This week we’re studying a story in the Bible where Paul and Barnabas, two Christian leaders, are mistaken for gods. Yesterday we heard them pleading with the crowd and their pagan priest to stop.
So what did the people of Lystra do? It says they barely restrained themselves!
But Paul was interrupted. Some Jewish persecutors, like Paul had been in his previous life, had followed Paul and Barnabas to Lystra and attacked them.
 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.  But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.  When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,  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.  And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14:19-23 ESV)
See the courage of these early leaders. They went back to the scene of the crime. Perhaps the instigators from out of town had left, but it was still possible the townspeople were angry. But they go, share the good news of Jesus again, and establish a thriving new church community.
There are many people today who believe in multiple gods, and this certainly gives a guide on how to talk about Christian faith in a context like that.
But there is a message here for everyone – long-time Christians, those seeking and considering Christianity. We can make idols to worship of all kinds: money, career, power, sexuality, drugs, alcohol, etc. Anything we value more than God is something we worship.
When that happens, Paul’s speech reminds us to focus on the one who created those things, and ask why he gives us those things even when we abuse them. Because he created us, he loves us, he gives us freedom, and he won’t dishonestly claw that back when we actually use it, must as it pains him to see it abused.
Sometimes we encounter Jesus, and try to add him to our pantheon. I’ll worship Jesus, and still pursue wealth, power, etc. But we can’t add Jesus to our list of gods, like the people of Lystra tried to add Paul and Barnabas to theirs. Jesus is the one true God who created us, and everything in this world,
We’ve used a wheel diagram to illustrate this in previous challenges. Whatever is at the centre is what we worship, and it’s a space that only God can properly fill. No spoke can be a hub. But we regularly try to take life’s peripheral spokes and put them at the center of life, then we act surprised when it all falls apart. Or we try to shove them into the centre with God, like adding a new god to our pantheon. Instead, we can heed Jesus’ advice to seek first the kingdom of God, then all the other things will be added, and not the centre. Only God can be at the very centre of our lives, we can’t add to or replace him.
Challenge: What kinds of things in your life get in the way of worshipping only God? Have you tried to add Jesus to your life, or put him at the center of your life? If so, repent and commit to God alone, and offer him all those spokes to transform.
Meeting with a Group? Your discussion questions are in this week’s Group Study Guide[permalink append=”#comments”]Discuss the Challenge[/permalink]
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