God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
In our last post from the book of Acts we looked at one of the most overlooked and undervalued abilities in human beings. If you’re interested you can check that out here: The Most Underrated Overlooked Ability.
In today’s post we’ll learn about the expectations believers had of life in this world. And how they responded to a coming disaster.
Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.Acts 11:27-30
The Predicted Famine
A series of famines ravaged Jerusalem, Judea, and the surrounding region. As we see in our passage this occurred under the reign of Claudius. We have writings that show there were high grain prices around 46 AD. And a grain shortage in Rome around 51 AD almost resulted in Claudius being mobbed in the street. (Keener)
While it’s remarkable that a prophet from Jerusalem predicted the famine, perhaps even more remarkable is the way the Jesus followers gave so generously toward helping their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, for a crisis that hadn’t even happened yet.
Down to Earth Expectations (and recognizing this place isn’t heaven)
Conspicuous by its absence is an account of anyone complaining about the coming circumstances. “Yes there’s a famine coming,” the Jesus followers in Antioch might say. “But no, we’re not going to complain about it.” I think sometimes we first worlders can come to believe we can create heaven on earth by controlling our environment. If I can just vote in the right people, and if I can just subscribe to the right internet service so I can get my information at the best possible speed and with the fewest possible disruptions, and if I can buy the right car, and find the best entertainment, and if I can just convince the people around me to behave the way I think they should behave, and if I can find the best food, — then I’ll be happy. Just to be clear, I’m not opposed to any of these things, I’m just saying the pursuit of these things isn’t a path to happiness.
The thing about the believers in Antioch is that they didn’t have an expectation of life without troubles. They understood that we’ll never find heaven here on this earth. Famines, economic downturns, and problems are a part of life. Agriculture goes through cycles of abundance and scarcity. And so do modern economies. And so does the personal life of every human being on the planet. And while we might do what we can to minimize those times of dearth, it’s always been that way and it will always be that way, this side of heaven.
The Key to Happiness is God’s Way
The truth is, expecting a life free from hardships will leave you disheartened, disappointed, and depressed. Our fellow early believers from today’s text knew, that’s just not a reasonable expectation. The people I know who get this are also the happiest people I know.
There’s power in recognizing these hardships are a normal part of life endured by everyone.
And instead of being surprised by the problems of life and complaining, the best response is to do what I can to help. That’s an outstanding way to communicate the love of Jesus. And it’s been my experience that a focus on loving like Jesus results in the opposite of disappointment and depression. In my own experience and what I observe in others is that an expectation of coming hardship, and communicating the affection of Christ through a focus on helping others experiencing hardship, results in experiencing the peace, contentment, and gladness of Jesus.
Communicating the affection of Jesus Christ by helping the people in Jerusalem who were facing a crisis: that’s what the Jesus followers in Antioch did.
When we learn about brothers and sisters in crisis, that’s what you and I can do too.
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament,
InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 355
Available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.