Bible Reference: Acts 26:10–11; 13–14
Translation: New Living Translation (NLT)
Bible Text: 10 ….. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. 11 Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
13 …. as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. 14 We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’
OBSERVATION: I’m sure that it is very challenging for us to read our Scripture verses today, and to imagine that this sort of thing continues even today. But I want us to stop and meditate on whether these verses are truly applicable to us, and how God might speak to us as He attempts to correct our ways.
APPLICATION: In some translations, the word ‘persecute’ is used several times in the few verses referenced. Here’s what that means: “to treat (someone) cruelly or unfairly especially because of race or religious or political beliefs“. I feel like God opened my eyes and reminded me that when we treat God’s messengers with contempt, then we are actually persecuting the Lord Jesus himself. This reminds me of a loving parent who feels condemned when their child is persecuted or ill-treated. So what is our lesson in this? After all, we don’t go about ‘persecuting’ our religious leaders… Or do we? How often do you hear corners of conversation that tend to chew on the sermon from your last service, or the dress code of the pastor, or the attitude of the worship leader, or the audacity of the pastor to say what he did during his sermon? Is that complimentary of God’s messenger? Is that the precursor to a time of prayer that the group will have for their pastor? I’ve always said that one will get as much from a sermon, as they have prayed into it. Do you feel like we tend to persecute the pastor because God didn’t respond like we expected to our prayers for His messenger who stood in the pulpit? Friends, over in 2 Chronicles 7:14, God said that if we would humble ourselves and pray (not belittle or try to humble the pastor), and if we would seek His face, and if we would turn from our wicked ways, then He would hear from heaven, forgive our sins and restore our land. Notice the personal application there? Nothing about God taking care of all that we feel are inadequate, or who screw up at every opportunity. Friends, I believe that these scriptures are warning us that wehave a full-time job doing all that God expects of us, so if we find that we are ‘persecuting’ anyone, then we are meddling, and need to get back to the basics. Take care of self first, then perhaps we will not be near as critical of everyone else. Please don’t shrug this off as being super applicable to all of your friends. Allow God to search your heart and convict you of your sin and shortcomings. I believe you will find that there’s lots there to keep you on your knees for a very long time, including praying for your spiritual leaders. There just won’t be time enough to persecute others.
PRAYER: Lord God, You created all things and You are above all things. Thank You for sending messengers, Your angels, to minister to folk like me, even though we tend to persecute the very ones that You send to bless us, love on us and warn us about our sinful ways. Please help us to love these ones, in spite of them not meeting all of our expectations, and in spite of our sinful desire to persecute them. I believe it is obvious that Paul was not the only one that persecuted Christians. Please dear Lord, rest Your hand upon Your children today, beginning with me, and help us to accept Your power and desire to help us succeed in this Christian life, so that we may serve You better and more fully. We are your messengers as well, please encourage us to treat other messengers in the same way that we want to be treated. May Your kingdom come oh Lord, and may we be ready and obedient in every way, every day! AMEN!