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Paul is not the hero of Acts 16, even though he was beaten and imprisoned for preaching and still lead the best worship concert he could. Why? It’s simple, he understood and remembered things about Jesus (the true hero of Acts 16 … and every other passage of the Bible) that we tend to forget. Here’s some more of what he remembered.
2) Following a suffering savior means you’ll suffer too. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus had some good times while on earth. He laughed, spent time with friends, went to parties and enjoyed some great meals. However, the Bible also said he would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” before He was even born. Hebrews said that “He suffered when tempted,” which is exactly why He is able to help people who are being tempted or suffering. His suffering obviously culminated at His brutal crucifixion where He was beaten, mocked and hung on a cross to die … all while absorbing God’s wrath. Wouldn’t it make sense that if we’re following a man who suffered so much, we will too? Jesus even said that we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross if we’re going to follow Him.
If we’re going to be Jesus’ followers, that means we’re going to experience some of the things He experienced. This includes false accusations, people hating you for no reason, and maybe even physical pain. Paul had come to terms with this, even to the point that he expected it. “I am going to Jerusalem … not knowing what will happen to me, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me” (Acts 20:22-23 ESV). Later on, he told Timothy “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12 ESV). In the Christian life, suffering is not an elective course. Knowing this beforehand kept Paul from being surprised. Knowing that he was sharing in Jesus’ suffering comforted him and made him more like Jesus.
Somehow, in parts of the American church, we’ve started believing a false prosperity gospel. I’m not saying you have to be poverty stricken to love Jesus. God can absolutely prosper you financially, and He often does, but that doesn’t mean that He will with everyone. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t have to go through some hard times along the way. The danger is that we want His stuff more than we want Him. That’s setting ourselves up for major disappointment. God’s stuff can never measure up to God’s presence.
There’s another danger of believing in a prosperity gospel that can lead you to cruelty. You might see someone going through financial difficulty or sickness, and you assume they have no faith. My wife once asked a lady to pray for her because her asthma was acting up. This woman believed so firmly in the prosperity gospel that she literally asked Stephanie if she was sure she was saved. It’s like Mark Driscoll once said that teaching implies – that if you just have enough faith, you won’t have to be like Jesus … and suffer.
Paul knew that suffering was coming, but that it was worth it. It’s part of following Jesus. It was yet another reason that he was able to sing praise songs in a dungeon. More reasons to come …