Good news is always surrounded by bad news. Have you ever considered the Gospel? It is Good News, yet within its message is Bad News! Take as an example the best known verse in the Bible
Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
How we love this verse … and many do, yet all too often we only see the glorious offer and invitation of God for eternal life and miss seeing “shall not perish”. Equally, preaching the Gospel is Good News … but all too often bad news follows! We pick up our reading in Acts 9 again:
Ac 9:23 After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
1) The radical method of removing religious threats … the Jews conspired to kill him. As said yesterday, these were the Jews in opposition to the Gospel. Many did believe and were saved. The timeline is not easy to determine … yet we are told of a plot to kill Saul. It is possible that he gained much momentum and traction into synagogues and amongst the Jews in general in the Damascus area that the religious authorities realized he was countering their teaching and belief about Messiah and so needed to remove him. Verse 25 speaks of his followers, literally, his disciples. This means he most likely had quite a number of people he won for Jesus and had educated them in the Truth. It would also imply that the length of time he spent in Damascus was longer than shorter. We are not told what the plan was the Jews were putting together to capture Saul and execute him … but it was real.
Please remember that no believer is exempt from hardship, persecution and struggles. Some teach this, but the Word of God never says this. The only time we shall be free from the effects of sin and evil is once we surround the Throne in Glory in worship and adoration of the King of all kings … Jesus.
Many Christians don’t have a support structure. It is vital to have one. You need at least two people, normally from the same gender with whom you are able to share your concerns and difficulties with and pray with. Naturally this falls into the ambit of a “confidant”. Your struggles, persecutions and concerns then remain between you, that person (or two) and God and theirs with you. In this way, we Christians are able to deal with the threats that come our way because we are supported in a godly manner.
2) The promise of persecution arrived. You will recall Jesus saying
Ac 9:15 “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Saul’s ministry to the people of Israel had begun and from amongst these people, the suffering and persecution promised started. Let me remind you again that serving Jesus is never a Rose Garden. Yes there are blessings but because we are engaging in spiritual warfare, we shall always encounter opposition … and at times this could be fierce!
3) The Divine activity of the Holy Spirit.
Ac 9:24 but Saul learned of their plan.
Maybe his disciples alerted him to the threat of danger … but behind this was the Holy Spirit’s protection. The Lord Jesus would not go to all the trouble of meeting Saul, blinding him, engaging Ananias and making the promise that he would be His spokesman to the pagan world, kings and Israelites and then let the plan fail. The great encouragement for you and me is that when God makes a promise about us believers, He never goes back on His promise. He declares that when you repent, believe and you are genuine … you are eternally saved and God will honor every promise He has made to you in His Word. Take as an example:
Jn 10:27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
He does not make such an eternal commitment and go back on His Word. He chose you before creation to be holy and blameless in His sight and He predestined that you be conformed to the likeness of the Lord Jesus … and He says that He who calls you is faithful! He will honor His Promise. (See Ephesians 1:4, Romans 28:29) … and what about:
1Th 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
If there is one thing you need to remember and hold firmly to it is that of assurance of salvation. As you live the life and as you demonstrate your love for Jesus, you may claim the promises of God and hold Him to His Word and enjoy peace of mind that you shall never be lost!
4) The Divine activity of the Holy Spirit did not stop the forces of darkness. We read that … Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. One of the reasons it is necessary to have full assurance of salvation is because the enemy does not let up! In Saul’s case it was day and night that those seeking to kill him kept a vigilant eye on the city gate to prevent his escape so that they could kill him. You might have heard that the devil never sleeps. Peter writes:
1Pe 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Because of the vicious behavior of the devil you need to be self-controlled and alert. You need to be watchful and spiritually diligent. If you are not he will attack most dangerously.
5) God’s people help God’s people when they are in need.
Ac 9:25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
Naturally Saul’s disciples placed themselves at risk doing what they did but the Holy Spirit used them to protect and deliver him because God had work for Saul. He still needed to evangelize the Gentiles, kings and many in Israel. Irrespective of the danger, your work for God is never done until God says it’s done! In my devotions today I spent time in Joshua. Moses died at 140 whilst Joshua was in his 90’s when he was conquering the Land of Canaan. Whatever the obstacles, go and serve the Lord as best you can for as long as you can. He knows when enough is enough … and as said already, the safest place to be for you is when you are serving God where He wants you to serve Him.
Father, we serve You the Mighty God. Help us to never forget that You have work for us to do. With grateful hearts, filled with full assurance of salvation, use us whenever and wherever You need us, especially to direct souls to Jesus and may You receive all the honor and glory. Amen.