Summary: When you know the Lord, He turns your pain into praise. He turns opposition into opportunity for the spread of the Gospel if you will take that opportunity to preach the Word to all without prejudice and without price.
Eagles are fascinating birds. Did you know a mother eagle constructs her nest with thorns and jagged rocks? These are the first things she lays down. Then she covers that prickly nest with wool, feathers, and the fur of animals she has killed. That makes the nest soft and comfortable, a nice home for the new birds that are about to hatch.
They enjoy that home for a while. They have their food delivered and dropped right into their mouths, and they are living in the lap of luxury.
But not for long. The time comes when the mother eagle stirs up the nest. She picks at the soft, downy material and casts it to the wind. The young eagles begin to feel the sharp thorns and jagged rocks, and after a while they become so miserable and unhappy, they fly away. (Ruby Miller, #6904)
It seems that God is stirring up our nest a little these days. The American evangelical church had gotten comfortable, almost complacent. But now, all of a sudden, we’re beginning to feel some sharp thorns and jagged rocks. The Judeo-Christian world view is no longer the dominant world view in our culture, with the result that some of us are being arrested or fined simply for taking a biblical stand. At the very least, we’re viewed as intolerant bigots, and accused of “hate speech”.
So what are we to do with the increasing persecution we are experiencing these days? What are we to do with God stirring up our nest? What are we to do with those sharp thorns and jagged rocks? And how can we turn those thorns into opportunities to soar like an eagle? How can we turn our persecution and pain into greater progress for the spread of the gospel?
Acts 8:1b A great wave of persecution began that day ( i.e. the day of Stephen’s stoning), sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. (ESV)
The place just got too uncomfortable. They were feeling the sharp thorns and jagged rocks, so they all flew the nest, all, that is, except the apostles.
Acts 8:2-3 (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison. (ESV)
Saul is like a wild boar, trampling, uprooting, and destroying everything in his path. Saul is an animal, ready to maul any Christian in his clutches.
Acts 8:4 But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. (ESV)
The word for “scattered” is an agricultural term, which describes the sowing of seed. Saul tried to obliterate Christianity, but God used him to scatter it like seed.
It took Acts 8:1 to accomplish Acts 1:8. In Acts 1:8, Jesus told the First Church to be “witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, AND to the end of the earth.” But those first believers got stuck in Jerusalem. It was home. It was familiar. It was comfortable. So God had to make them very uncomfortable. God had to “stir up the nest,” so to speak.
Acts 8:1 – “There arose a great persecution against the church,” and the believers scattered into Judea and Samaria, never to be heard from again. Is that what your Bible says? NO! “Those who were scattered went about preaching the Word” verse 4 says.
GOD USES SUFFERING TO SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT HIS SON.
God uses pain to bring about the greater progress of the Gospel. God uses persecution to spread the Good News about Jesus Christ. It’s the Law of Spiritual Thermodynamics: The greater the heat, the greater the expansion.
In 1928, SIM missionaries entered Ethiopia. In those first few years they worked hard but saw few results. After seven years, they could count only 17 baptized believers.
Then Mussolini’s Italian army invaded the country. The missionaries were urged to leave, but they stayed on for two more years. Then in the spring of 1937, they were forcibly evacuated, leaving behind 48 believers.
One of the missionaries writes, “As we turned the last corner around the mountain and saw in the distance the wave of their hands in farewell, we wondered what would happen to the little flickering flame of gospel light that had been lit in the midst of so much darkness. Would these young Christians…be able to stand under the persecution that would inevitably come?”
And persecution did come. Believers were imprisoned and beaten. Many died, but the church grew. In 1941, the war in Ethiopia was over. In 1942, the missionaries were allowed to return, and what they found was absolutely amazing.