The last few days I’ve been re-reading the exciting story of the first Christian community as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Talk about adventures – for those guys, it seems every day was an adventure. Church was anything but dull.
In Acts chapter 7, everything seemed to be going great! The church was growing in numbers, community life was vibrant, and they saw the Holy Spirit at work to such an extent that miracles were common. They even managed to solve a conflict that had threatened to divide the church, by creating a team of seven servant-leaders to assist the apostles, preparing the way for further growth.
Then – disaster struck, as the church began to encounter persecution from the religious police. First one of their new servant-leaders was attacked and killed. Then the whole church began to suffer one attack after another. People were getting thrown in jail just for believing that Jesus was the Messiah. Most of the Christ-followers left town, running away from Jerusalem to the surrounding towns and cities where they’d be harder to track down. Only the apostles (main leaders) were left. This seemed to be a disaster – the worst thing that could have happened.
We can probably all understand why these persecuted Christ-followers might look for a safe place when things got dicey. It only made sense for them to stay out of harm’s way for a while, waiting for things to settle down. Except that’s not what they did! Instead of staying quiet, they proclaimed the good news of Jesus wherever they went. Philip went to the city of Samaria; he told the people about Jesus, and so many paralytics and cripples were healed that they had a major revival.
This story got me thinking about how we respond when everything is turned upside down, when our world no longer feels safe and secure. We all like it when things are going well, but what do we do when the rug gets pulled out from under us and our visions and dreams are under attack?
Philip and his friends probably weren’t looking for persecution. No-one in their right mind would do that. But when it came, they didn’t doubt God’s faithfulness – they assumed that God was with them in it, and acted in faith, not fear. As a result, what seemed like disaster became a stepping-stone to seeing their destiny fulfilled.
What about us ?