From reading the title, do you already hear the song from Annie? “It’s a hard knock life for us…”
Hard times come because we live in a fallen world. We are fallen. What does this mean? Sometimes we fail to do what God wants and then wonder why life falls apart as we continue to do all things our way. Going our own way affects all the people we touch. We are fallen because pride, selfishness, envy and jealousy, among other traits of evil, send us to a place we really don’t want to go. We get that, right? But…
Why do bad things happen to good people, people who are working so hard to help others find and follow Jesus? Why are Holy Spirit led leaders consistently under fire from those they are trying to help live for God? Why are leaders leaving ministry today by the hundreds? Here is one clue…
It is mostly about the extreme stress and strain the Body puts on the leader. They expect human leaders to be perfect, always at their beckon call, knowing their needs without telling them, while expecting church growth in a rapid, consistent pace. They want a god to be God in person, doing their will. When leaders do not meet their expectations, they murmur, grumble and gossip. (Read Exodus 15 specifically about God’s people grumbling in the day of Moses!) Yes, nothing new to see here today!
We are all fallen, imperfect people, called of God to help other fallen imperfect people to the perfect forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Only God can be God. Only Jesus saves souls, we do not. We merely go and tell, helping others find Jesus. As leaders, volunteer servants, missionaries, and attenders who love God and believe that through Jesus, His Son we are saved, we enter a battle with the evil one who wants to destroy all that is of God.
Satan is a liar with limited power. This fallen angel is resentful and throws thoughts of his character traits into the mix of the building of the Body of Christ called “church”. Yes, going and telling comes with a price, laying down our comfort so that others might know Jesus, knowing the battle is hard at times. It is not for the “faint of heart”. We must always remember that Jesus knows, cares and has already won this battle. Lean into Truth when the going gets tough.
Paul’s warning is true:
“Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times.”
Jesus told his disciples:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Just knowing Jesus knows brings peace. Knowing He is coming back again brings peace. Knowing He wins in the end, fills us with peace when we feel like quitting. It is Jesus’ gift of peace that keep us from quitting when hard times enter into the mix of serving with love, mercy and grace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
It seems these encouraging words of Jesus are instilled in the lives of Paul and Barnabas along with the Disciples whom Jesus mentored, commissioned and sent before ascending back to heaven. These words are for us, too!
God’s actions bring good news results!
After praying and fasting leaders, who trusted the Master Jesus completely, were installed to carry on the work that Paul and Barnabas began.
Finally, they made it to Attalia and caught a ship back to Antioch, where it had all started—launched by God’s grace and now safely home by God’s grace. A good piece of work.
While in the middle of God’s work assigned to me, my prayer is and always will be, “God, help me to do what you want me to do well so others will know you, too.” Friends, it is only by God’s grace that His work is completed in the way He wants it while growing us at the same time. God is amazing in the ways He works through His imperfect people perfectly forgive by Jesus, His Son!
We pray. God works.
ACTS—God’s Acts through His Disciples
Acts 14:21-28, The Message
Plenty of Hard Times
21-22 After proclaiming the Message in Derbe and establishing a strong core of disciples, they retraced their steps to Lystra, then Iconium, and then Antioch, putting grit in the lives of the disciples, urging them to stick with what they had begun to believe and not quit, making it clear to them that it wouldn’t be easy: “Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times.”
23-26 Paul and Barnabas handpicked leaders in each church. After praying—their prayers intensified by fasting—they presented these new leaders to the Master to whom they had entrusted their lives. Working their way back through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia and preached in Perga. Finally, they made it to Attalia and caught a ship back to Antioch, where it had all started—launched by God’s grace and now safely home by God’s grace. A good piece of work.
27-28 On arrival, they got the church together and reported on their trip, telling in detail how God had used them to throw the door of faith wide open so people of all nations could come streaming in. Then they settled down for a long, leisurely visit with the disciples.
THINK ABOUT IT… THE DEBRIEF
Don’t you love how Paul and Barnabas reported back to the other disciples about what GOD did? Then they rested. There is something significant about “settling down” to rest with other believers, debriefing what was learned, before the next God assignment begins.
How much you can teach us through the smallest number of words! This passage was small but packs a big punch of truth about hard times. You work does not stop in us or around us in hard times. Our hard times are no challenge for you! Nothing is too hard for you. Your work will still be accomplished with or without us. This thought takes the heat off somehow. So, we don’t give up or turn back on what you have given us to be and do. Help us to see You above it all, continue in your direction, leaning on your shoulder, protecting us from the storms of evil. You are God, we are not. So, when you say move, we move. When you say be still, we will be still. Thank you for teaching us that you are always at work no matter what is happening around us. Thank you for this lesson of grace for all people.
In Jesus Name, Amen