Galatians 4:8-20

‘’In the egg, when first laid, there is a tiny point of life amid the thick, viscous fluid; but this gradually increases, while the other diminishes, and at last there is hardly a trace of this left, and the chick is formed, the egg-shell is broken, and the tiny feathered thing steps forth. The chick is formed in the shell.’’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Great verses through the Bible’, p.432

It is sad when you see people make good progress in the Christian life, and then start to regress (11). This is so painful for a genuine Christian leader. ‘’I am afraid that all my hard work among you has gone up in a puff of smoke.’’ The Message. That feeling is hard to take. Authentic ministry can be like childbirth (19). You ‘labour’ to see people become increasingly Christ-like, but this work can be excruciating. It’s never more heart-breaking than when you see people go back to their old ways. Do you know how I feel right now, and will feel until Christ’s life becomes visible in your lives? Like a mother in the pain of childbirth. The Message. Pray for Christian leaders. They carry burdens (and wounds) that don’t always show on the surface. They must persevere through great disappointments. Remember this and determine that you will keep them in your prayers, and not insensitively and unnecessarily add to their ‘load’.

There was a time when the Galatian believers were unbelievers (8). This is true of us all. We can look back to when we ‘’did not know God’’. When Paul says, ‘’But now that you know God – or rather are known by God…’’ (9), he is underlining God’s initiative in salvation; His sovereign choice of them. This always precedes our decision to move towards Him. In their pre-Christian days the Galatians were in slavery to idols. In going back to the law, Paul saw them as returning to a form of slavery (9, 10; see also 3). This wasn’t a palatable thing to say. It wasn’t a ‘sermon’ the Galatians wanted to hear. It wasn’t likely to get him an invitation to come back to their church!But Paul would not pull any punches with the gospel itself at stake. The false teachers, who had seen good success with the Galatians, flattered them for their own purposes (17). No-one could ever properly accuse Paul of such an approach. ‘’And now have I suddenly become your enemy simply by telling you the truth? I can’t believe it. Those heretical teachers go to great lengths to flatter you, but their motives are rotten.’’ The Message.

At the core of this passage we see the apostle himself as a living illustration of Romans 8:28. Can good come out of ‘’an illness’’? (14). It did in Paul’s case. It made it possible for him to preach the gospel to the Galatians. (It is thought Paul may have had an eye condition: 4:15; see also 6:11). God was working for Paul’s good. The Galatians treated him with such love and care. He was also working for the Galatians’ good. They heard the gospel through Paul’s physical problem. It can be argued that God was working, too, for the greater God of the many who would later read and benefit from Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches – ourselves included! An illness can have a ‘’because’’ attached to it. In itself it is not a good thing, but God can use it for good and great purposes. ‘’You were well aware that the reason I ended up preaching to you was that I was physically broken, and so, prevented from continuing my journey, I was forced to stop with you. That is how I came to preach to you.’’ The Message. But oh the pain the great apostle must have gone through, to be so loved, and then later on so rejected. Let’s determine that, as far as it lies with us, we will not cause such grief to the leaders Christ, the ascended Lord, has gifted to His church (Ephesians 4).

Prayer: Thank you Sovereign Lord that, although you may allow bad things to happen, you can be trusted to bring good things out of them.