A Scattered Faith
“If thou art willing to suffer no adversity, how wilt thou be the friend of Christ?" -Thomas à Kempis
I’m a planner. I like to make plans, I like when I’m in the process of fulfilling the plans, I like looking back on the plan and seeing that it was exactly what I expected. You would think this makes me a miserable person to be around (and you would be right some of the time), but it also makes me a lot of fun to travel with (in my opinion at least….)
I find I’m this way with the rest of my life and have been guilty of thinking so much about the plan that I actually don’t remember what was happening in the moment. I remember more that my directions got me somewhere rather than the place itself. There is something to the control of planning that satisfies my wandering heart. It makes me feel like I have some say in my life - some ultimate power and authority to make something go the way I want. (I’m a real joy to be around when my plans don’t work out...)
But how does this work as a community building God’s Kingdom? In Acts 8 it says that Saul persecuted the church and it caused the believers to scatter; and as they scattered…”they preached the word wherever they went…” (v. 4) This makes intuitive, Bible-history-lesson sense, but this week in light of my obsession with planning, I saw it from a different angle that stirred conviction in my heart.
If Saul had not been persecuting the church, dragging members out of their houses and throwing them in jail, what would have likely happened? If I was there, we would have made a plan. This plan would have included the key cities where we would most likely find influencers who we could influence. We would divide the other disciples and growing church into groups based on interest and skill set and send them to targeted areas, all with the same framework in which to operate (obviously, everyone would have had the same training manual given to them in our “Spread The Gospel” workshop…)
This isn’t a bad plan, and in fact, a lot of good growth would have come from key people hearing the gospel and spreading it through their networks. But it was not the way it happened.
Instead, the church huddled together in their houses and contemplated the potential for being thrown in jail, or worse, being murdered. Stephen had just been stoned to death and those who knew him were in mourning. They lost not only a dear friend but a leader in their movement. It says Saul was going from house to house - this is no longer a general malaise toward believers, they are now being targeted. There is an air of terror we lose in our quick reading of these chapters. What would it take for you to leave your house and go to another city? Would it not have to be a last resort?
And yet...this is how God grew His Kingdom. It was not out of a well thought through plan. It was out of desperation and fear. Believers who joined this new faith were now having to think carefully about what town they would sleep in. Could this house be trusted? Is the innkeeper here going to turn us over to people like Saul?
And yet...they continued to talk about this Gospel for which they were being persecuted. It was not a tired cliche of “life’s hard right now but God is good…” They were carrying with them the only hope of a future. This Good News was everything to them in a world filled with famine and sword. This Good News was God in the flesh, enduring the cross, scorning its shame. This Good News was that people in far off places like Samaria or Ethiopia could also follow King Jesus and have hope in His coming Kingdom.
Where are your Judea’s and Samaria’s right now? Where is God shattering your well intentioned plans to push you outward - preaching the word as you go? Where are you holding tightly to how it was supposed to be? I can’t help but imagine these small groups of believers traveling to these cities under the cover of darkness, reminding each other of this Good News and why they were going. May we do the same in our communities. May we encourage one another in our pain, in our suffering, in our brokenness, to hold fast to the Good News of the coming Kingdom. And may we continue to preach the word.
Where in your life is God calling you to preach the Good News, maybe even amidst pain and suffering?