PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Acts 14:19–20 (NIV)
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
Every Tuesday at 1 p.m. CST, I meet via Zoom with a group of preachers who are preaching alongside the Wake-Up Call as our churches are all reading the Acts of the Apostles together. We are a fellowship of awakening leaders. We are from all across the country and pastor churches of various shapes and sizes. I usually have a co-host (Brent Parker for Romans and now Acts Season 1. I am working to get the LeRoy brothers to join us for Advent). We are doing the kind of thing we always hoped and dreamed we would do when we entered the ministry. We are reading Scripture together as the friends of Jesus, praying together, and encouraging each other to preach the Word in season and out. For a little more than an hour, in plenary and breakouts, we discuss the text and all its nuanced angles for preaching and teaching. My favorite time each week, however, is the simplest part. We divide the week’s chapter into the daily Wake-Up Call readings and assign five volunteers to read it aloud while the rest of us engage in Holy Spirit–assisted hearing.
Just this week, a little word jumped out at me as it was repeated twice. We see it in today’s text. See if you can spot it.
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. (14:19)
We will also see it in tomorrow’s text:
They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. (14:21)
Did you spot the common term? The word is won.
It’s got me asking myself the question: Am I winning? How about you? Are you winning? What about us? Are we winning?
UCLA Bruins football coach, Red Sanders, after a bitter loss to USC, famously said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” Doubling down, he added, “Beating SC is not a matter of life or death. It’s more important than that.” It’s a humorously sobering word in the age of the “half-marathon;” of 75 million dollar buyouts for losing college football coaches on one hand and participation trophies on the other.
As many double down their giving to college football NIL pools, I would like to issue a wake-up call. The church of Jesus Christ is waging the battle of the ages—the only battle that will ultimately matter. It is the highest of high-stakes battles and the winner takes all—for keeps . . . forever.
So who is really winning in this epic battle called Acts as we head for the locker room at half-time? Permit me a greatly underappreciated BFO (blinding flash of the obvious)—the only way to know who is to know the score.
Notice what the Jews from Antioch and Iconium “won.”
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over.
Now notice from tomorrow’s text what the apostles “won.”
They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples.
Years ago, Jim Cymbala, famously labeled the calculus of today’s churches as the ABC’s: attendance, buildings, and cash. Friends, that’s no scorecard at all. It’s a stat sheet. And do you know who focuses on statistics? Losers. Winners focus on the score. The question is do we, in our time, know the score? Do we know the difference between a touchdown and a field goal or are we still just counting butts in the bleachers and crowds at the concessions stands?
The challenge is what winning looks like in a game where the leader went through crucifixion to get to resurrection. The challenge comes when winning looks and feels like losing.
They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.
Wait! Did we just lose? Keep watching.
But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city.
What looked like “targeting” and a game-ending, season-ending, life-ending disaster—transformed into an end zone celebration dance, and the coach immediately put the GOAT back in the game. “Touchdown Arkansas!” IYKYK.
So while the visiting team prepares their stat report about how many people were in the crowd they won over and how few disciples there were on the other team, let’s remember this word from one of our sponsors:
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.” [John Wesley, writing at age 87 to Alexander Mather, quoted in Luke Tyerman, The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley (London, 1871), III:632.]
Let’s give the last word to Coach Sanders:
“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing. Beating SC is not a matter of life or death. It’s more important than that.”
THE PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION
Lord Jesus, I am your witness.
I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness.
I receive your love and release my selfishness.
I receive your scorecard and release my stat sheet.
Come, Holy Spirit, transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.
So what does winning look like in your life? Your family? Your church? Your city? What is the score? What are the stats that you used to think were the score? Journal that out a bit today. Make yourself a scorecard.
Today we will sing one of my all-time “winning” songs, “Low in the Grave He Lay” aka “Up From the Grave He Arose!” It is hymn 252 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt