Empowered Church: Faith (Acts 14:18-20)

A little under 400 days ago (367 at the time of writing, and 368 at the probable time of your reading), a small movement began which has now gathered so much momentum that it is mentioned all over prime time news, front pages of daily newspapers, has demanded time on radio talk shows, and has swept many millions of people in to following. What is this movement? Well, it’s the movement of the newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron and his party En Marche!
 
369 days ago, En Marche!, was just a concept in Emmanuel’s head, now it’s the party that is governing 67 million people and an estimated GDP of $2.42 trillion. That’s a lot of power to have earned in such a relatively short amount of time.
 
Prior to his announcement that he was going to run for Presidency with his new party, Macron was involved in politics in the cabinet of President Hollande, but unless you paid keen interest in French politics you wouldn’t have known or heard his name. He would have just been another background figure, not really worth too much thought.
 
Fast-forward to Sunday 7th May and we have people going crazy in celebration as his name is called out as the youngest President at 39 years of age. People packed the courtyards of the Louvre waving the tricolore flag, dancing, cheering, and some even being reduced to tears with the pure adulation, as they respond with such joy to what they believe Macron will deliver for them. The voters will be dedicated to him and his movement, hoping all pledges will be met, and that France will be in a much better and stable position once his term is finished.
 
Not to get political, but if there’s one thing we all know about politics, it’s that we need to take everything a politician says with a pinch of salt. All too often words come out of their mouths, which are very quickly rubbished by the next thing they say. Take Theresa May as an example, she repeatedly said she wouldn’t be calling for a snap election, and now look where we find ourselves! However, the French people, like all of us require faith, to stand by and trust in what we vote for.
 
You see this isn’t too dissimilar from the story we find in the Gospels about Jesus. A man for who spent a period of his life in the background, no one really batting an eyelid at, or having too much to say about. We don’t need to fast-forward too far in the bible to find people dedicated to his cause, who would support him at all costs, and would not deny him despite the utmost of threats.
 
In Acts 14:19, we find Paul, a recent disciple and new convert of Jesus, on what is thought to be his death bed. After challenging the people at Lystra who worshipped idols instead of Jesus after both Paul and Barnabas healed a man, the Jews and the people of the crowds turned against him. Things quickly became violent as Paul was beaten and stoned, so bad in fact that they dragged his limp body outside of the city and left him, considering him dead.
 
In the following verse we see the disciples gather around Paul’s body. Not afraid of what they just witnessed, they felt it right to go and be with him. Perhaps they thought they were there to mourn, or even to pray for a miraculous healing, however this was not the case, as Paul rose up himself and bravely walked back in to the city under his own strength.
 
Consider the disciples for one second. They would have witnessed the brutalities, and like the persecutors, would have considered Paul as good as dead. Yet the very next minute they see him back on his feet, brushing the dirt off his shoulders, and facing back towards where he was so harshly treated.
 
Much like the voters on that French election night, I’m sure the joy on their faces was beyond control. They would have been jumping for joy as he got to his feet, truly amazed at the God who rescued him from his pit.
 
It’s moments like these in which faith is strengthened. Faith is defined by Google as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” Winning elections sparks momentum and excitement amongst the electorate, and having a God who raises from the dead sparks confidence to return and face your persecutors as you are so sure in the message you preach.
 
This week, seek out the faith-strengthening moments, and don’t let it slip. These faith moments might not be quite so bold as winning presidential elections, or being raised from the supposed dead, but we all have them. It might even come from having words of encouragement spoken to you as we all act to be Barnabas’s as Jamie suggested! Then use your faith to see what you can do - could you like Paul turn and face your persecutors (perhaps that means reconciling with someone who has harmed you), or could you take 5 minutes to share a portion of your faith with a friend who is a non-believer?
 
Wherever your faith takes you, I pray that God blesses you richly.