Acts 21:20,27 - "And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to [Paul], 'You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed.' When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing [Paul] in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him."
When I was a kid, 4th grade to be exact, I had a little devil in me from time to time. I think part of it was that I had the sweetest little sister, Cheryl, and she and I grew up to be very dear friends. But in 4th grade, she was a really easy target of mischief.
For example, when I was a kid, we had these plastic Halloween masks that stayed on your face with a piece of elastic around the back of your head. Dad got the box of masks down from the attic days in advance so they were available for me to put on a scary mask and hide down the hall where Cheryl would eventually have to walk to get to her bedroom. And eventually she did come, and I'd test out her heart, ya know, jump out and scare the bejeebers out of her. (Uhhh, bejeebers means "mental soundness" or "wits.") Fortunately, her heart was healthy. And I thought I was the King of the Hall!
Unfortunately, days, sometimes weeks, of that brotherly love would really mess with her mind. She got to the point, as I remember it, that she started crying even before she came down the hall. I mean she was only 1st grade when I was in 4th. But she was also smart. What she did was she figured out that if she'd turn on the hall lights then she could see shadows, and it just wasn't as scary. The problem was that she left 'em on, and my late father would fuss about the lights being left on, and he knew who was to blame, namely, the King of the Hall. Ya couple that together with her starting to cry at the start of the hallway, and let's just say that the King of the Hall got a few whoopins plus one more to grow on, not to mention sent to my room more times than I could count.
All this is to say that sometimes ya' get feelin' really good about yourself, and life comes along, or maybe your father, and knocks ya' back down to size. That's what happened with St. Paul in today's Bible verses. Paul was an amazing instrument of God to bring many to faith in Christ, but some people didn't like him bringing people to Christ, so they knocked him down to size, plus one more for good measure.
But ya' know what? Paul got back up and got right back to it. Just like me. I'd get the green light to come out of my room and start terrorizing my poor, little sister all over again. (And I wonder why my son is so good at doing the same with his sisters. What's the old saying of parents to kids, "May the trouble you caused us come back on you threefold"?)
Of course, the difference is that Paul had an eternal cause for getting up and getting back at it. Mine wasn't so noble. But, praise the Lord, it actually translated into adulthood. I've been kicked in the teeth a few times and knocked down to size, but God, in his grace, picked me up, set me back on my feet, and said, "Now, get back out there and make a difference today! Christ will be your strength!"
And that's what he's saying to you because chances are you're gonna' get kicked in the teeth pretty soon. If not today, then be on the lookout tomorrow. But not too much. Because you can be sure that God will do for you what he did for Paul and for me and for anyone who believes that Jesus kicked the devil and death in the teeth when Jesus went down there, ya know where, for us. Yep, God, in his grace, will pick ya up, set ya back on your feet, and say, "Now, get back out there and make a difference today! Christ will be your strength!"
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson