Hunkered Down Devotion

Acts 14:8-18 (Voice)
8 In Lystra they met a man who had been crippled since birth; his feet were completely useless. 9 He listened to Paul speak, and Paul could see in this man’s face that he had faith to be healed.
Paul (shouting): 10 Stand up on your own two feet, man!
The man jumped up and walked! 11 When the crowds saw this, they started shouting in Lycaonian.
Crowd: The gods have come down to us! They’ve come in human form!
12 They decided that Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes (since he was the main speaker). 13 Before they knew it, the priest of Zeus, whose temple was prominent in that city, came to the city gates with oxen and garlands of flowers so the Lycaonians could offer sacrifices in worship to Paul and Barnabas! 14 When they heard of this, Paul and Barnabas were beside themselves with frustration—they ripped their tunics as an expression of disapproval and rushed out into the crowd.
Paul and Barnabas (shouting): 15 Friends! No! No! Don’t do this! We’re just humans like all of you! We’re not here to be worshiped! We’re here to bring you good news—good news that you should turn from these worthless forms of worship and instead serve the living God, the God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that they contain. 16 Through all previous generations, God has allowed all the nations to follow their own customs and religions, 17 but even then God revealed Himself by doing good to you—giving you rain for your crops and fruitful harvests season after season, filling your stomachs with food and your hearts with joy.
18 In spite of these words, they were barely able to keep the crowds from making sacrifices to them.

I think it is unlikely that any of us have ever been, or are likely to ever be, mistaken for a god like what happened to Barnabas and Paul as they visited the Greek town of Lystra.  However, all of us have had, at one point or another, received praise and positive attention from others because of something we have done.  This passage provides us with an interesting guide for what our response should be to those situations.

If you have heard me pray on more than one occasion you might have noticed that I often start my prayers the same way.  This is, partially, out of habit, but it is an intentional one.  The prayer goes something like: ‘God, thank you for, well, everything.  For all that we have, and all the gifts we have been given.  All that we have comes from you.’  

While I am in no danger of ever being confused for divinity, I begin many of my prayers, both public and private, this way because I find it so easy to think that the things I have and the gifts/skills that I possess are ‘mine’ and the result of something I have done.  The reality, however, is that all that we have comes to us as a gift from God.

Here Paul and Barnabas provide us a shining example of what a proper understanding of our gifts and where they come from looks like.  While most of us can’t hide our excitement and relish the praise we receive from others, Paul and Barnabas are actually angry at the attention and praise going to them, instead of towards God.

All of us have been uniquely gifted by God.  All of us will receive positive attention and praise for it at some time or another.  When we receive that attention, the proper response – the one that keeps us grounded and properly connected to God, is to reflect that praise so that it is directed towards God, who is the source of all these good things.  

Sharing God’s Love, 

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for all that we have been given.  Help us direct our praise – and others – towards you.  Amen.  

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