So…I have come upon a theme in Acts that should bring strong motivation and encouragement to those engaged in Christ’s mission to make disciples.
It is the little word “so.” This word, when used as a conjunction, is defined “for this reason.” For example, “We were running out of toilet paper, so I went to the store. But the shelves were empty, so I couldn’t get any.” So expresses a causative or explanatory relationship between two clauses.
I’ve observed in recent blogs that the early disciples, so convinced of what they’d seen and heard, proclaimed the good news of Christ and his resurrection at great risk to their safety. The more opposition they faced, the more determined they became.
Consider Philip, for example:
“…Great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:1,4-8).
Though we usually see persecution against Christians as a negative event, God used it to sow gospel seed in Samaria (and then the rest of the known world, the uttermost parts-Acts 1:8). If we leave out some of the details, we can causally link these realities:
Great persecution broke out in Jerusalem, SO Philip went to Samaria and preached the gospel there, SO many were saved, healed, and delivered, SO there was great joy in that city.
Consider Paul and Barnabas in the same way:
“At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders” (Acts 14:1-3).
Paul and Barnabas preached effectively in the synagogue, SO many Jews and Greeks believed, SO those who were jealous and refused to believe stirred up lots of opposition, SO Paul and Barnabas decided to hang around for a while, SO God protected them and confirmed their ministry with signs and wonders.
When used properly, “so” can be a powerful little word. How about this:
There was a new virus that began to infect people around the world, SO lots of people became very afraid, SO their leaders ordered them to change their way of living to slow the spread of disease, SO the people of God began praying night and day, SO they heard from God how they could be a force for help and hope and change, SO many people were touched and blessed by the LORD, SO great numbers of disciples were added to the church, SO God changed the world!
This is only one of many ways this idea can be framed, but I trust you get the idea. Persecution, suffering, opposition, sickness, restrictions, fear—none of these things changed the impetus of the disciples to represent Christ boldly, however they could, wherever God sent them. All the problems that could have stopped them drove them forward instead. And God rewarded them in amazing ways.
What opportunities are being offered to God’s people during this calamity? How can we answer and live out our own so’s as individuals, families, churches? I’m excited to see.