Saturday, February 28, 2009

Without Hindrance: Acts 28:31

Volumes have been written about the ending of the book of Acts. Acts tells the story of the spread of the gospel in the early days of the church, in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The book ends with Paul sitting under house arrest in Rome, awaiting trial on charges of treason. Luke tells us that Paul preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ “boldly and without hindrance.”

“Without hindrance” is one word in the original Greek language (akolutos), an adverb. It is the very last word in the Greek text of Acts. Paul preached with great boldness, “unhinderedly”. And the book stops. It is such a strange ending that some scholars have theorized that the last page or two of Acts may actually be missing, or that Luke was not able to finish the book for some reason.

It is also a strange ending when you think about Paul’s life situation. He had nothing but hindrances in his attempts to preach the gospel of Jesus. We read in 2 Corinthians 11 of Paul’s arrests, persecutions, opponents and hardships. His ministry was one gigantic hardship after another. Satan seems to have even taken a personal interest in hindering the work of Paul. At the end of Acts, Paul in Roman custody – clearly a hindrance to gospel work. Yet, Luke says, he preached without hindrance.

There is, I believe, another reason why Luke claimed that Paul preached without hindrance. Yes, Paul faced many unbelievable obstacles to his ministry, but he never let obstacles hinder the work of God. Noah faced obstacles when he obeyed God’s command to build an ark, but he was not hindered from obedience. Moses was called by God and immediately had to face the king of the most powerful nation on earth and his mighty army. David was anointed king, but Saul stood in his way, as did Goliath. Each man faced great obstacles, but was unhindered in accomplishing the work of God.

Hardships are normal in God’s work, and they are usually bigger than we are able to overcome by ourselves. Too often we assume that obstacles are God’s way of closing a door, as if God would never call us to do anything hard. Obstacles do not tell you that God is not in your work. They are not an indication that God wants you to give up. They are the hurdles over which God empowers you to leap as he accomplishes his work through you.

I have known many Christians, even Christian leaders, who assume that God’s work is supposed to be easy and enjoyable. When things do not go exactly as they imagined, or when times get hard, they give up and move on. Every time I face an obstacle, I want to quit.

But when we are doing God’s work and depending on God’s powers, even the biggest obstacles fail to prevent the powerful work of God. He will strengthen us to endure, to overcome, to grow.

Even big obstacles cannot hinder the work of an Almighty God. Let us do the work of Jesus boldly, knowing that no force on earth can stop him.

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