Hello and welcome to Thursday’s podcast. If the day has just started, or as we know that many of you listen in to this podcast in the morning around the breakfast table or during the commute, I hope that today is a great day. My name is James and it is a privilege to share the reflections on the podcast this week.
Let me change up how I normally start these podcasts – I know over the last few days I have been very quick to get into the Bible story. There has been a lot to share! Let me begin today with a question this time: where is the most comfortable place you know? Where do you feel most at ease and why?
For many of us it is most likely a familiar place. Somewhere like home or our parents’ home… its nice to be looked after sometimes and not do the cleaning up. Especially so when you have kids of your own. It might be those places because of the people we know there – they are familiar and safe.
Let me just change the goal posts slightly, what about when the pressure is on? when we are frustrated? Have you ever thought about where you go to for comfort? For me, it is not always to the prayer room. I wish it was. Some of us eat, some of us tweet, some of us look for it in the attention of others.
Today we are looking at Acts 18:1-11; this is where Paul and Silas spend some time in Corinth before bringing this second big trip they have done to a close. The last few days we have heard some of the most inspiring stories in the book of Acts about people coming to faith and being baptised. There have been a lot of phrases such as “then immediately he and all his household were baptized.” (Acts 16:34). Whereas today we change a gear. We move out of the fast lane into a different pace. We read that hear Paul stays in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
In this podcast today we are going to think about the comfort of God’s presence.
In v6 Paul seems frustrated. After receiving some abuse from the Jews “he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
Later on in the passage, in v9&10, God speaks to Paul, encouraging him to remain in Corinth despite his frustrations, because God apparently has many people to bring to faith there. In the face of opposition, God steps in with faithful love to strengthen Paul’s resolve. Let me read verse 9 & 10 now…
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
After hearing these words, how does God promise his protection? He does it through a dream. And he promises to be with them. His presence. The comfort of his presence is better than the comfort of any place. It goes on to suggest that his presence is protection for Paul from fear, anxiety and doubt. God’s presence casting out fear is a recurring theme in Scripture. Moses encouraged Joshua, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed”. God continually offers his comfort through the words of the Prophets, and the beautiful words of the Psalms, many of us will know the words of Psalm 23… ,“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. And Jesus promises his presence at the close of his last words of commission to the church: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” Matt 28:20. This isn’t a one off moment in the story we have today in Acts 18. It happens all the way through the Bible and it still happens today with me and with you.
I don’t know if you feel frustrated today, or if you feel frustrated later. Paul certainly was frustrated in this story. One thing we have is that God is with us. Uncomfortable and frustrating situations are not all that bad when God is with us. One of our student leaders, called Matt, shared a great quote with me about this in September as we gathered our leaders to pray ahead of the term starting. It was a quote about embracing discomfort because our long term spiritual growth depends on it.
“As a long-term strategy, comfort is unsafe. It often leads to self-absorption, boredom, and discontent. Regardless of what you know or read, everybody wants growth — the ability to consistently improve to be better and smarter. The comfort zone, as defined by Lifehacker, is a “behavioural space where your activities and behaviours fit a routine and pattern that minimises stress and risk.” Growth requires discomfort. If you stick with what is comfortable, you’re giving up any hope of surprising yourself, of finding greatness, of having the best experiences human life has to offer. Comfort will never give you that. To a growth-committed person, comfort is just a place to retreat to momentarily while you get ready to push again.
Harv Eker said “Nobody ever died of discomfort, yet living in the name of comfort has killed more ideas, more opportunities, more actions, and more growth than everything else combined. Comfort kills!”
As a habit, comfort will get you to roughly the same place you were when you decided to get comfortable, just older.”
Awesome quote, right? Whatever the day holds embrace the challenges and don’t be fearful of leaving the comfort zones behind. Ultimately, the greatest comfort is knowing He is with us.
Jesus, we ask you would help us to trust you more. We see in the Bible you have always cast out fear. I pray that fear, anxiety and doubt would drain away today and faith would increase. Would you speak to us about who we are and what you might have in store for us today or tomorrow. In Jesus name. Amen.
BIBLE READING:Acts 18:1-11
After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’
Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshipper of God. Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptised.
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.’ So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.