Let us pray: Dear Savior, although You tell us in Your word that “All things work together for good to those who love God,” more often than we’d like, we fail to take that promise seriously. We often think the worst, we have black thoughts, and sometimes we even help those black thoughts come true. Lord, pull us out of that spiritual dungeon! Uplift us with the realization that You are our beloved Savior and “nothing can snatch us out of your hand!” And then equip us to live in joy, harmony, and oneness with the entire Trinity. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE BRINGER OF SALVATION TO EACH OF US!
TEXT: Acts 13: 44-52
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Everyone knows the phrase: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Another variation of that expression is: “No good deed goes unpunished.” Both expressions stem from a rather fatalistic and jaded view of life. They are twins born from what we humans like to call: The Law of unintended consequences.
You know what I’m talking about. Life is full of curve balls. We wish for a particular thing, work to achieve it, and then it turns out entirely different than we ever imagined. We become disappointed and disillusioned because our will wasn’t done! For example, you work toward a dream job, finally get it, and after a couple of months you’re either bored silly or in over your head. Sometimes people get married with pie-in-the-sky dreams of what it will be like and then when the bills come due they feel trapped. Or, you survive the awful winter thinking about that prefect vacation. When you finally arrive, it rains the entire time, your luggage gets lost, you get a cold, and end up wishing you’d stayed at home and saved your money. Murphy’s Law of unintended consequences strikes again! Everyone has experienced such things. Small wonder that most of us exhibit a negative side….
Well, today’s lesson starts off as a “downer” but ends up an “upper.” In that, it is a microcosm of life as a Christian. And as we examine it today, you will see that:
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES=BLESSINGS IN CHRIST
St. Paul and his trusty aide, Barnabas, were in modern day Turkey on their first missionary journey. They had been staying at a city called: Antioch, for a few weeks preaching and teaching in the local Jewish synagogue. What did they teach? They instructed the people in Jesus Christ. They showed how Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. How He was the Son of God. The topics were: miracles, along with Christ’s death and resurrection. Yes, they preached both Godly hope and comfort to disillusioned sinners. Obviously they were successful in that “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” Yes, people respond to hope and love—especially Godly hope and God’s unselfish love for us exhibited on the cross.
But, then a sad occurrence takes place. “When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.” Right here you see that these people failed to respond to the new, Godly command enunciated by Jesus to His Church as found in today’s Gospel: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” These stiff-necked, jealous, Old Testament law-and-ritual adherents viewed themselves as an exclusive club. They had God and they weren’t willing to share Him. They didn’t love others. They loved themselves. And in that they proved that they knew nothing of God at all. So, they react with abuse toward Paul and Barnabas. The unintended consequences of Paul’s loving message were hatred, mocking, and anger.
But, ever one to make lemonade out of lemons—like all hope-filled believers—Paul now turns those consequences into a blessing. And in doing so fulfills Christ’s new love-first command. “Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: ‘We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”
Yes, unintended consequences=blessings in Christ! We see it here and we see it time and again in our own lives. All we have to do is open our eyes, like these Gentiles, to those blessings in order to reap them.
Have you ever been picked on by a bully, been demoralized by it, but then had someone see your predicament and extend the hand of friendship to you? As a Christian, don’t slap it away! Take it! For God uses kind people to enrich our lives. Have you ever gone through tough times financially? Learning from those times enables you to never take the good times for granted, thereby making blessings tangible. Have you ever been kind and considerate to another and later had them come back and bite you? It’s awful when that occurs. And yet, the Christian knows that God has other souls out there who both need and will respond to your love, and soon you meet them and the past scars start to fade. Yes, Satan and his allies try to corrupt and subvert God’s blessings by throwing unintended consequences our way. But, the beauty of it all is that for the Christian, God always turns them into blessings in the end—just as He did here in our text.
We see the blessed outcome of God’s law of love played out in the concluding words of our lesson. “The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
By trying to silence Christ’s message, these hard-edged people caused it spread and flourish.—A blessing. By expelling the disciples, they caused even more to hear about Christ and His free gift of eternal salvation in the surrounding region—a blessing. And by so testing the disciples’ resolve, they drove Paul, Barnabas, the others accompanying them even deeper into the Holy Spirit’s comforting arms thus emboldening them all the more—a blessing. The result?—God’s Church grew all the more and countless lost souls were saved and are in heaven right now—a blessing! So, whatever comes your way in life and no matter how negativity tries to depress your joy, remember this one thing: Unintended Consequences=blessings in Christ. It cannot help but do so, since God’s love for us must, must, must bear fruit! Amen