Day 14: God's in the Middle of Sharp Turns (Acts 8:1-8)
Today’s Passage: Acts 8:1-8
Ever been trundling along, doing God’s work, and all of a sudden there is a sharp turn?
I had the privilege of serving as Pastor for two churches. As I was up to my neck in those positions, there was a sharp turn, when God made it clear that it was time to move on.
I can now look back and realize a little more of what God was doing with me, my family, and those I served.
Yet, at the time, the sharp turns were a bit unsettling. There were no three-year transition plans. My time ended quickly. At one pastorate we had even purchased and remodeled a home, only to find ourselves moving a few short months later.
In each instance there was a moment, a specific point, where things changed.
Acts 8:1-3 captures a moment where things are changing. An almost innocuous note about a man collecting cloaks. Why is this included? He is collecting them as another man is stoned, but it seems an odd detail.
Any tension this detail creates is quickly relieved. The man is Saul, the one who will ravage the church.
The text screams a new day has dawned.
This movement of Jesus has been openly moving about the Temple, drawing thousands of people to Jesus, complete with dramatic and powerful signs. It would have been natural, I think, for them to stay in Jerusalem, the city of David.
Yes, they would have had conflict with the authorities, but with the massive growth, I think it would be a matter of time before they were truly in the majority. And then it happens. Stephen is stoned, and it unleashes a torrent of persecution.
This moment drives this movement outward. Didn’t Jesus say, “You will be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria”?
As I pause to look at the few follow-on verses 4-8, they reveal a large change. Consider the lead-in verse, number 3. Saul went house after house, dragging off men and women. The result, those who had yet to be captured were scattered. One example is Phillip in Samaria. The result of him being driven to Samaria: much joy for the city!
There was no church council, no specific missionaries selected to go to strategic cities. No, they ran for their lives.
As I reflected on my pastorates, and how there were these moments where life abruptly changed, it is in hindsight that I can see how God worked. So too, I imagine, with Jesus’ followers. I doubt, as they were running for their lives, they were thinking, “This is good, the Gospel will spread to the world—we will take the Good News to them, instead of them coming to us.”
They didn’t say that at the time. In hindsight they did say it (and we do too). God often uses difficult moments to accomplish a larger purpose.
So now it is time for you. What moments, what sharp turns, have you gone through? As you look back on them, do you see God’s hand? Let me encourage you to reflect on them. Write them into the narrative of your story. When you do, you will not only testify to God’s presence in your life, you will be able to remember He is present with you as the next sharp turn comes upon you. Because, let’s face it, there is going to come another turn—and having that story firmly in your heart and mind will carry you through.