“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)
Luke concludes this section by stating that the universal church (all throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria—everywhere the gospel has reached so far) experienced peace. Now, let’s remember how we got here. In chapter 6, Stephen is arrested. In chapter 7, he is executed. In chapter 8, the church is scattered because of persecution. And at the beginning of chapter 9, Saul is still breathing out threats of murder against God’s people. This, certainly, is a peculiar path to peace.
One of the benefits of having a GPS device when you’re traveling is its ability to provide alternative routes. If you get off track, it recalculates and finds some other way to get to your destination. But sometimes it will get confused and find some weird, backwoods route that doesn’t quite work. Once when my wife and I were on a trip, we were trying to find a Chick-fil-A and ended up on a dirt road, greeted by “No Trespassing” signs decorated by bullet holes! That was a glitch of the machine, a mistake.
But is that what’s happening here? Is this a glitch? Certainly God could’ve chosen an alternative route—one that allows the church to pass around suffering, in the way we might avoid traffic during rush hour. But instead, he takes them right through suffering in order to arrive at peace.
Do you find yourself on the road of suffering? The road is difficult, it is dangerous, but the destination is surprising.
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:3-5)
God is not after our shame; he’s after our hope. So resist the temptation to be hopeless in the day of suffering.