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Joy Out Of Pain

Acts 8:4-8
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 paralysed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city. (NIVUK)

After Stephen's murder by the religious leaders, there was a large scale persecution of the new believers in Jesus. Many people left Jerusalem; some travelled north into Samaria. It was safer because the zealous Jews despised the Samaritans and would not go there, even to travel through the region, because of their mixed race and religious background (John 4:9).

Philip the evangelist took full advantage of the opportunity to preach the gospel there. His preaching about Jesus drew large crowds. The miracles he performed captivated their attention so that they listened intently to what he said. Evil spirits left the people they had terrorised, and cripples could walk. There was much joy in the city because they had welcomed the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Their response also launched a much larger mission in Samaria (Acts 8:14-25).

During Jesus' ministry, He had deliberately gone to Samaria to meet a woman by a well. She was a social outcast even in her own community; but she believed in Jesus, as did many others in the town. Apart for the blessing of those people, Jesus wanted to teach His disciples that the gospel was for everybody, including Samaritans whose lives were morally unacceptable to supposedly 'holy' people (John 4:4-42). Just before He ascended to heaven Jesus made a point of commissioning them to be His witnesses in Samaria (Acts 1:8). It was all in His plan.

When things do not go according to our plans, we may grumble or protest – even manipulating circumstances to suit our own ideas of what is best. But God's plan is always right, and nothing will prevent Him from doing what He chooses (Isaiah 14:27). Our fellowship with Christ does not remove us from pain, but He uses the pain to move us to where we can be useful to Him (Philippians 1:29). Sometimes it is a physical relocation; often it is a new attitude of mind and heart. God is at work in us so that we will connect with His plan (Philippians 2:13). He allows pain to move us into His will.

Sovereign Lord. Thank You for Your unfailing wisdom in always knowing the right route to establishing Your glory, and the blessing of all who will repent and be forgiven. Forgive me for sometimes struggling against Your will and choosing a path which suits me but displeases You. Please help me to see the divine opportunities in every pain which You allow, so that I may work with You for the extension of Your Kingdom. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams