Read This Week: Acts 14
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. – Acts 14:14-18 NIV
The famed American evangelist, Dwight L. Moody once said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.” When we look at the content of our lives and activities, are the things we care about temporal or important? What do we worship? Are we devoted to eternal things or the things that don’t really matter?
These are the questions that Paul answers at Lystra and Derbe. While visiting these cities with Barnabas, Paul heals a man with crippled feet. When he does, the people perceive him to be the Greek god, Hermes, and they even think that Barnabas is Zeus. The crowd then begins to gather bulls and flowers for sacrifice to the two apostles. This attempted pagan worship righteously angers Paul and he says to them:
Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.
Paul and Barnabas would not accept human praise or worship for something that God did. They opposed that thinking and practice by telling the people the truth about the one true God. Paul also took the opportunity to communicate that putting their faith in man and the creations of the world was putting their hope and confidence in worthless things. They were focused on and devoted to things that didn’t matter while missing the beauty, power, transcendence, and relationship with Jesus that would mean everything for their lives.
Paul makes it clear to them and us that there is only one thing worthy of our worship, time, energy, passion, and desire. It is the living God who is loving, forgiving, and good. It is the God of the Ages who has been patient, gracious, and faithful to us even when we forsake Him and run after the temporary things.
We have to be careful not to be like the mobs of people in this passage and constantly look for signs and wonders from worthless things that this world has to offer. We should avoid putting our trust in and worshipping unseen gods that make empty promises about meaning and purpose. We should not forsake the eternal for the momentary. We should live our lives for the One who created us for an eternal purpose instead of for the things that, at the end of our lives, don’t really matter.