Dedicated to the Gospel

Acts 16 verse 40:

 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them.

Paul and Silas met with the believers and ENCOURAGED them. The reason that passage is noteworthy is because of what happened the day before. Paul and Silas encountered the slave girl who had a “spirit of divination” and made money for her owners by telling fortunes. She began following Paul and those who were with him everywhere they went and continually shouted, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” This went on for several days until Paul became so annoyed that he finally turned to slave girl and commanded the spirit to come out of her… in the name of Jesus Christ.

When her owners realized they had lost this source of income, they seized Paul and Silas, dragged them into the town square and before the local authorities, made false accusations against them, and incited the crowd against them. Then the authorities had them beaten with rods and according to some Bible translations, Acts 16 verse 23 says they were also severely flogged.

Of course we know what flogging entails because of what Jesus endured prior to being crucified. Paul and Silas suffered the same sort of wounds as Jesus. They probably had multiple, deep lacerations on their backs and sides. We’ve all fallen and scraped our knees and elbows and when does it usually hurt the worst? It’s usually worse the day after, when the wounds begin to get irritated and scab over. So there’s no doubt in my mind that these men were in great pain.  On top of that they would have been weakened from the loss of blood. Yet according to the scripture, after their release from the prison, they went to Lydia’s house and offered encouragement to the believers. There’s only one word I can think of to describe something like that: DEDICATION.

As many times as I’ve read the book of Acts, I never noticed that before. I never noticed how Paul and Silas went to Lydia’s house probably less than 24 hours after being beaten and severely flogged, and in spite of their wounds which no doubt were very painful, they preached and taught and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ. So that raises a question. How dedicated to Jesus are we? How dedicated are WE to sharing the gospel? Are we dedicated enough to share the gospel in the midst of enormous pain? I don’t know about you, but if I had been flogged and beaten like that, I’d be looking for some pain killers. I’d be looking for a place to hole up until I had healed and fully recovered. I’d tell myself that I could go back to preaching the gospel……..after taking time off to heal. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But the fact that Paul and Silas didn’t take a few days off to heal before going to Lydia’s house to encourage the other believers speaks to their incredible dedication to Christ.

So again, how dedicated are we when it comes to sharing the gospel? It’s not likely that many of us will ever be made to suffer the sort of cruel pain as Paul and Silas, though the Bible does leave open that possibility. We may or may not have to endure that level of pain but most of us will, at some point, have to suffer through something. It could be the physical pain of an injury or illness. It might be emotional pain or psychological trauma. Pain of any kind can distract us from sharing Jesus Christ. My wife and I have been greatly distressed these past few months as we await the outcome of our custody case involving our granddaughter. I can speak from personal experience when I tell you that it is difficult at times to fight through that emotional pain and share the light of Jesus Christ with other people. When we go through pain, physical or emotional, all you want to do is focus on the source of the pain. And sometimes, we just want to shut down until the pain is gone. I’m sure Paul and Silas were grinding it out. They were fighting through the pain. But as great as their pain must have been, their love for Christ was greater.

So how dedicated are we? We’d do well to remember Paul and Silas’ example. Though their pain had to have been worse than anything we can imagine, they were focused on something far greater than themselves. And that’s our lesson. No matter how small or great our pain may be, God is greater. I repeat, no matter how small or great our pain may be, whether it’s physical or emotional pain, God is greater. And because the Spirit of God lives in all Christians the moment we ask Jesus to come live in our hearts, we can call on God and ask Him to give us the strength we need to help us fight through our pain and stay focused on Him. And once we do that, no one should ever be able to question our dedication.