READING: Zephaniah 1-3; Acts 24
In a recent discussion with a friend, I was asked to share a valuable lesson I had learned over forty years of ministry. After a thoughtful pause, I revealed that one of the important lessons that I have learned was the ability to stand alone. By that I meant that in a smorgasbord of ideas about living the Christian life, I have found it necessary to cling to biblical teaching, even if it meant standing alone in a crowd.
T.D. Jakes reveled some insights recently in a message regarding this very subject. “‘Crowds can be fickle,” Jakes noted. The greatest example of this in the Bible is Jesus at the cross. After teaching arduously for more than three years, He found himself essentially alone on the cross. John and Mary were close by. Peter stood afar off to see what might happen. A Roman centurion stood by, spellbound by the carnage of the cross. Other than these few, the crowds were strangely absent.
During His ministry, Jesus had fed crowds of five thousand, and four thousand. He had dared to touch lepers and make them whole. Blind people received His healing hand. A man lowered into the presence of Jesus through a roof was sent home carrying his cot. None of these who were so miraculously transformed were present at the Cross.
Hearing Jakes’ message was both enlightening and convicting to me. I recall times in the parenting process when we were forced to make hard decisions regarding what we would permit and what we would forbid. Most of the time, we were successful in making the hard decision. As with all of us, we found standing alone in decision-making a real challenge.
The “everyone is doing it” syndrome which pervades our culture is an affront to the best in us. The kinds of movies we choose to allow in our home, the books we read, and the places we go for entertainment test our ability to say, “Others may. We may not.”
Our reading in Acts 24 tells of yet another case against Paul. He is taken to Caesarea to appear before Felix. After much flattering of Felix by the accusing Jews, they unleashed their lies against Paul. “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world… and he even tried to desecrate the temple.”
Paul in this story stands defenseless and alone. For someone less honest, here was an opportunity to lash out and manipulate his own story in an attempt to vindicate himself. Instead, quietly and confidently, Paul repeated his belief in the resurrection of the dead. He readily admitted that he was worshipper of “the God of our fathers.” He admitted that when he stood before the Sanhedrin that he had shouted as he stood in their presence; “It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today”
The strength of Paul’s fortitude lends strength to all of us. How adamantly do we hold to the influence of the Word in our lives? How prominent is public worship in our schedules?
I am personally challenged to bear the “stigma” of Christianity in a culture where anything goes.