On Knowing When to Fold Them

September 21, 2019

Acts 18:5-8 (NIV)

When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.


Life is hard and the ministry of the gospel is even harder, which is why learning to work “in the strength of the Holy Spirit” is of paramount importance. Apart from the strength of the Spirit, we will fail. In the strength of the Holy Spirit, all things are possible.

However, sometimes—maybe even often—we meet up with failure even in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s take care to keep reminding ourselves this is why we are working our way through the Acts of the Apostles. We need to see a live demonstration of what working in the strength of the Spirit looks like.

Acts and the early Church often gets idyllically summed up as an exploding movement with everybody having progressive dinners with everybody else, along with neighborhood devotions, singing and smores around the campfire every night. You know, the good old days. If we could just get back to that, everything would somehow magically be fine.

By now, we see this is not the case. Acts is filled with hardship, struggle, failure, internal conflict, external opposition, violence, suffering, injustice and yes, miracles, mass conversions, growth, excitement, visions, dreams, joy, love, and peace.

It’s tempting to think of the Apostles like we think of a championship major league baseball team where nobody carries their own luggage, stadiums are always packed, and it’s all high fives and autographs.

In reality, it’s far more like Single A baseball with long bus rides, cheap motels, empty ball parks, and a rarefied “call-up” to the next level.

Paul faces a tough decision in today’s text. Do I quit or press through? He had been preaching his heart out week after week to the Jews about Jesus. Not only were they non-responsive to the gospel, they turned abusive toward Paul. Paul finds himself way beyond a “Say something, I’m giving up on you,” moment.

Paul did something we typically look on with great shame and even disdain. At the same time, it may have been one of his more strategic decisions.

Paul quit.

He gave up on the Jews. Sure, he would preach in synagogues again and some Jews would be converted, but Paul “crossed the Rubicon” that day in Corinth. He would go after the Gentiles now with an undivided heart.

Quitters never win?

Sometimes quitting is the only way to win. Quitting is not giving up. It’s changing directions.

How about you? Is it time to quit?  Can you hear Kenny Rogers warming up?




Is it time for you to quit something you haven’t been able to give up on? Does it feel shameful to consider it? Why?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. I absolutely know that sometimes “quitting” is the answer and I put the word in quotes because sometimes you have to stop what you are continuously doing, back off, reassess and get some perspective. Although, my initial retreat from church felt like I was quitting, I eventually learned that what I was doing was sorting through the rubble and gaining a true perspective of the situation.

    “You know. . . the good old days. If we could just get back to that, everything would somehow magically be fine.”

    Shortly after GC2012, I came across this assessment of the church by two different people; I ended up claiming it as my own: If things were so great in the past, then why are we [am I] in the mess we are [I am] in now? It keeps me focused on being in “Oz” rather than longing for the perceived “comfort” of ‘Kansas”.

    Shifting gears somewhat, but at the same time it is all about perspective and gaining an understanding of the “good old days”, I want to introduce a book into the sphere of Seedbed:

    “The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is too Important to Define Who We Are”.

    At a time when the discussion of whether or not homosexuality is a sin is based on how the culture of biblical times impacted the writing of the Bible, this book not only deals with that but also deals with how western culture is impacting how we view the situation. The author, Jennell Williams Paris is a Christian cultural anthropologist; she comes from a conservative Christian background; a significant part of the book is her own journey from judgment based on scripture to accepting the complexity of the issue and putting it in proper perspective.

    It is a total and complete fluke that I came to even know of the existence of this book. For me it addresses two questions that have been bothering me about this argument:

    1) Why would anybody want their identity to be defined by who they have sex with?

    2) Given the fact we are coming off the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s in which sex became recreational and the church in America lost her voice in regards to the sacredness of sex and marriage, how can our understanding of homosexuality not be skewed/biased? People keep touching on this point, including Bill Arnold in “Seeing Black and White”, but no one ever questions whether that skews our understanding/we are operating under our own cultural influences.

    I am about half way through the book, but the following quote points to a recurring theme as she sets the stage for further discussion

    “Instead of questioning the validity of sexual identity altogether, Christians have mostly focused on either morally elevating heterosexuality over homosexuality or equalizing all sexual identities as blessed.”

    I have a sneaking suspicion that she is going to lay out the much sought after middle way when it comes to the homosexuality argument and hopefully, nobody will be left standing.

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