If you live intimidated by people, then you need to come to terms with your lack of peace. God is bigger than any person.
You don't need to dread tomorrow. You don't need to dread your uncontrollable circumstances. It's a decision that's called "a frame of mind," otherwise known as leaning on the everlasting Rock.
That's what we've been learning from the life of Paul as we've considered Acts 19:21-31 in Parts One through Three. Now there's one more scene where peace stands amidst panic. We've seen Paul through uncontrollable circumstances. We've also seen him with an unrealized dream. Now we find him facing an uncertain future.
Yes, things actually got worse for Paul.
So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together. (v. 32)
I want you to envision this scene. Here's Paul doing that which is right, and here's a group of folks who misunderstand and believe he's doing the wrong thing. They're confused and at odds with each other. A group of about fifty thousand is out there shouting for two hours (v. 34). Then out of the blue, a clerk who is responsible for law and order and keeping people on the right track stands to his feet.
He gets his paycheck from Rome, by the way, and he knows that Rome hates riots. He also realizes this city would soon lose its freedom if order didn't return. And nobody save Athens enjoyed their freedom more than Ephesus. So he knows he has to calm them down if only to keep himself on the payroll.
The beautiful part is that he doesn't know Paul and Paul doesn't know him, yet God uses him to quiet the multitude. Let's just follow along as he speaks.
"For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess." (v. 37)
"So then, if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against any man [let's do it right], the courts are in session and proconsuls are available; let them bring charges against one another. But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly." (v. 38–39)
The reason? Verse 40—Rome is watching!
"For indeed we are in danger of being accused of a riot in connection with today's events, since there is no real cause for it, and in this connection we shall be unable to account for this disorderly gathering."
"Go home!" Verse 41:
And after saying this he dismissed the assembly.
Who did it? A clerk.
While you and I are panicked, not knowing about our tomorrow, God is moving clerks around His board like pawns. You and I can't see His chessboard. We don't know the right moves, because we're not God. All we know is our little square, if that! And we cannot move. "It's tough being a rook held in place by a bishop, ya know." We're afraid we'll get picked off. But there is peace as long as God has some pawns.
He never runs out of pawns. He never runs out of clerks. He doesn't need you to pull it off. He's doing it. When will we ever learn that? And when will we learn that God cannot lose?
I was so uncertain about my future as an adolescent. I stuttered badly and didn't think I'd ever be able to give the time of day, much less deliver a speech. But a "town clerk," my high school drama teacher, saw something in me I didn't see. He helped me through speech therapy. I didn't know how to speak in public. But through him, I learned. Eventually, the uncertainty of my future was turned around. Public speaking was an open door I'd never considered as an even remote possibility. High school teachers, pay attention! You can be a "clerk" on God's board.
How about mothers who have kiddos struggling with who they are and where they're going and what they're doing and why they're important? Moms, in those day-to-day, constant assignments you suddenly become God's "town clerk." As such, you take charge of and free your child so that he begins to grow in confidence and can get on his way in life. It happens through the painful, consistent, daily, constant effort of motherhood. Small wonder it's under attack today!
You who hold any position at work, you who work with anyone (and that's everybody, that's all of us), the Lord wants to use us as the "clerk" in somebody else's need for peace. He simply wants us to be available.
Here's the third definition: Peace is the ability to wait patiently in spite of panic brought on by uncertainty.
Portrayed here is the panic of getting you from here to there in time. Relax! God knows just the vehicle and He's got the timetable put together so that you can watch Him work.
Lacking the panorama of God's perspective, all we see are the outer limits of our one square. So we panic. "What will I do? How will I handle tomorrow? What about . . . ? What if . . . ? But . . . !"
What does Isaiah 26:3-4 say? A frame of mind that is receiving support from leaning and is therefore being sustained, God will keep in "shalom, shalom." Because he casts everything on Him. Everything! And that includes unfulfilled dreams . . . unpleasant circumstances . . . and an uncertain future.
This devotional is part four of a four-part series.
Excerpted from Avoiding Stress Fractures, Copyright © 1990, 1995 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. For additional information and resources visit us at www.insight.org.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.