You probably know the gospel hymn that says “through many dangers, toils, and snares we have already come.”
Life, especially a life devoted to God’s service, will be filled with dangers, toils, and snares. That is certainly what happened to the apostle Paul almost everywhere he went.
Recently, I have been studying the church at Antioch of Syria and Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13). That journey was filled with opposition and difficulty.
Almost immediately, opposition to the missionary enterprise occurred. On the island of Cypress, Paul had the opportunity to take the gospel to the leading political figure on the island. His name was Sergius Paulus, and he is described as a man of great intellect. At the same time that Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark had the opportunity to share the gospel, opposition arose quickly and strikingly.
The opposition came from Elymas, a Jewish false prophet and magician. He sought to turn the Proconsul, Sergius Paulus, away from the faith.
When you read this account, you are reminded of Jesus’ teaching about the parable of the soils and tares. The meaning of the parable has to do with the opposition planting the tares among the wheat. There is always the danger of the counterfeit. That’s what Elymas was teaching.
We face this on a regular basis. The enemy, the evil one, seeks to counterfeit the work of God. By doing so, he leads others to that which is false or trivializes that which is true.
We are always going through dangers, toils, And snares.
Paul effectively and powerfully confronted the magician. Apparently, Sergius Paulus came to faith in Christ, the first of many Roman officials to do so.
Paul and the missionary band moved north into Asia minor. When they did so the next opposition arose. This did not come from outside the group but from inside it.
John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, left the group.
Why he left is unknown. These are some of the possibilities: (1) He may not have liked the fact that Paul became the leader of the group over his cousin Barnabas. Beginning at this point, Luke (the author of acts) begins to describe “Paul and his companions.“ (2) Mark may not have liked the gospel going to the Gentiles. (3) John Mark may have become homesick. (4) The terrain and the demands of serving God may have become too difficult for Mark.
Whatever it was troubled Paul deeply.
How do we handle such opposition?
Paul confronted the magician forcefully and powerfully. This is one of the most forceful addresses given by Paul. He saw the false, and he confronted it immediately.
When Paul faced opposition from within, he refused to give up and followed faithfully the direction of the Spirit of God.
You and I will face opposition – – both from without and from within. Either form is formidable and difficult to overcome. When we are faithful to God to do what pleases Him even if we are alone in doing so, He will sustain us and give us exactly what we need.
“Through many dangers, toils, and snares, we have already come. Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far, and Grace will lead me home.”