Acts 14:8-20: The Danger of popularity.

“8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!’ At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.  11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in human form!’ 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.  14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 ‘Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: he has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.’ 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered round him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.“NIV UK

‘’What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task’’ (1 Corinthians 3:5)  In an old book on the Christian ministry, the author says that one reason (among others) why great success may be withheld from a ministry, could be to prevent people from thinking too highly of the minister. When you think about it, that could have some mileage. People may not worship today’s preachers, but some come pretty close to it. The cult of personality is only too obvious. They may not sacrifice to us, but we are aware of ‘’wreaths’’ being brought. This tendency to put fellow-men and women on pedestals is a stubborn streak in human nature and not easily thwarted (18). May all who have a public role in the church exhibit the same self-abasing spirit as Paul and Barnabas (15). We all know how human praise can inflate the ego. Hero worship is far more dangerous than persecution.  It also rings true, however, that the crowd can be fickle. Cheers can soon turn to jeers. The people who want to sacrifice to Paul one moment, in almost the next breath seek to stone him (19b). What is not totally clear is whether (20) may refer to a resurrection. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that Paul died in an attack which was intended to finish him. But the intended ‘full stop’ turned out to be a ‘comma’. What faith and courage Paul exhibited to walk right back into town; to re-enter the lion’s cage, when the lion was very much alive and well. Warren Wiersbe has observed that Paul was a man on the move, but he was not easily moved by difficulties.

PRAYER: Lord, give me an unconquerable spirit, an unquenchable love and a willingness to keep on keeping on in your cause.