Today’s readings.. (2 Chronicles 33), (Hosea 1), (Acts 14,15)
No one likes friction, yet it is impossible to totally avoid it. News bulletins are usually dominated by information about troubles, about friction of various kinds, and as the world becomes more ungodly this is increasing many fold. God often uses human friction to test men and women as to whether they will follow what is good and true – or not! It is of great concern when it occurs inside churches between church members, but it serves a purpose.
Our readings today, in Acts 14 and 15 once again include accounts of friction as the Gospel spread in the First Century. Paul and Barnabas spent a long time in Iconium and a great number believed “but the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds” and “the people of the city were divided” [v.2,4]. A threat of stoning arose so they fled to other cities and preached and made more converts. Later they made a return journey “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.” [v.22]
Very few of us have faced troubles like this! Is that a blessing or not? The last year or two has brought disturbing news about fellow-believers in some countries – and led to many prayers on their behalf.. All previous generations have faced difficulties, often because they would not join the army and train to fight – when I was 19 I had to go to court because I refused to do this. Some of the relatively few believers in Germany were killed by the Nazis; also in Russia (Ukraine) in the 1930’s fellow believers were all killed, today in some countries they find it very difficult, indeed, dangerous to come together in any number for worship.
But friction results in greater conviction – you ask yourself whether you are really certain of what you believe. If you are not certain that what you are defending is vitally important, you will not defend it, or only half-heartedly so. The only really convinced people you seem to hear about these days, at least in this country, are those who are certain there is no God and they should be allowed to live whatever lifestyle suits them. What are we really certain about? We have to make sure NOW that we have a clear answer! Check how much oil is in your lamp!