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BLESSINGS


 

BIBLE READING

 

Acts 19:21-20:1

 

21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.


23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”


28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.


32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”


35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.


20 When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia.
 

Our reading today ends with the eagerness of Paul wanting to encourage the Ephesian believers in the context of uproar and riot that had resulted from the proclaiming of the Gospel. Who knew that the Gospel was so dangerous? There is something about what the believers have just experienced that I believe, Paul does not want them to miss, so he calls the disciples together and encourages them before he leaves. Just a bit of a side note the word translated “encouraging” in other translations is the word “exhorting.”

Unfortunately, Acts 19 does not tell us what that message of encouragement was, I would like to know wouldn’t you? Well, I believe that Paul does indicate something about his words to the gathered disciples in his letter called 2 Corinthians. There are some verses there that refers to this very occasion. In 2 Corinthians 1:8 Paul says,

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. WE WERE UNDER GREAT PRESSURE, FAR BEYOND OUR ABILITY TO ENDURE, SO THAT WE DESPAIRED OF LIFE ITSELF.”


Now let us think back to our reading today. Put yourself back with the Apostle Paul into the middle of this uprising. The emotional impact of this must have been great. It appeared for a time that the gospel had so triumphed in Ephesus that Paul could start planning further missionary travels. Then this disturbance and riot suddenly occurred, which seems to threaten the entire cause of Christ, and putting the Christians in great danger.


Paul is crushed and distressed. His life is in danger. This crowd is so wild, that it appears as though they might just move through the city and wipe out every Christian in Ephesus. Paul says, ... we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. (2 Cor. 1:8b-9a) I want you to notice this that the great Apostle could not see any way out. To him, it looked and felt as if he had reached the end of the road. But God had a purpose: “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Cor. 1:9b)


That is the very heart of the Christian message, Paul will go on to explain to his readers in 2nd Corinthians that our sufficiency is not of ourselves. (2 Cor. 3:5). I have this feeling that what Paul said to the Disciples at Ephesus was undeniably along this line of teaching. He was saying to them, God has sent this event, has allowed it to happen to teach us that he is able to handle things when they get far beyond any human control. When our circumstances get way out of order, far beyond our own resources, GOD IS ABLE. Our God has shown us this so that we will not rely on ourselves but upon him who raises the dead, who works in us to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think, according to the power at work within us. That is a message that I have needed to be reminded of over the last few weeks. I pray that the encouragement that the Apostle Paul spoke to those new believers at Ephesus will encourage your hearts today, just as they have been encouraging mine recently.


In our reading today, we witness the incredible strength of the body of Christ working together, praying together, supporting one another, upholding each other in prayer and thus calling into action the mighty power of the God of resurrection, who can work through the most unexpected means to calm a situation, to restrain a crowd, and to bring the entire situation to nothing! WHAT A MIGHTY GOD WE SERVE.


Here is the message for us from this Bible account, the takeaway, just as we too experience occasions of danger and pressure and trouble, as individuals and as a faith community. The difficulties which strike suddenly in our lives, the pressures through which we must go, the sudden catastrophes that come roaring in “out of the blue”, these are allowed so that we might rely not on ourselves but on God.


I believe this is great teaching to end the week on and take with us into the weekend, as we look forward to Worshipping our God this Sunday.

 


Thank you, Father, for those trials and difficulties you bring into my life which teach me to depend not on myself but on you. Amen.

 

I want a share a song with you by Laura Story. This song was written out of time of great spiritual anguish when her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The song asks a number of questions "What If's" that I find powerful. Maybe it's just me but I think the Apostle Paul would like it too.


 


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