Even if it doesn’t look like it, the Lord is in control.
Acts 18:10 “For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
Paul is in the worst place on earth, Corinth. There was no city like it for its wickedness. ‘To live like a Corinthian’ had become a Greek saying meaning to live a life of debauchery and drunkenness. On the hill of the Acropolis overlooking the city was the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Every night the 1,000 temple prostitutes would descend on the city. It is difficult to understand how horrible this city was and Paul was there.
Paul presumably had been thinking of leaving and who can blame him?
The Lord speaks to him and tells him to stay and informs him of something he didn’t know because he was yet to see it, “I have many people in this city.” The Lord was saying not that there were already Christ followers but that there were many people who would become so. This was the right place to be and that Paul was safe in His presence for He was in control even in the darkest time.
How I wish my old friend, Burnett, knew this.
In the city of Ndola, Zambia there is today a large warehouse full of scrap car parts. Outside in the courtyard lies piled up cars with parts taken from them rusting away in places. It is quite a successful business. But it used to be a church building. I visited the building in 2015 with my friend David Tinnion hoping to meet our mutual friend, Pastor Burnett. We had opened this church in the year 2001. Today it is a junkyard. The story is that the Church dwindled to nothing, Burnett became a ‘Corinthian’, his wife contracted HIV by him and died. He continued his wild living and was known as the drunk Pastor walking the streets of Ndola menacingly. He was found in a ditch in the city in 2007 and no one went to his funeral.
I cannot express the sadness we felt as we stood in that scrapyard in March 2015. Why do I tell you all this?
Behind what had been the stage and the pulpit hung a bible verse. Burnett had hung this up on the open day in 2001 as a prophetic message. It was on the exact same sheet of card. It says this:
‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.’ Acts 18:9-10.
How I wish Pastor Burnett had taken these verses to his heart. How I wish when the difficulties of ministry were before him that he focused on the presence of the Lord in his life. If only when he had wanted to give up he didn’t and he continued to speak. When people walked away from him and his heart was breaking he could have believed that others in the city would come to him and that he would make new friends, but he didn’t. In the darkest of times for his life when perhaps he wasn’t being the best Pastor, husband and father, he could have known the Lord was still in control. But he died in a ditch on the side of a road. That is how he ended his life.
Today we wake up to the results of the general election. As I type this it looks like we have what we call a hung parliament. Deals will be done today. I don’t think I will go on facebook, I am not sure I can be bothered to read anymore opinions. I think I will just be thankful that whatever happens now I know the Lord is in control of the villages, the towns, cities and the nations, including mine.
Whatever you are facing today and wherever you may be and for some you may think you are living in a Corinth. You don’t have to become a Corinthian and you don’t have to leave the city and abandon your purpose. The God you worship is in control and He is with you.