The Big Divide Yet An Open Door
Stirring up hatred, persecuting those who believe, concocting plots to murder those who evangelize, and shutting off freedom to share the Gospel—this sounds like the description of a growing hostility against Christians.
Back in 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini took control in Iran, threw out all the missionaries, outlawed evangelism, banned copies of the Bible in Persian, and killed many pastors. It looked like the tiny Iranian church would be exterminated, but this hostility against those who share the message about Jesus and God’s grace is an old story and the truth will not be suppressed.
We saw in our last Devo what happened when Paul and Barnabas first took the Gospel to the area that is now Turkey. In Antioch of Pisidia there was a strong initial response but then persecution to try to stop the spread of faith in God’s grace. Paul and Barnabas were forced to flee 90 miles to Iconium, but did persecution stop the spread of the Gospel?
“Now in Iconium, following their normal strategy, Paul and Barnabas entered the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that many Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews, who disobeyed their challenge to believe in Jesus stirred up other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.
So Paul and Barnabas responded to this opposition by spending a good deal of time speaking boldly for the Lord. And the Lord verified the validity of the message of his grace by causing signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people in the city divided between those who were with the Jews who opposed Jesus and those who were with the apostles.
When some Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, came up with a plot to harm and then to stone Paul and Barnabas and the plot became known, Paul and Barnabas fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra (about 18 miles south-southwest from Iconium) , Derbe (55 miles further), and the surrounding countryside, where they continued to proclaim the good news.” Acts 14:1-7
In 1979 I remember many predicting that it was the end of the Iranian church. Back then it was estimated that there were only 500 Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. Today there are hundreds of thousands—some estimate more than a million. Violence in the name of Islam has caused widespread disillusionment and moved many to question their beliefs and Iranian believers chose to keep right on boldly sharing Jesus.
LORD, the divisions over race, politics, and economics are growing. The Good News about Jesus can create even bigger divisions, yet help me remember that Jesus wins the argument in the end. Keep giving boldness to my brothers and sisters in countries like Iran and Turkey, and use Paul and Barnabas’ boldness and faithfulness to stir me to connect with unbelievers about Jesus.
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