March 2, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Acts 16-20

Today I was on campus for our weekly tabling, and one of the Christian campus groups here also had their booth set up on Library Walk.  It was a booth where you could walk thru and all along the walls, were posted all these little cards people could fill out anonymously that contained their “secrets” – things that no one would know, things that they felt guilty or regretful about…but for some reason or another, I guess they felt compelled to voice them thru this format.  I was slightly skeptical how many people would actually take up on this idea, but as I walked thru the booth, I was surprised to see just how many cards were posted.  It must have been hundreds.  People confessing sexual sins, sexual immorality, deep regrets.  People with suicidal thoughts, cutting / self-injurious behavior, eating disorders.  People who are so lonely (“Today is my birthday…and nobody knows”).  Self-esteem issues.  Victims of physical and sexual abuse.  It just went on and on.  As I walked thru and read these cards, undoubtedly, I felt quite disturbed and very heavy-hearted.  As you got to the end of the booth, there was a poster that read “What’s the solution?” and you walked out to a couple of staff of that campus group who were standing there, available to talk to anyone who wanted to talk more about what they had just experienced.  I ended up talking with one of the staff there, and I asked him whether a lot of people have been filling out these cards, and he said that there have been many. That more than half of the cards that were posted were just from yesterday and today alone.  The staff explained to me that they got this idea off of a secular website, where apparently it’s an online community board where people can anonymously post their secrets, but what got to him and the rest of the staff was how it shouldn’t just end there–that it is the perfect opportunity to then share the gospel.  So that’s what they’re trying to do this whole week on campus.

This was the backdrop against which I read today’s chapters.  I thought about what drove A.Paul, what got him ticking.  His heart for lost people.  His vision of ALL people hearing the gospel and being saved.  His keen awareness that time is limited and so, preaching the gospel with sense of urgency. Whether it was to Jews or Gentiles, to woman of high social standing like Lydia down to the poor slave girl heartlessly used by her owners to bring them profit, to the jailer and his family, to the deep thinkers and philosophers in Athens…it was as though his conviction in the gospel and the confidence that this is THE good news that everyone needs just daily compelled him to share the gospel to each and every person, in each and every town he traveled to.  I thought about how it said that when he saw the enslaved girl, he became “so troubled.”  I thought about A.Paul entering Athens and being “greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.”  I wonder whether coming face to face with the harsh realities of sin, being reminded that people are enslaved, misguided, lost…how this probably gave him renewed conviction and confidence to keep doing what he’s doing, even though the work of saving souls is difficult and hard.  And if there were people who rejected his message, as in the case of Ch.18–when the Jews in Corinth opposed Paul and became abusive, he didn’t emotionally shrivel up.  He shook out his clothes, and moved on next door to the house of Titius Justus, and there many Corinthians believed and were baptized.  He knew that there would be people who would reject and oppose his message, but also knew that there were many others who would, and so he didn’t unnecessarily exhaust all his energy trying to preach the gospel to those who refused to listen, to those who were unresponsive.

It’s been almost 7 years since I graduated from college, and I think a lot of things have changed since then in the college scene.  As I’m in college ministry now and learning different things, I think what college students go thru now is much more difficult than when I was in undergrad.  While I had heard a little bit here and there of what college life is like these days, and the kind of struggles that students face, I think going thru that booth and reading all those cards was something like a rude awakening for me.  That these aren’t just isolated “secrets” but they’re in fact pretty common.  This is what a typical college student is up against during their 4 years in school.  I felt something like what A.Paul felt – troubled and distressed.  On a given day walking down on library walk, you would never know what people are going thru.  Everyone is wearing their masks and looking okay, but I have no idea what sort of hurts, struggle or sins they’re carrying.  I think this got drilled home a lot for me today.  And so, I too need to live with sense of urgency. There are people out there who are so lost, who are hungering to be known, to be loved, to be healed, forgiven, guided, etc.  The cards that I read were all ones written by the students on this campus.  There is still so much work to be done.  They need to hear this message that’s been given to me, that’s saved me.  The same words that A.Paul shared with those in Athens–that we have a God who can be known.  That’s he’s near and not far away.  They don’t have to throw out their “secrets” into the open air,  their cry for help, their cry to be known, to be heard.  But that they are precious sons and daughters of our heavenly Father who knows them.  Who is deeply troubled and distressed at the ravages of sin in their hearts.  Who wants for them to seek them, reach out for him, and find him.  How this message can transform their lives and set them free.  I committed to live each day with this sense of urgency.

Submitted by Jessica Chao, Gracepoint San Diego

I was struck by how Apostle Paul continued to trust in God despite the numerous difficulties that arose as he sought to obey God. In Lystra, Apostle Paul drove a spirit out of a possessed girl, and then the owner had him and Silas flogged and imprisoned. How easily it would have been for Apostle Paul to feel self-pity or to give up. He did nothing wrong, but was falsely accused, but yet, him and Timothy responded by singing hymns and praying to God. They did not let their imprisonment discourage them or shake their trust in God, but they recognized that God was still in control. Even when the doors of the jail swung open, they could have easily escaped, but instead they stayed there and through it, the guard and his family became followers of Jesus. Also, in the cities that Apostle Paul and Timothy went to, they were rejected, and driven out. This happened in Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens. The Jews were jealous of him, and despite this, Apostle Paul continued to preach to them. Though they closed their hearts to him and wanted to quiet his voice, it didn’t stop Apostle Paul from speaking truth to them and loving them. He was very clear in God’s purpose for his life, and he did not succumb to the difficulties he faced, but saw it as a privilege to serve God. He continued to love the people that God placed in his life, even though it brought a lot of burdens and heartaches.

I have a lot to learn from Apostle Paul’s life as one who trusted in God. I realized that living out Christian life is not easy especially as we are called to love people and live out God’s commands to bring the gospel to those around me. Even when I try hard to love, the sin within me pushes back that much more. I end up saying things that hurting people and experiencing hurt from others. This causes me to want to close my heart and go back to living a comfortable self-focused life. But when I see Apostle Paul’s life I feel so encouraged to stand firm in my relationship with God. I should not let circumstances shape how I live out my Christian commitment. This past weekend we had the Winter Retreat. I once again saw the daily struggles that the Christians faced in Taiwan. There are so many layers of struggle: Parents disapproval, standing against ancestor worship, cultural differences, and separation in values with their families, etc. Many have shared that it’s hard to live out their Christian convictions, but when we see lives like Apostle Paul, it gives strength to sink those roots deep in God’s promises and to trust God is the One in control. One student shared her testimony about how she had to stand up to her parents about not bowing down to her deceased grandparents. At first, she was so scared, but she struggled with it and was able to stand up for what she knew to be true. She told her parents that she didn’t want to bow down and her parents gave her a really hard time. I could see how it would have been simple to just bow to the grandparents and give excuse for why she did it, but she held onto how God convicted her heart and refused to compromises. It’s through situations like this, that I see how God supplies us to the strength and courage to obey Him.

Likewise for myself, it gives me the courage and perseverance to keep at following God, even when my insecurities tell me that I am a complete failure, or when I want to close my heart to someone for hurting me. I not only want to imitate Apostle Paul’s perseverance and trust that God is with me, but I also want to honor the commitments that others made to preserve and trust in God despite how difficult the struggles may be in their Christian walk. It really strengthens me to know that my brothers and sisters around the world and preserving in their faith in God.

Christine Chang, Gracepoint Hsinchu

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5 Responses to “March 2, 2011 Devotion Sharing”

  1. cpeng says:

    Thank you both for sharing your DTs. I felt so distressed and troubled reading about that wall of “secrets” on the SD campus, yet thankful that that campus group had the idea of doing something like this and really pray and hope that the students can find the true solution. And personally commit to live with such urgency too knowing the kind of burdens that people walk around with.

  2. kelly says:

    jessica, thank you so much for your sharing. your sharing highlighted for me the urgency of our calling as college ministers.

  3. paul says:

    thanks for sharing. Reminded me once again of how broken each person really is despite what he or she may show on the outside. To think that I have come to know the gospel, the “solution”, reminds me of the incredible responsibility I have been given to give myself to bringing this good news to those around me.

  4. Jeff Chiu says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. It reminds me of the kind of thin visage that people put on but inside it’s just universally and undeniably true that people are dying, hurt, broken, and in need of a Lord and Savior to redeem their lives… your sharing helped me to focus on the urgency and the high calling we have as Christians to participate in God’s grand work of redemption in people. And thank you Christine for sharing about how you were encouraged by Apostle Paul’s continual effort to preach and love people who hurt him. He was so tough emotionally, and it gave me a clear picture of how I need to imitate him to commit to loving people and preaching the Gospel even when oppression comes!

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