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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Honor through Dishonor

“But a Pharisee named Gamaliel stood up. He was a highly respected expert in Moses' Teachings. He ordered that the apostles should be taken outside for a little while.  Then he said to the council, ‘Men of Israel, consider carefully what you do with these men…

We should keep away from these men for now. We should leave them alone. I can guarantee that if the plan they put into action is of human origin, it will fail. However, if it's from God, you won't be able to stop them. You may even discover that you're fighting against God.’ 

The council took his advice. They called the apostles, beat them, ordered them not to speak about the one named Jesus, and let them go.  The apostles left the council room. They were happy to have been considered worthy to suffer dishonor for speaking about Jesus.  Every day in the temple courtyard and from house to house, they refused to stop teaching and telling the Good News that Jesus is the Messiah.”

                                                                       (Acts 5:34-35, 38-42   God’s Word ©)

The above portion of scripture takes place not too long after Jesus ascended into heaven and 120 of His followers fled to the upper room trying to figure out what had happened and were filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  Following their unworldly experience and filled with a new power and determination, the disciples hit the streets telling everyone the Good News that Jesus is the Messiah!  The only problem was that the Jewish High Council wasn’t too happy about it!  As far as they were concerned this business about Jesus and His claims to be the Son of God were put down when they crucified Him.

But what’s this?  Suddenly there are a growing number of disciples going out and telling the city about Jesus and His story of everlasting life!  So they figured that all they needed to do was to take out the leaders of this movement and everything would go back to the old norm… right?

Well… not quite!  As the beginning story relates, they arrested the 12 Apostles and were figuring out what to do with them when one of their wise leaders stands up and gives them some advice…

Can you imagine the look of chagrin on the faces of the members of the High Council as they watched the Apostles walking out of their chambers after having been beaten soundly and threatened, with smiles on their faces,   Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name?” (Acts 5:41 The Message)

Every time I read this portion of the Word I can’t help but smile when I picture the Jewish leaders standing there with their smug looks quickly fading in the face of the joy and sense of honor that flooded the Apostles countenance.  I imagine that after the twelve left the room that the Jewish leaders looked at each other and simply shrugged their shoulders!

My wife and I have had the experience of people coming over to our house to “set us straight” after we chose to follow a direction that we felt the Lord had instructed us to follow… In fact, we’ve had it happen more than once over the 47 years of our relationship!  And we have also seen those same folks walk out our front door with a distinct look of consternation when we did not change our minds.  The funny part of these experiences is, just like the disciples reaction in verse 42, that these strong rebukes to our actions only served to deepen our resolve to complete what we felt that the Lord had spoken to us and gave us a sense of confirmation that we were on the right track!  And also like the Apostles, over a period of time we began to have a sense of being honored that we were dishonored at times, for following the Lord.

What do you think about all that?  Have you ever experienced a situation like that... when you step out to follow a dream that you sense is directed of the Lord, only to be hit with some disconcerting words or “advice” by others who really believe that you’ve stepped off a cliff this time?  What did you do?  Hopefully it was exactly what the Apostles did… with the pain and humility of having their backs bloodied by the whip for everyone to see, they put their heads up and began to rejoice… right there in the face of their accusers!

Those twelve men walked away in victory and not defeat!  They let their joy immediately take away any anger or fear that would try to arise in them.  Through their joyful response, they were empowered to go back to the temple courtyard on a daily basis and then door to door in order to boldly spread the Good News to their city and eventually to the known world!  I would bet that there were times that they were thankful for that first response of the temple High Court leaders, as it served to spur them on to even greater places of victory for the Gospel!

I’m sure that you’ve heard that old saying in the church of how “you can’t have great victories without great battles!”  Well, you know… it is a true saying!  Even though I found myself angry, deeply offended and frustrated at times, I am actually thankful for the persecution we have gone through as it too, has served to strengthen my resolve and faith in the Lord’s effectual working in Piper’s body as well as in each of the steps of His plan for us that He continues to unfold before us!

So… don’t get mad, Get GLAD in the Lord when voices rise up against you.  At times like this the usual words that come to my mind and out of my mouth are found in one of my wife’s favorite passages of scripture, and I refuse to give in to anger or criticism and instead shout “I refuse to be sad (or mad), because the joy that I have in the Lord is my strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10 God’s Word © personalized)

And you know… funny thing… it works just about EVERY TIME!

Have a great holiday weekend (here in the USA) and as you celebrate the freedoms that our country has to offer, remember to keep asking yourself…. “What response am I expecting to make to those who feel it their place to ‘set you straight’?”

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