Read the fine print. In television ads, Charlie M. of Dubuque bought this sales program and made $100,000 the first month. At the bottom of the screen: “Results not typical.” Ha. I coulda told ya that!
Elsie B. of Carbondale went on our diet plan and lost 38 pounds the first month. Results not typical.
Bob R. of Macon developed 6-pack abs in 5 minutes a day on our exercise-a-tron. Results not typical.
You want to scream at the television set: So, what is typical?
What’s typical is that the average purchaser of these products never listens to the whole program, never reads the fine print, tries a few times and finds it difficult, and eventually sets the package on top of the garbage can.
So, you’d like to get into your community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, would you? You’d truly like to bear a witness for the Lord and reach a lot of people, huh? Maybe start some new churches? Then, turn to your New Testament, to the Acts of the Apostles.
What we would expect to find there would be a perfect case scenario, and everything but the words underneath saying “results not typical.” But — good news, friend — God does not play these little games. The experience of the believers in Acts will be typical of what you and I will find, to a great extent.
Consider some of their experiences….
The community welcomed their work at first. The early disciples seemed like good guys, intent only in blessing people. (Acts 2:47 — “having favor with all the people”)
Soon, the leaders of the community began to realize the implications of people turning to Christ: lives began changing. With their religion and their livelihoods threatened, they began in turn threatening the followers of Jesus. (Acts 4:21 — They arrested Peter and John, and then warned them of dire consequences if they persisted in preaching Jesus.)
As the disciples persisted in their community witnessing and ministry, the persecution intensified. (Acts 5:17-28)
Inside the congregation, the devil was at work. (Acts 5:1ff. Ananias and Sapphira lied about their gifts, and Acts 6:1ff, some members complained over being neglected in the daily distribution of food supplies.)
In all these things, the disciples held to their priorities (Acts 6:4 “prayer and ministry of the Word”) and kept the congregation on track.
At the same time the community was in an uproar over the work and witness of the believers, God blessed the church with a significant harvest (Acts 6:7 Even Jewish priests were coming to Christ.)
Finally, the powers-that-be had all it could stand and brought the law down on the believers, beginning with the arrest and execution of Stephen (Acts 7) and outright persecution of the church (Acts 8:1).
Believers were scattered everywhere (Acts 8:1) and wherever they went, they were faithful in their witness and people came to Christ and new churches were formed (see Acts 11:19-21).
And that’s the story. Results typical: faithfulness and favor, followed by faithfulness and rejection, which in turn was followed by persecution and multiplication.
When I was a kid our farmhouse caught on fire and burned to the ground while the family was away. When the fire reached the back porch, the dynamite which Pop stored in the old unused woodstove exploded and blew the fire in every direction. The woods caught on fire, the crib burned down, and the fields began to burn.
I like to think of that as the number one method the Holy Spirit has used through the centuries to spread the Gospel of Christ: persecution in one place blows the believers into other towns and states where fires of faithfulness break out.
Believers who desire to be popular in their city and raved about by the Chamber of Commerce and recognized by community fathers will find themselves conflicted in their Christian testimony. Far from promising such popularity and acclaim from civic leaders, Jesus has fairly well laid out a scenario of a darker nature. His teachings in Matthew 10 leave no doubt….
“You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the (unsaved). … Brother will deliver up brother to death….You will be hated by all for my name’s sake….If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!”
And those results, we need to say, are typical.
Interested in getting into your community with the message of Jesus? Great. That’s what He has commanded, and it’s job one for us today.
Just be sure you know what to expect. So–keep your eyes open, your mind fixed on Jesus, and don’t forget to wear your armor. (Ephesians 6)