Saturday, July 3, 2010

From Riches to Rags – But Always Rich

“When the crowd saw what Paul had done [that he had—through the Holy Spirit—healed a crippled man], they shouted... ‘The gods have come down to us in human form!’ ... when Barnabas and Paul heard of this [they shouted], ‘Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you...’

[Then having placated the crowd somewhat...] Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.”

~Acts 14:11, 14-15a, 19 (NIV [adapted]).

What crazy times these must have been for Paul, Barnabas and the other apostles; the messengers and servants of God. In this short passage they’d been elevated to god status one moment, before some influential Jews arrived on the scene to turn the recently-ecstatic crowd on them, the next. Their heads must have been spinning.

However, let’s not jump so quickly to that conclusion!

Christ Preached First

We get the impression when reading Acts—and certainly any of the letters attributed to Paul—that everything was considered a loss that didn’t involve the preaching of Christ and him crucified.

But we miss the point if we think this only pertains to ‘preaching,’ for preaching comes in many forms, and from the pulpit is only one of them.

In this passage, earlier on actually (Acts 14:8-10), the event that led to the apostle’s being worshipped took place—the healing of a man who’d never walked; one crippled from birth. The healing of this man was of a real sense the preaching of Christ, to the salvation of a once-lost-soul.

Saint Francis of Assisi was attributed for the quote,

“Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

The idea behind all this is Christ is preached to the negation and subjection of the servant-of-God’s pride—to the actualising of the other person’s need.

However we preach—with words, silence, a listening ear, the work of our hands, the kindness of a smile and so on—we’re ‘speaking’ as Jesus would’ve. It’s Jesus’ compassion sown into the world at the personal level—that’s the gospel preached.

Indeed, through the Holy Spirit we’re continuing Jesus’ ministry here on earth; a reign that has never stopped, and never will.

The Ups and Downs are Inevitable and Accepted

The Pauls’ and the Barnabas’s of the world—today, tomorrow, as well as those of yesteryear—went on beyond their own circumstances because their hearts were so hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).

Rags or riches, therefore, were no real matter—riches it all was in the Presence and service of the Almighty.

The focus for them and us is not at all on what they gained or lost, or what we have to gain or lose—or on what rewards and punishment they got or we get. Their focus—as is ours—is on the work of the Spirit of God, to the transformation of lives.

This is patently the duty of every servant of Jesus Christ. In him are our true riches.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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