Monthly Archives: November 2011

Wrong hero part 4

LEGO Indiana Jones in Grass

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More on why Paul is not the hero of Acts 16 … or any other passage of scripture.

4) This didn’t come naturally to Paul, even he had to learn it. Ever wonder what Philippians 4:13 is about? It has nothing to do with being the best you can be at sports. Paul had just finished his “thank you note” portion of the book for a gift they sent him. Then he said, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need (Philippians 4:11-12 ESV).”

So Paul isn’t talking about anything selfish. He’s saying that he is just as happy going hungry as he is at a party. He wasn’t born that way, he said twice that he had to learn it. How did he learn it? It wasn’t because he was amazing. He learned it through the strength that Christ gave him. Everyone who wants to follow God has to learn how – that’s one of the reasons He gave us a book. We all have to learn to be ok with whatever situation we’re in. Nobody is born naturally spiritual or inclined to follow Jesus. J.I. Packer said, “once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”* The more we see His faithfulness … the more we’re able to learn to be fine with whatever happens.

*J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 34.


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Wrong hero part 3

Captain America

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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.

3) Suffering for the gospel isn’t senseless. God didn’t make people mistreat Paul, but His sovereignty didn’t take a vacation when it happened. Suffering when you’re mistreated actually produces endurance, character, and hope in you. He also knew that his suffering could be an encouragement to others – since many were going through the same thing (2 Corinthians 1:6).

We may not understand why God allows us to suffer, but He really does have a purpose in it. Just because we don’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not true. If you’re suffering when you did nothing wrong, it’s because He wants to do something in and through you. Have you lost your job because you wouldn’t do a shady deal? God knows you were mistreated, and He’s using it to grow you and bring more glory for himself. At the end of the day, it will work out for your good.

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Wrong hero part 2


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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.

Prosperity Gospel?

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 …

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Wrong hero

Superman (2)

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Jesus made it very clear that He’s the hero of the Bible. If you’re not careful though, you can read the Bible and think He’s just one of many heroes. This is wrong for a lot of reasons. It can cause you to despair when you’re not like someone in the Bible. Also, you might think it’s totally fine to do things that are sinful because your hero did it. Most dangerous of all – you’ll focus on people who are minor actors in Gods story, instead of focusing on God Himself. Compared to Jesus, all the other “heroes” look like the guy in the picture.

One of the people Christians do this with the most is Paul. I mean Paul is a pretty stout character. More than any other person, he was responsible for growing the church where people had never heard of Jesus (Romans 15:20). He was once bitten by a snake and didn’t slow down a bit (Acts 28:3-6) and he wrote more of the New Testament than any other author. Once, after being beaten and thrown into a dungeon, he and one of his buddies lead a set of their favorite worship songs to an audience of other prisoners (Acts 16:22-25). How can you read that and not think Paul one of the heroes of the Bible? It’s easy. All you have to do is remember that Paul knew a few things about God, that we tend to forget. This is what allowed him to stand out so much in scripture. I’ll stick with one for this post and make it a series:

1) Paul didn’t worship a God who is immune to suffering. It’s almost become cliche now, “how can a good God allow so much suffering.” It would be a great question if God never suffered, but He did. Jesus entered into human history with us. He grew up working a normal job. He never made a lot of money. Even though He became famous, most of His fans turned on Him at the end of His life. He was beaten. He was murdered to purchase eternal life for us. Jesus suffered for us … and with us. Like Os Guinness said, “ours is the only God with wounds.”

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