I've been doing a bit of thinking about the post I wrote a couple of days ago based on the poem by Annie Johnson Flint about God's promises, and how God doesn't promise us many things that we may assume should be ours by right. And that was the thing that's been striking me during some of my quiet times lately, what do we think are our rights? What do we assume is ours by right? So, what do we really have rights to?
In my quiet times, I've been meditating in Acts 16:16-40 - Paul and Silas' encounter with the fortune-telling slave girl (posessed by an evil spirit) and their subsequent flogging and being thrown into prison. Several questions came to my mind. Was this unexpected? What rights did they think they had when they were free, and in prison? Did they think their rights were being violated? So this got me thinking about what our true rights are as Christians, as inherited sons and daughters of the living God, called to live for him in a world that hates his light.
In the light of us being called to serve God in this world, as Paul and Silas were, we have a right to endure whatever the world throws at us for the glory of God, to bear it as working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23-24,). It is an immense priviledge to serve God, wherever he puts us. Were Paul and Silas surprised that they got thrown into prison? I highly doubt it. They'd been on the road for God for quite a while, living out the the gospel reality that suffering and persecution (in their various forms) are things we should expect when we take the gospel to people. This should serve as a stark reminder that the world we're called to live and speak the gospel in hates the light that it offers.
Another question that came to my mind was that of justice. What did Paul and Silas think was going on with God when he let them be thrown into prison? Did they wonder where his justice was there and then? Do we have a right to justice? And the answer to that is a resounding yes! We have a right to a just ruling from God; one that will be carried out when he returns. In the mean time, do we have a right to justice here on earth when we're unfairly treated or downtrod by those around us? Being called to be a Christian is not a call to be a doormat to the world, it's being called to a supporting joist for the kingdom of God.
The greatest thing of importance to us in any situation should be of staying true to God, of standing up for the gospel, then for our friends and those around us, and then for ourselves - in the same way that we're called to think of God first in all things, then those around us, and then ourselves. Does this mean we neglect ourselves? Not at all, it means humbling ourselves, not worrying for our own needs, and trusting that God will provide for everything he knows we need. Make no mistake, when Paul and Silas went on the road for God they knew the risks of walking the line for him. But they chose to put the furthering of the gospel and the glory of God in front of their own comfort and rights that the world insists we should have - like security and physical safety.
I think about my life and how much more tempting it is to choose the easier option - avoid a conversation that would challenge me, choose not to confront a friend about something for the sake of your friendship (when in fact a true friend would challenge, rather than stand by), steer away from the conversation that would mean you stand up for your faith. And Paul and Silas had the same opportunity - walking away from the situation with the slave girl with the fortune-telling evil spirit, being broken in prison, taking the easy conversations with the Greeks and avoiding the zealous Jews. But they chose the that a) glorified God above themselves, putting them often in harm's way, and b) acknowledged God's sovreignty over their lives, trusting him with their futures - on a day to day basis. They took the rights the world said they should have and endured cultural and social shame, knowing that their real worth and glory would be found in God, when he reveals himself.
Are we so easily tempted to steer away from the decision that glorifies God at the expense of our own comfort? Or are we willing to claim the right God offers us; his justice in his time. Do we trust that he'll provide what we need, and lay our cares at his feet? Are we willing to put his glory first, and humble ourselves so we can serve him better? Big challenges, but one patient God who can help us make it happen
weird is just your own personal brand of normal