Wednesday night Bible Study has been a real eye-opener this fall! We are about five chapters into our study in the book of Acts, and I am learning about something I never realized before: There is an undeniable affirmation of ministry in the book of Acts. Every time someone new is introduced, as soon as they begin their ministry, something very interesting happens – they meet with challenge and hardship.
When Peter preaches on Pentecost, before he even opens his mouth, the Christians are called “drunkards,” because the working of the Spirit allows the gathered Christians to speak in many different languages to tell the many different people in the city about Jesus. The ones who misunderstood what they were seeing were quick to criticize. When Peter heals a crippled man, he and John are jailed overnight, then ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus. They brought joy to man who knew hardship his whole life, and for this they are punished. When the Church calls deacons, one of the called is a man named Stephen. When he begins his ministry, he is talking about Jesus, and this leads to charges and then the people execute him by stoning him.
Isn’t it interesting that in the modern era, we have come to equate a life of obedience to God with ease, prosperity, and happiness? How did that happen? It certainly wasn’t the experience of the early disciples, and it was most definitely not what the prophets experienced!
So why do we do this?
I think it is because we want the hope we have in Christ to have some tangible, tactile and immediate benefit. If you do a job for someone, you get paid. If it is your birthday, you get gifts. And so on. Coming to faith in Christ, following him, is good. So why wouldn’t good things follow?
Well, good things do follow, but not in the way we think. Eternal life in Christ is going to be amazing, but that is for later. The world we live in today doesn’t go after Christ. And so, they will resist us, and they will resist the message of the gospel. That might mean hardship. It did for Jesus, it did for the apostles, and it might for us. Hardship doesn’t mean failure; on the contrary, it may mean we are right where God calls us to be!