What will you do in that circumstance?
In a recent conversation I had with my brother-in-law, we had a discussion about who we are as Christians. Is the mark of a Christian man found when he is serving the church, doing mission work, or leading a men’s group? Or is the real mark of a Christian man found in the midst of his challenging circumstances? And while we were speaking specifically about men, the same question can be generalized without gender… is the measure of a Christian found in the midst of adverse circumstances?
A couple of years ago, I had a wonderful discourse with an older man in my life who has become a wonderful friend and mentor. During our conversation, he shared with me the details leading to the tragic loss of his wife several years ago… a driver in a pickup truck had fallen asleep at the wheel and a car accident killed my friend’s wife and sent his son to shock trauma. When my friend arrived at the scene, the driver of the pickup was standing near a state trooper’s car. My friend approached the man and told him that he forgave him for what he had done. WHAT???? You forgave this person??? Right on the spot????? “How did you do that”, I asked… his response was “At that moment, it wasn’t me speaking… I just know that I felt such a strong desire to forgive this man so that I could start to deal with what had just happened to me and my boys.” Do I have that kind of faith that could forgive in the midst of such terrible circumstances? How many of us could? would?? But I know I want that kind of faith… badly! This isn’t head knowledge… this is pure heart and I feel I have a long way to go…
Brothers and sisters, the world is watching us… they’re watching our every move! They’re more concerned, it seems, with what we’re going to do when circumstances get difficult… will we abandon our faith because life has dealt us a challenging hand? It’s easier to worship our God when things are going well… it just feels natural, doesn’t it? Saying ‘thank you’ when things are going well… but do we thank God not for the tragedy, but in the midst of the tragedy? We need a strong faith to honor God in the midst of the challenges. When I read this passage, it was ripe with content that describes the measure of a man. And while some of the content had to do with the arrest of Paul, I had hoped to glean wisdom on how Paul, as a man, would deal with his arrest. While I may never get arrested as Paul did, I believe there are lessons of humility in this reading that Paul exemplified.
From Acts 21:27 and beyond, Paul is a prisoner, no longer able to function as a free man. In the midst of this trail, how was he able to turn a negative event into something positive? How do WE give positive testimony in the midst of unfortunate circumstances? In chapter 20, we witnessed Paul’s courage and in chapter 21, Paul’s humility. But throughout the reading, Paul truly believed that his then current circumstances were authored by God! In Ephesians 3:1, Paul stated “For this cause, I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Chris for you Gentiles”… not as a prisoner of men, but one of the will of Jesus Christ, thus allowing Paul to use this different perspective as a chance for new ministry opportunities! It’s all in how we look at what we’re presented with… can we make lemonade out of lemons? What an amazing gift to be able to have a faith so strong that no matter what the circumstances, we see each challenge as a chance to glorify our Lord and Savior in Heaven!
Heavenly Father, keep my eyes open so that I can use every opportunity I am confronted with as a chance to glorify You, not with my words, but by my actions. Help me, Father, to grow a heart of forgiveness, so rather than judge, I can love as you did. The world should know we are Your followers by our love always, not only when things are going well, when it is easy to glorify You, but when we are challenged and we must show who we are by our faith. Amen!