Deliverance: Sometimes You Get It FROM the Stones. Sometimes, Though…

Deliverance apparently has different meanings to different people. Generally it means being rescued from a threatening situation. To some, it might bring the old Burt Reynolds movie to mind (Two thumbs down, by the way). But most of us would be happy to receive deliverance if we were in danger. The Apostle Paul had some notable experiences and he wrote to Timothy about it: “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” (2 Timothy 3:10-11 NIV)

As a missionary, Paul was no stranger to persecution and danger. He experienced some incredible trials and hardships on his journeys as recorded in the Book of Acts. He mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11 that he was flogged, imprisoned, and shipwrecked (among other things). He traveled the world on foot and by sailing vessels in conditions that were primitive at best..

While writing here to Timothy, he speaks of being rescued at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra during his First Missionary journey. There’s an interesting detail to note about this: Paul rejoices in his deliverance by the Lord in each place. Sure enough, at Antioch and Iconium, he escaped angry mobs and persecution. They left Antioch and “shook the dust off their feet”. At Iconium, opposition was stirred up, but Acts 14:6-7 says, “…they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country where they continued to preach the gospel”.

At Lystra, the deliverance Luke describes is very different. Acts 14:19 says the mob caught Paul and STONED HIM and left him for dead. Yeah, you read that correctly: they hit Paul with big rocks until they assumed he was dead, and yet Paul includes that in his list of places where the Lord delivered him.

deliverance

Maybe Paul’s definition of being rescued is different than mine, but I would normally classify being pelted with rocks and left for dead as a loss rather than a win. Not so for Paul. What he teaches Timothy is far more profound. He basically says that sometimes God delivers us FROM the stones, and sometimes He delivers us THROUGH the stones. Faith enables us to see that deliverance is not always the absence of hardship or pain, but it’s finding God’s comforting presence in the midst of them.

On your journey through this world, I hope that the Lord may give you a present of pure escape, and that He protects you from calamity or misfortune. But the next time you are being pelted by the stones of life, remember that when you don’t receive His presents, you will definitely receive His Presence. And perhaps like Paul, you will have a broader definition of “deliverance from” and “deliverance through”.

Paul said there were many persecutions he endured,
But every time, he said, the Lord’s protection was assured.
In Antioch he left the presence of an angry crowd;
He shook their dust beneath his feet and walked off strong and proud.
Iconium’s unbelievers turned into an angry mob,
But Paul escaped before they had a chance to do the job.
At Lystra, Paul said God delivered him; but read the text:
You may have missed where Luke described what happened next!
The angry caught up with Paul; the Riot Act was read,
And Paul was taken up and stoned (with ROCKS!) and left for dead.
And yet, Paul says, he was delivered from the persecution,
Including Lystra, where they carried out his execution.
The stones of life will come, Paul said, so here’s what you must do:
Remember God delivers FROM. And He delivers THROUGH.

 

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A Soldier, an Athlete, and a Farmer Walked Into a Church…

What do a Soldier, an Athlete and a Farmer have in common? And what do they have to do with you?
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (2 Timothy 2:4-7, NIV).

soldier athlete farmer

Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is a great challenge about leadership on the Christian walk, and it is full of subtle details that make it applicable no matter who you are. Paul begins by saying, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier”. Being a Christian, Paul says, is like being a soldier. We are in a battle. We have a chain of command. We have orders. We experience suffering. He is not challenging Timothy to lead from afar, he is calling him to his side in the battle’s fray. Paul is not consulting, or leading theoretically. He is familiar with the hardships, the inconveniences, and the requirements of battle. His advice is true because it comes from experience. What soldier wouldn’t follow a leader like that? A good soldier understands his/her orders, and is committed to carrying out his/her mission. They stay focused on the objective.

Tell me, what is YOUR mission? How entangled are you in other affairs? How much do you want to please your commanding officer? But wait, there’s more: Apparently following Christ involves way more than going to church once a week. Paul also compares the Christian life to running a race. Why this analogy? Christians as athletes? Running to win? Athletes train. Athletes compete. They play by the rules. They strive mightily, and leave it all out there on the field…

Do we really do those things in our spiritual lives? How much do you train? How spiritually fit are you? How hard do you strive? How badly do you want the prize? Most athletes train every day, fine-tuning their bodies or trying to gain small improvements over their baseline. They work on specific areas where they can improve, with regimens designed to get them there. What’s the spiritual equivalent of that? Are we spiritual couch potatoes or athletes?

Finally, Paul compares the Christian life with being a “hardworking farmer”. A farmer clears land, prepares soil, plants, and cultivates. He calculates and plans his outcome, anticipating the benefits he will reap from his harvest. He invests countless hours in planting, tending, and harvesting his crops, and is rewarded with the fruits of his labor. He has to have patience and faith in order to complete his process. In each of these three examples, the participant is called upon to suffer, to strive, to work; and in each case there is a reward: the commander’s commendation, the victor’s crown, the first fruits.

These labors and these rewards are natural aspects of their respective crafts, but Paul takes it a step further. He says they apply not only to Timothy but to us. When Paul says, “Join with me in suffering”, he is inviting all of us. We are all in the battle. We are all in the race. The fields are white unto harvest. FIGHT. COMPETE. GROW.

Soldiers go through weeks of training; they do not meander.
They work hard to satisfy the demands of their commander.
Athletes work out constantly gain the speed and size
So that in competition they can strive to win the prize.
Farmers work out in the fields with toil, and sweat, and grime
So they can reap the first fruits of their harvest when it’s time.
Why does Paul compare us to the way an athlete strives?
He says it represents the way we live our Christian lives.
We are in the battle and the race, and you should know:
The fields are ready for the harvest. Fight, compete, and GROW.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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