The Amen Corner
with Deacon Brown
Today’s Topic: Persevering Through Opposition
Today was another beautiful day at “The Grove”. The morning air was cool, but quickly warmed to early fall-like parameters. One could feel the spirit of Christmas as it drifted on the gentle breeze whispering through the tall pines and old oaks.
Most of the ladies and children were dressed in combinations of red and black. The lights of the Christmas tree twinkled and its ornaments shone. Deacon Lightner–The Grove’s very own ancient, yet surprisingly spry elf—led us in a somber, but earnest rendition of Silent Night, Holy Night.
Today’s Sunday School lesson was entitled, Persevering Through Opposition. According to the American Heritage dictionary, the word, persevere, means: “to persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement.” Last week’s lesson implored us to FACE OPPOSITION. Today we are tasked to PERSIST and to remain CONSTANT THROUGH OPPOSITION. The lesson continues the account of the travels and activities of Paul and Barnabas as they pursue their mission to spread the GOSPEL about Jesus Christ.
The Scripture for today’s lesson came from Acts 14:8-23. The KEY VERSES were 21-22 which read, “They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said.” (NIV)
In the Introduction, Dr. Marshall makes the following salient and impactful point:
In lieu of America’s current social structure of injustice for so many, the time to stand boldly is PAST DUE. Many FAIL to rise to the occasion and act due to a fear of opposition. Many of the pleasures we enjoy today are the results of many years of our ancestors’ boldly and bravely standing against racism, classism, sexism, and many other economic and social injustices to secure necessary change to open the door and pace the path for a brighter, sustained future. In spite of their long, hard fight, the fact remains that the fight is not over. IN fact, it is not over by a longshot. Continued police brutality, disproportionate incarceration rates and black-on-black crime (particularly violent crime) show a calling and cry for someone to stand against the oppressor, even if it is the one you are trying to help. We must standup and PERSEVERE. We cannot stop. Too much is at stake for us to sit in our rooms and idly watch another generation pass by without foundational knowledge upon which to build. Do you have the faith to pick up the mantle and keep going? (p. 19)
Dr. Marshall’s statement is extremely poignant and relevant for us today. All one has to do is walk down the street, ride around town, or visit our schools to witness a whole generation of our youth slowly sliding into the abyss. It is incumbent upon us to put a halt to this insidious yet undeniable descent. We can’t do it by standing idly by. We can’t do it by waiting for someone else to take action for us; to help us. We have to take up the mantle ourselves. We all have to be ready, willing, and waiting to bear the standard.
I heard someone say that “we have no more Dr. Martin Luther Kings, Malcolm X’s, or Medgar Everses. There are not even any on the horizon.” But, MUST we have a Martin, Malcolm, or Medgar in order to forge ahead and do what needs to be done. We’re not always going to have that ONE or TWO exceptional leaders to show us the way. Sometimes we have to plan our actions by COMMITTEE. We have to act as a group. We have to be willing to work together towards common goals to overcome the absence of a definitive leader. We all know what the goals are. We all know what needs to be done. We just have to DO IT. Or, as the Nike slogan goes, JUST DO IT.
Paul and Barnabas entered the city of Lystra. The people of Lystra didn’t believe in a one, ALL POWERFUL, ALL KNOWING God. Instead, their beliefs included a pantheon of gods. Do you recall your lessons in Greek and Roman mythology? Those lower case “g” gods, were the one’s worshipped by the people of Lystra.
Upon entering the city, Paul spied a man—lame in his feet—in the crowd. Through his gift of discernment, Paul was able to perceive that the man had a measure of faith. Small though it was, Paul discerned that the man’s faith was enough to perpetuate an act of healing, for as Jesus admonished his disciples, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)
Paul said to the lame man, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
The sight of the man—lame from birth—suddenly walking, seemingly from a simple verbal command from one of these strangers, led the people of Lystra to speculate that these men were not men but gods, and not just any gods but specifically, the gods of Roman mythology, Jupiter and Mercury (Hermes and Zeus in Greek mythology).
In Greek and Roman mythology, Zeus and Hermes visited a certain village, disguised as humans. They visited the homes of many villagers, some of them rich. At every stop, they were turned away. Finally, they came upon the home of a poor couple. This couple offered the “gods” hospitality and food. Zeus would later destroy the village by flood, but he spared the poor couple who were nice to them. The villagers of Lystra knew this story, and so knowing, attempted to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas, “boldly withstood then and explained the truth” (Marshall, 2017, p. 21).
Paul and Barnabas also faced opposition from excrementitial vortexical agitators from the neighboring towns. These men stirred the people, causing them to stone Paul and throw him out of the city. They left him for dead. But, Paul was not dead. He got up and returned to the city. By climbing “right back in the saddle”—so to speak—Paul exemplified the definition of perseverance.
PERSEVERANCE AND FAILURE CANNOT CO-EXIST!
“Lord, You have given us a purpose and a direct and divine mission. Show us our faults and weaknesses, and tighten up and strengthen those areas. Help us to boldly stand and move swiftly as You guide us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen” (Marshall, 2017, p. 23)