doing His work.
The exhortation to love one another is the most basic Christian doctrine there is, and we are to be known for our love for one another. But some see us as haters. In fact, not long ago a woman came up to my husband and me while we were out to dinner, and she called him a hater. At the time I chimed in and contradicted her. He most certainly is not a hater in the way she claimed.
But as I thought about it later, I realized that actually he is a hater. And so am I. And so are you. And so is that woman. We all hate something. She apparently hates haters. But being a hater is not a bad thing in itself. It all depends on what it is we are hating.
God Himself hates lots of things. He hates sin. If He did not hate sin, Christ would not have gone to the cross to redeem us from it. God is the ultimate hater because He hates sin more than any of us do, and we would do well to hate what He hates more than we do. Consider these seven things that God hates:
- A proud look.
- A lying tongue
- Hands that shed innocent blood
- A heart that devises wicked plans
- Feet that are swift in running to evil
- A false witness who speaks lies
- One who sows discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19)
Do you hate these things? Then I guess you are a hater too. And we are all in good company because our Maker loves the world so much, He hates sin so much, that He sent His only begotten Son into this world.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)
If you love the right things, you will necessarily hate those things that threaten it. Do you love your liberty? Then you hate tyranny. Do you love the baby in the womb? Then you hate abortion. Do you love marriage? Then you hate adultery, fornication, and sodomy. Do you love the truth? Then you hate falsehood.
In this momentarily upside-down world, if you hate what God hates, you are called a hater. It reminds me of the man who was simultaneously screaming at my husband and flipping him off with one hand, while holding a large sign with the other that said, “No hate here!”
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)
If you are called a hater, be sure it is for the same things that God hates. Just as we love imperfectly, so we hate imperfectly. But nevertheless, we are called to do both, and all to the glory of God.
The other day I posted the following on my Facebook page and it got quite a response. (This photo was taken while I was nursing Moses on the stairs and realizing that I very much needed this message to myself.)
“I can’t imagine that in 20 years when my kids get together they will look back in joy on the year Mom finally figured out a way to keep the snow clothes tidy. A bunch of adults sitting around, “Remember that year when everything was clean before Christmas? That was the best! I hope we can do that for our kids this year!” Somehow doesn’t ring true, does it?
Some courageous women from Christ Church have started their own blog called Women Freed where they tell their stories of past abuse and the road to healing.