“When they got to Iconium they went, as they always did, to the meeting place of the Jews, and gave their message. The Message convinced both Jews and non-Jews — and not just a few, either. But the unbelieving Jews worked up a whispering campaign against Paul and Barnabas, sowing mistrust and suspicion in the minds of the people in the street. The two apostles were there a long time, speaking freely, openly and confidently as they presented the clear evidence of God’s gifts, God corroborating their work with miracles and wonders.” Acts 14:1-3 (The Message).

Wherever they went, Paul and Barnabas created a stir that affected the entire city. They were sowing into the soil of human hearts that were saturated with religion. There was no such thing as sacred and secular in the world view of their day.

In the Roman world, everyone was religious. They all believed in and worshipped someone or something. The Caesars insisted that they be worshipped as gods, seeing themselves as invincible saviours and arrogantly elevating themselves to the level of deity to the extent that they slaughtered believers for refusing to confess “Caesar is Lord.

In our world, everyone is also religious, though many deny that they worship anything. Superstition rules in societies where western scientific culture has not penetrated. Some people worship what they do not understand. Others insist that their ancestors or evil spirits are in control of their lives. In the western “developed” world, many people are self-made and worship themselves.

Whatever we look to as our source, is our god; money, education, image, position and prestige, achievements, or even other people — all these are things people believe in and rely on to keep them going.

The point is that man, in and of himself, is incomplete without someone or something greater than himself on which to rely. But we have to ask ourselves the questions, “Is the person or thing I rely on to complete me, worthy of my trust and confidence? Can I be sure that what I believe in will meet my need and complete my life when it comes to an end?”

When we examine the nature of our gods, we might find, to our horror, that we have placed our lives and our destiny in a mirage or a fantasy. On what authority do we base our trust? How can we be sure that the thing we worship will not fail us when we need it most?

Will my money, for example, be there to give me peace and hope when I am diagnosed with an incurable disease, when I lose a treasured child, or when my relationships fall apart? Can I go to my image or my achievements for comfort; will my possessions sustain me in trouble? Can my ancestors offer me strength to cope with cancer or permanent disability? Can my god take away my guilt, shame, fear, anxiety or even my fear of death?

When Paul and Barnabas delivered the good news of the forgiveness of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, they were not offering another religious hoax or pipe dream based on human imagination. They were relaying verifiable fact, based in history, and backed up by the power of God Himself. “…God corroborating their work with miracles and wonders,” and bringing peace and assurance of the truth to the hearts of those who believed.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” the saying goes. To those who believed the apostles’ message, the proof came in the form of such joy and assurance that they were willing to lay down their lives rather than lose what they had received. To the Apostle Paul it meant, “To me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Now that’s a confidence worth having!

Luella Campbell

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