Undoubtedly, you will have heard the phrase, “It’s the thought that counts.” But if you really think about it, the thought really doesn’t count for much. Thoughts without actions are not impactful, just as we are told in James 2:20: But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
If we are truly moved by the things that move God—loving others, feeding the poor, helping people, and bringing the Gospel—then our thoughts and prayers should always include, “I’m available for your work, God. Send me!”
You probably know someone who needs the love and salvation of Jesus, but if all you do is think about it or pray about it, yet you are unwilling to introduce that person to Christ, then you are missing out on an opportunity to bring about the kingdom of God in your sphere. If we are truly moved by the things that move God—loving others, feeding the poor, helping people, and bringing the Gospel—then our thoughts and prayers should always include, “I’m available for your work, God. Send me!”
Today’s scripture from the Book of Acts tells of the apostle Paul in Athens. When Paul finds that the people of Athens are seeking God in all the wrong places, he is so bothered that he acts; he resolves to do something about it.
It’s important to note that accepting Christ as your Savior and dedicating your life to following Him does not suddenly bring you an easy life. In fact, many times it does just the opposite. As you now find yourself directly opposed to the goals of the devil, you are subject to his attempts to thwart God’s kingdom on earth. (Just think about what people did to Jesus!) Paul, too, experiences persecution in the Book of Acts as he travels from city to city preaching the Gospel:
- But the Lord said to [Ananais], “Go, for [Paul] is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Acts 9:15-16
- Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket. Acts 9:23-25
- But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. Acts 13:50
- And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. Acts 14:5-6
- Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. Acts 14:19
- Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. Acts 16:22
- But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. Acts 17:5
- But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. Acts 17:13
Everywhere Paul goes, the Jewish leaders who oppose him come to stir up trouble, yet Paul continues to preach and to praise God. After all of these things happen, Paul comes to Athens where he finds a city full of idols. The people are worshiping all kinds of gods, even an unknown god. This is a normal human action, as we are eternal and spiritual beings who are seeking more to life than what we see. Yet seeing that these people have not understood the one true God is bothersome to Paul. It should bother us, too, as knowing Jesus as Savior is the most important thing we humans can do!
Paul doesn’t want these people to miss out on the truth, and he is so bothered by what he sees that he is provoked to action, even though it will probably lead to more persecution and suffering on his part. In Acts 17:22-29, he explains who the God is that these people so earnestly seek. He lays the truth bare that God may be known and understood, regardless of the consequences he may face.
Paul does not mince words about the importance of repentance and coming to know Christ. He states that there is no excuse for ignorance at this point (see also Romans 1:20):
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31
Surely you can think of people in your life who are being fed garbage by the world and are missing out on a relationship with the God who created them and loves them. Isn’t it worth taking a risk that can have eternal influence?