By Jason Kleber
Watching the Ranchero Overpass burn uncontrollably and come crumbling down presented a vivid reminder of how our best laid plans can dissolve so quickly in front of us. All of our work, preparations, and hopes in life can similarly become so easily and quickly engulfed in disaster. Sometimes all it takes is one small spark.
In the midst of the emotions that accompany our personal disasters--anger, confusion, helplessness--comes a difficult choice. We can choose the hopelessness before us, or we can choose to trust God and force ourselves to see hope rising.
The Book of Acts offers us a portrait of how God works for good in all things, even when things come crumbling down. In the beginning of Acts, Jesus ascends leaving Peter to lead his Church. The Holy Spirit fills the believers and Christ's Church begins to grow rapidly. By the end of Acts 2, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:42 NIV). Peter and John withstand the persecution, imprisonment, and flogging of the Sanhedrin and still march on healing in the name of Jesus, teaching, and growing Christ's Church.
But then in Acts 6, a spark ignites a flame that seems as if it will devour the Church. Stephen is falsely accused of blasphemy, brought before the Sanhedrin, then stoned for proclaiming Jesus as Christ. "They all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul." (Acts 7:58 NIV)
It looks as if the flames begin to devour the Church. "And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison." (Acts 8:1, 3 NIV)
It looked hopeless. Everything appeared to be crumbling down, and where was God?
He was working, once again. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28).
The dispersion of the church was not a victory over God and Christ's Church, but just another futile example of how the plans of man come crashing down. As Saul dismantled the church, he was actually already beginning to fulfill his purpose for Jesus and he hadn't even converted yet.
The result of the "scattering" is that Phillip took the gospel "to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there." (Acts 8:1, 3, 5 NIV)
Phillip then meets an Ethiopian on the road, leads him to Christ, baptizes him, and the message of Jesus as Christ now heads to Africa as Phillip takes the message on to Caesarea.
From the firestorm that appeared to devour the Church, hope was rising throughout the world. God was taking what looked like a disaster and turning it into the vines of salvation for many nations.
Then one man, who burned against the Church, would become one of Jesus' greatest catalysts. On the road to Damascus, Saul met Jesus. Hope was about to flourish.
Too often we read of Saul in Acts and just see his hatred that raged against the Church as just a foil for the servant he would become in Paul. However, these are not chapters of just transition for God. In the midst of the disaster, He is still working for the salvation of a world bigger than the apostles had envisioned.
In our circumstances it is easy to see ourselves. It is easy to see our agenda. It is easy to see our wreckage. It is not always so easy to see how God is still faithful, never forsaking us, but always working for his greater good.
When everything is burning and falling, have faith. Hope is rising.
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