A Note from Chris Adams: Today’s article is by guest writer, Courtney Veasey, Director of Women’s Academic Study Programs at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. In light of all we’ve seen in the last few months, she give us some important things to think about personally and in how we are leading other women. Please read with open hearts to discover how God wants us to face current times in a way that honors Him.
Have you ever given much thought to what the various names attributed to God in Scripture reveal about His nature? One I’ve been musing on lately is His identification as the “Ancient of Days.” Such a title coveys that God has been at this Supreme Being of the Universe thing for quite a while, and has no plans for retirement. The Bible and our own experiences testify to the consistency of God’s character and temperament. Unfortunately, the opposite is often the case when it comes to human nature. Mankind could never live up to a title like “Ancient of Days.” More fitting for us might be “Contemporary of Last Tuesday.”
The fickleness of our species is clearly displayed in Acts 14 where one crowd after another is found listening to Paul and Barnabas one moment and turning to stone them in the next! In a particularly vivid scene in 14:8-18, the two apostles are in the Greek city of Lystra when crowds there witness the miraculous healing of a lame man at a word spoken to him by Paul. Struck by the supernatural power that emanated from Barnabas and Paul, the people perceive the two as being a manifestation of their chief pagan god Zeus and their messenger god Hermes, and they begin to worship them. When the apostles realize what’s taking place, they immediately refute the deistic claims and attempt to redirect the crowds to worship the true living God.
What ensues in Lystra illustrates what still takes place today when people are mistaken for gods. When those expectations aren’t met, the illusion dashed, and the offer refused, adoration can quickly turn to rage. Paul, having been the primary preacher, was stoned to the point of near death and dragged out of the city. But an interesting note is given in verse 20 that describes how the disciples “surrounded him,” and as they did, he was able to get back up, re-enter the city, and continue on the next day with Barnabas in proclaiming the gospel. We are left to ponder what exactly those other disciples did as they stood around Paul in his beaten state. My hunch is that they provided not only encouragement and aid to their great leader, but also offered their own backs as a layer of physical protection over him until he had strength enough to stand once more.
In this crux time in our nation’s political history, we are witnessing scenes of uncanny similarity to that in Acts 14, only today our “stoning” extends beyond just the physical to also include hoards of verbal threats and abuse that incessantly penetrate from every conceivable outlet of social and news media. And sadly, our own flock is proving capable of producing attack mobs against some of its own that are as vicious as any that have come from society. As leaders in this time, we should anticipate that we will on days be found in the position of Paul, beaten and dragged out by a crowd, and on other days in the position of the disciples who stood around him. And in either instance, what is to be done?
In following Paul’s lead, our belief in the integrity of the gospel to change a landscape must be unwavering, and our commitment to its proclamation must hold greater weight than any earthly abuse we may endure. Get up, and get back up again. And when its there, refuse neither the hand nor prayer of your fellow disciple as she extends herself to help you to stand. And when it is your pastor, your mentor, your spouse, your friend there “bruised and bloodied” on the ground, be willing to offer your “back” as her protection, as his encouragement to stand to his feet, re-enter the city, and keep pressing on. In each position look to the Word for guidance, and listen to His voice for strength. The Ancient of Days has yet to grow weary of being faithful, and as He was with the Christians of the first century, so He shall be with us today.
Courtney Veasey is a native Floridian and has lived and held various ministry positions in South Carolina, Northern California, and Louisiana. Currently, she is the Director of Women’s Academic Study Programs at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Courtney holds degrees from Florida Southern College, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and is currently working on her doctorate in Biblical Interpretation also from New Orleans Seminary. She also currently enjoys traveling as a speaker for girls and women’s ministry events.