Most of us run away from troubles. If you see a gang fight, you stay away. If you see a storm brewing, you stay sheltered. If you see mobs burning churches, you stay home. But we might also be missing out on God’s greatest work. What if God’s greatest work coincides with Satan’s greatest opposition? Would you go? Paul was such a person. We read in the last chapter of 1 Corinthians:
For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.
1 Cor 16:7-9
This is an amazing statement by Paul! He’s giving the Corinthians the reason why he’s choosing to station himself in Ephesus. I understand the first part where he says that “a great door for effective work has opened for me.” If there’s a readiness to hear the Gospel, that’s a good sign!
But the second reason stumps me. Scares me even. “…and there are many who oppose me.” What? Are you serious Paul? Don’t you know that your life is in danger if you stay there? We often don’t see opposition as a sign that God has called us to a place. Instead, we run away from opposition. We bolt at the first sign of trouble. Of course, people should oppose you for the right reason. Right reason – preaching the undiluted Gospel of Jesus Christ. Wrong reason – insulting their religion or cheating them of their money.
When we consider where God may be leading us, it is intuitive to find the place where there is an open door for the Gospel to be shared and churches to be planted. Jesus said that the fields are white for harvest. But what is not so intuitive is choosing to stay in spite of opposition to your message and work. It takes guts, thick skin and God’s divine protection to keep on working in the midst of dangers. When people are maligning you. When people are disturbing your family. When people send you nasty messages. God’s open doors may not be trouble-free.
Paul was that kind of person who entered the open door in a hostile land. He accomplished God’s greatest work in the midst of Satan’s greatest opposition. May God guide you to where he may be calling you to serve him. Do not be afraid. Paul, near the end of his life, recounted the protection of God and may this be true for you too:
But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles would hear it. So I was delivered from the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will rescue me from every evil action and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
2 Tim 4:17-18