A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. Acts 8:2 (NLT)
The other night I watched a snippet of an interview with Kyle Korver of the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have struggled all season with their star player injured and on the bench. The other players rallied behind their ailing MVP all season and ended with the best record. In the first game of the playoffs, however, their now “healthy” MVP blew out his knee. Now the team has to face the playoffs without their most important player. No one is giving them much of a chance.
“We’ve got a great story here,” Korver said in response to the situation. He’s right. No one wants to read the story of a team who packs their bench with the biggest stars and then waltzes to a championship everyone expects them to win. The story of a rag-tag team of bench players who rally together and win against all odds – that’s a story people want to read, and watch, and be a part of.
A shake-up can be a healthy for all of us. Tragedy and persecution are thought of as bad things, but God’s Message says in many places that we are to be joyful when we encounter trials and tribulations. Difficult times force us to grow. Tragedies refine our character. Pain pushes us to persevere. Maturity is found at the end of a difficult stretch of the journey. And, they are all the stuff of great stories.
In today’s chapter, the followers of Jesus experience a huge wave of persecution. People are being hunted down, arrested, imprisoned, and stoned to death. It is no longer safe to be associated with Jesus and His followers. People scatter out of the city and the region to avoid the persecution. I’m sure some were fearful and anxious asking God why He would allow such a thing to happen. By the end of the chapter, we begin to see the fruit of the persecution. Jesus’ message is carried with the fleeing followers to every corner of the country and beyond. The movement spreads out to reach more and more people and the incredible stories of people believing, miracles happening, and lives being changed begin to pile up.
Having a difficult time? Feeling beat down and persecuted? Be joyful. What you’ve got is a great story in the making. God uses temporary tough times and tragic earthly circumstances to tell an amazing eternal story. We’ve just got to open our eyes to see it, trust God to see us through, and press on.