Peace Amidst Unpleasant Circumstances
After Paul had been willing to stay at the task in Ephesus even with the dream of going to Rome on his heart (Acts 19:23), "about that time . . . " That's the way it happens. Just about the time you get out of your prayer closet and you've got it all worked out, everything breaks loose. Look at the rest of verse 23:
There occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way [which was a first-century label for Christianity].
About the time you get things settled in your heart and promise, "Lord, I'm not going to panic; I'm going to leave those dreams with You," no small disturbance occurs.
What was the problem? Verses 24 and following describe it. One day a craftsman named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, realized his business was taking a turn for the worse. Why? He tells his fellow craftsmen in verse 26:
"You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all."
So the new Christians gave up their trinkets and spread the word. Now, perhaps by the thousands, people were leaving the worship of Artemis. There goes the silver trinket market! Suddenly the market for Artemis memorabilia takes a nosedive.
You see, the closer you get to the authentic, the less you care about the artificial. You know the truth, so you don't need little replicas of what is false (to say nothing of what is true). You commit yourself to the living Lord who is not seen, who is not heard (audibly). So who needs little tin gods! Who needs religious souvenirs! When you're serving the God of heaven, who could care less about gods on earth?
So now the craftsmen have it in for the missionary. They're saying, in effect, "It's all Paul's fault. He's to blame." Weird, isn't it? When you declare the truth you're often blamed for it even though you didn't write it. You're just declaring it. But people have no other source to turn to. They can't take a swing at God. So those who represent the Lord and His truth become the scapegoat . . . the verbal punching bag. This is the place Paul found himself in. He didn't make anybody do anything. God changed lives. But he was the voice box.
Still, look at what happened. Now remember, this is the man who has said, "Lord, I give You my future. I'm relying on You to take care of it." Things got worse. Look at the unpleasant circumstances.
"Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless . . . " When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"
So they're chanting this great cry like you would chant a cheer at a ball game. "GREAT IS ARTEMIS OF THE EPHESIANS!" They're screaming it—thousands of them. I say that because of the next verse:
The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater . . .
Eventually the word gets to Paul, "Your name is being used over there and are they mad!" In fact, verse 29 says they dragged a couple of his companions into this place that was normally the fighting arena for gladiators. Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions, were forced to face this mob that was now intensely angry—an uncontrollable scene of panic.
What would you do? Frankly, I'd probably take the night train to Memphis! I'd get out of there, like fast. Not Paul. Paul's at peace. Look at the next verse. A paraphrase of verse 30 would be, "Let me at 'em."
And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly [there it is], the disciples would not let him. Also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater.
"Don't go out there, Paul! Man, that's bedlam out there. That's suicide. That's crazy." Yet Paul is ready to walk into the scene.
Why? First of all, he's courageous. He doesn't want Gaius and Aristarchus taking the heat for him. Second, he has peace, which allows a person to experience a degree of invincibility. When you live free of anxiety, there is an "envelope of invincibility" in your spirit. It surrounds you, and you don't sense the intimidation of a mob or the fear of peril. It's nothing short of magnificent.
This brings us to the second definition: Peace is the ability to stay calm in spite of the panic of unpleasant circumstances.
Now, in case you choose to live like this and to lean in that manner on the living Lord, I want to warn you ahead of time, people won't understand. If you're in a situation that calls for panic, yet you don't panic, they're going to want to know what's wrong with you. Isn't that interesting? Our mind-set is so panic-oriented that when you aren't panicked, you have to explain what's wrong with you. Amazing!
Are you facing an uncontrollable situation, an uncertainty? Something you just can't extract happiness out of? A situation that's unpleasant, uncomfortable, and dissatisfying? The Lord wants us to glorify Him and to walk in peace with Him, even though our surroundings are unpleasant.
This devotional is part three in a four-part series.
When we walk in peace even though our surroundings are unpleasant, God is glorified.
Excerpted from Avoiding Stress Fractures, Copyright © 1990, 1995 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.