When I was exploring the idea of becoming a vicar, there were a number of times when it felt like things were in the way and blocking me finding out one way or the other if it is what I was being called to. At one point, even the Pope seemed to get in the way (I needed some paperwork signed by the Archbishop but he had gone off to visit the Pope in Rome so it didn’t get done in time for a meeting I had)!! OK, so it wasn’t the Pope’s fault – just circumstances and timing – but certainly from my own experience we all find obstacles put in the way of us each living out our calling. More grandly, it is true that there is no advance for the gospel without opposition. Sometimes it’s only when disaster threatens, or when you’re up against confrontation and have to pray your way through, that you can be sure you’re on the right track.
Here in Acts 13, the Apostles were taking the Gospel into enemy territory and the enemy was determined to fight back. The enemy in question was the power of magic, which has already come up in Acts 8 and will recur in chapter 19. The confrontation comes to a head as the Jewish false prophet Bar-Jesus, also known as Elymas, tries to persuade the governor not to listen to what the Apostles are saying. This time it’s Paul’s turn to do what Peter had done in chapter 8. Sometimes as we pray we are drawn to ‘look intently’ (verse 9) at someone and see right into their heart (even if we would rather not!!). What Paul saw in this case was ugly: a deep-rooted opposition to truth and goodness, a heart-level opposition to the Good News about Jesus. Paul reacts sharply, declaring God’s judgment on him in the form of temporary blindness (which he himself had suffered, of course, in chapter 9. Perhaps Paul hopes that Elymas, like him, would experience repentance but that is for another time. The mission, though, was to share the Good News with the governor. Despite the obstacles, this still happened and the governor became a believer.
Lord Jesus, in both the small and the big things, give us the strength to stay the course when obstacles are put in our way so that we might live out Your call on our lives. Amen.
If there are things that are in your way at the moment that feel too big to overcome, why not get together with a few friends to pray about them and see if together you can hear again from God a way round, through or over them.