Hunkered Down Devotion

Acts 14:19-22 (Voice)
19 Then unbelieving Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and incited the crowds against the Lord’s emissaries. The crowds turned on Paul, stoned him, dragged him out of the city, and left him there, thinking he was dead. 20 As the disciples gathered around him, he suddenly rose to his feet and returned to the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. 21 After they proclaimed the good news there and taught many disciples, they returned to some of the cities they had recently visited—Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia. 22 In each place, they brought strength to the disciples, encouraging them to remain true to the faith.
Paul and Barnabas: We must go through many persecutions as we enter the kingdom of God.

If you read yesterday's devotion, or if you simply read the first part of Acts chapter 14, then you know that what transpires in these few verses is quite a reversal from what immediately preceded it.  

Moments before Paul is almost stoned to death, he and Barnabas were being hailed as literal gods.  What could possibly have happened to precipitate this wild and rapid swing in the crowd’s response to Paul and Barnabas?  The answer is right there in the text, ‘Then unbelieving Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and incited the crowds against the Lord’s emissaries. The crowds turned on Paul’.  

But, of course, that doesn’t really feel like a very good and satisfying answer.  How can it be that easy for the crowd to shift?  And, yet, we all know that is exactly how things work.  One minute you can be the toast of the town and the next you are the butt of every joke and you can hear the whispers following along behind you.  

When you are chasing after, or influenced by, the praise or the scorn of the crowd you become a slave to a very, very fickle master.  That is the first lesson for us to take from this passage: if we are striving for the love, acceptance, and adulation of the crowd, of others, of our friends we will always eventually end up disappointed.

The second lesson has to do with whose approval we should be seeking.  Immediately after Paul’s miraculous recovery from his stoning (attempted stoning?  I am not sure the proper terminology), Paul and Barnabas get right back to doing what they were called to do: spread the good news of Christ’s coming and his love for all of us.

Paul and Barnabas didn’t let outside voices sway them from pursuing their calling when those voices were singing their praises and neither did they let those voices derail them when they came hurling insults (and rocks).

We are designed to seek after the approval, love, and acceptance not of the crowd, not of those around us – coworkers, neighbors, friends – but rather to live our lives as if for an audience of one.  Not only is this the only way to live into our true calling and purpose, but that audience of one will never turn it’s back on you, never attack you.  

Our audience of one, doesn’t turn on a whim, but rather will always, and has always loved us. Not because of what we have done, or what we have, but because of who we are: his beloved children.  

Sharing God’s Love, 

Prayer:  Holy God, help us to seek not after the approval and love of the crowd, but yours. Amen.  

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