Thoughts from the Sycomore’s weekly reading of Acts…
13:13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. 14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”
I’ve had a number of people express their wish for more encouragement in their lives. While this is sad to hear because EVERYONE needs to be encouraged, over the years, I’ve come to realize something interesting about these same people who desire more encouragement. Some definitely have selective hearing—as in, they want to hear only that which is pleasing to the ear and not necessarily challenging to their heart and soul. In today’s text, the people who asked Paul and Barnabas for a word of exhortation are the same people who stirred up trouble for them. Why’d they do it? What happened? When we read the rest of the text, the words spoken by Paul weren’t all easy to hear. The truths spoken were like arrows to their souls. And rather than surrendering to the conviction of the Spirit of God, they responded instead in the way that they’ve always responded, with criticism—as they gave themselves over to their own critical and self-righteous spirit.
An exhortation, by definition is not always easy to hear. It’s encouraging, but it also does not avoid addressing the “hard” things of the heart and soul as well. Unfortunately, people get stuck on the challenge and aren’t able to recognize the encouragement that envelopes it. It’s not always the case, but I think that those who are the most critical tend to be those who are the most sensitive to anything that even resembles criticism directed towards them. And because of this filter, they only hear the criticism and miss the encouragement that’s in that exhortation. All of these things that I’ve said, I speak from personal experience. It’s been an extremely difficult journey. I don’t think anyone likes to hear that there are things that we need to work on. And I’ll be honest with you, I’ve felt like giving in to my old self countless times—failing on more than a few occasions. I thank God, however, that He has used a number of people to let me know—offering exhortation upon exhortation that that is no longer who I am. I am in Christ and I a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come. #desiringGod2017