Friday, June 9
I love listening to missionary stories. I love hearing how bold men and women have carried the good news of God’s love and plan of salvation to others, sometimes meeting with great success, eager ears, and saved lives, while other times being faced with disappointment, ridicule, shunning or great danger. The book of Acts delivers all this and more as the great missionary Paul along with Silas, Barnabas, John Mark and others worked tirelessly to teach, preach, baptize and encourage churches and individuals through many towns and countries – growing the Kingdom of God.
One word that caught my attention in these chapters was JOY. Acts 13:52 records, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Sounds great, doesn’t it!! Things must have been going very well for our faithful missionaries to be experiencing such JOY. But, wait, what were the verses just previous . . . “But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.” (13:50-51). Trials, persecutions, and hardships, being expelled, cast out – these can easily bring up lots of human emotions. Anger, rage, depression, hopelessness, fatigue, giving up. But instead it says the disciples were filled with JOY – and with the Holy Spirit. That is the joy that I want to have. A deep joy that comes not from everything going as planned, but from knowing you are doing the Father’s Will – even when it is hard, even when it hurts. A joy that comes hand in hand with His Holy Spirit.
JOY is used again in Acts 16:34 – this time at a truly JOYOUS occasion. “The jailer…was filled with JOY because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.” Can you imagine the scene – middle of the night, jailer hears singing from the cell as Paul and Silas praise God and pray. Then – EARTHQUAKE!!!! Prison doors thrown open and the jailer prepares to kill himself, since he would be executed if any of his prisoners ever escaped, and what prisoners wouldn’t escape if the prison doors were thrown open. But then a shout is heard, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”” (16:28). The astounded jailer needs to know more about these men and the Jesus they profess. Paul and Silas gladly teach – and baptize – the changed jailer and his family. The jailer takes them into his home and gives the missionaries a meal. And there is JOY. The baptism of a new believer is certainly one of the most joyful events. But, what events were necessary to proceed this baptism? In this particular case, the jailer would not have heard the gospel message if it weren’t for several catastrophes and trials: an earthquake, a mob attacking Peter & Silas (because they had healed a slave girl) which led to them being stripped and severely beaten and thrown in jail. And, even then, if Peter and Silas had reacted differently to these crisis situations (perhaps with anger and selfishness rather than with praise and joy), the jailer would most likely have committed suicide instead of asking how to be saved.
I don’t know what you are going through today. But, how can you face it with praise and joy and the Holy Spirit? It just might lead to the saving of a life – maybe your own, and maybe somebody else’s.