1 When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia.2 He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece,3 where he stayed three months. Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. Acts 20:1-3 (NIV)
In a sermon I preached not long ago, I was discussing the amazing, natural order of things as God created them. We see it in sunrises, sunsets, tides ebbing and flowing. We see it biologically and psychologically in God’s plan for joining men and women in marriage. We see it in the seasons: a time for planting, growing, harvesting, and resting the land. Each season is important for what happens in the next one.
We spend most of our time in the church talking about doing (i.e. planting, growing, harvesting), but little about resting. God thinks rest is so important that he did it himself at creation (see Gen. 2:2 – contrary to popular opinion, he did NOT create Texas on the seventh day). And when he gave the 10 Commandments, he included that he wanted his children to follow his lead (see Exo. 20:8-11).
So I love this passage. As you recall from Acts 19, there was a huge riot in Ephesus. But “when the uproar had ended…” We talked Sunday about the fiery arrows of the enemy. I know of several families in our church who are presently under significant spiritual attack. When we’re fighting the devil, we have to be at the top of our game! We’re on…our spiritual senses are attuned…our time in the Word of God is significant. Our prayers are often loud and meaningful. It can be quite exhausting. But the uproar from the enemy won’t last forever.
And so, in his grace, God gives us seasons of rest… “a time for war and a time for peace” Solomon might say (Eccl. 3:8). It is important during these more quiet times to be refreshed in the Lord. Paul had a nice time of traveling with his friends, encouraging churches along the way, and being encouraged himself. His spiritual batteries were recharged. And good thing, too, because it wasn’t too long before another group was plotting against him!
In the Gospels we often read of Jesus pulling away from the disciples and ministry responsibilities for some alone-time with the Father (e.g. Mark 2:35). In the Old Testament, Elijah experienced this at Horeb. After a particularly challenging spiritual battle, he met God on the top of that mountain. God spoke to him in a “gentle whisper,” refreshed him, then told him to “Go back the way you came…” for more spiritual battles coming his way (see 1 Kings 19).
So, here are my two points. 1) If you are in the throes of battle, hang on, stand, and fight, fight, fight. Be encouraged that God will be victorious and the uproar WILL end. 2) If you’re not in the battle at the moment, thank God for his gracious rest. Make the most of this peaceful time as you grow in the Lord, recharge your spiritual batteries, and prepare for what’s coming next.
P.S. I want to let you in on a little secret it took me 17 years of ministry to figure out: Don’t feel guilty for rest…The devil would prefer to wage war on worn-out, emotionally spent Christians. God worked rest into his system so you and I can be at the top of our games!