Today’s Reading: Acts 14
C. S. Lewis wrote, “Miracles in fact are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” Lewis was saying that a miracle was retelling the big story that God exists and God is good. Seeing a miracle should help us to see the big letters. Unfortunately, as we find in today’s reading, Lystra missed it.
Acts 14 is about a man being able to walk for the first time. It’s a miracle! But the chapter shows us more: it shows how the people who can walk are lame. They are crippled in their worldview. The people in Lystra saw a miracle and end up worshiping the guys who performed it:
While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!” They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul was Hermes.
(Acts 14:8-12, NLT)
A man walks who had never walked. God healed him. And when the town saw it, they responded with a wrong conclusion—that Paul and Barnabas must be gods. And they decided, “Let’s praise these guys.”
So Paul had to speak to their false conclusion:
Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.” (Acts 14:15-17, NLT)
Verse 17 is so important. Paul was explaining the reason Lystra blew it when the man was healed: God had left them evidence of His existence and His goodness. When it rains, it’s because God is good. When they had good crops, that was from a good God.
Émile Cammaerts was right in these profound words: “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.” Because the people of Lystra missed God’s evidence, they had to come up with their own gods—and this day it was Paul and Barnabas.
Paul’s words are not just important for Lystra to know but for our world to know. This is so important: we see something amazing happen and we praise people and leave God out of the mix. People know how to blame God for the bad but they don’t know how to praise God for the good. That was Lystra, and that’s happening today.
Some years ago, I was flying home only to have my flight canceled because of a weather-related issue. Huge thunderstorms grounded all the flights. The other passengers and I would have to wait until the storm passed, which looked to be the next morning. When I asked the gate agent if the airline would cover the expenses of my night in a hotel, her response was, “We only cover that when it’s mechanical. When it’s an act of God, you are on your own.”
I laughed when I realized what she’d said. She was saying God exists! But He exists only when bad stuff happens, and the airline isn’t responsible for His storms. When the good stuff happens, though, the airline did it. When storms happen, passengers have to pay. Insurance companies and airlines call storm-related damages acts of God. But they forget that the sunshine is from God too.
In 1970, the Apollo 13 mission was almost a catastrophe. Apollo 13 was the third mission NASA was sending to the moon, but after an oxygen tank explosion onboard en route, they had to abort the mission. This is where the famous “Houston, we’ve had a problem . . .” line occurred. Many people only know about the event from watching the iconic movie Tom Hanks starred in and Ron Howard directed. The part the movie did not show us was that the president of the United States, Richard Nixon, came on television and asked the nation to pray for the astronauts’ safe return.
And this is what happened: the capsule landed in the Pacific Ocean and was put on an aircraft carrier. And when the astronauts were safely aboard the carrier . . . don’t miss this . . . the president praised American space technology for the return of our astronauts. He asked us to pray, and when God answered that prayer, he praised human skill and technology. He should have just called NASA Zeus and Hermes.
It was just a few years later that Watergate occurred and that president resigned in disgrace.
God is good all the time. And all the time, God is good.