Riding the Storm – Acts 14:19-20

by Roger McCay
10 May 2020
Sermon passage: Acts 14:19-20
Link to Audio Version

“Of mankind we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.” So affirmed Niccolo Machiavelli.

What an apt statement to the circumstances in Acts 14. One minute, as we see in the passage before this one, the people see the miracle of healing Paul and Barnabas brought to the lame man and proclaim Paul and Barnabas as gods, the next the people are trying to kill them. Fickle…

They wanted the gain of the miracles, but they wanted the miracles on their terms as being according to the gods they believed in—not the one true living God, much less the calling he puts on one’s life. So they evinced a sense of pious worship, but they were willing to do it only on their terms – greediness and hypocrisy at its best.

Things haven’t changed. Christians, faithful to the Lord’s calling, are blown to and fro in storm of the fickleness of the world. Yet we are called to ride the storm secure on the solid foundation of Jesus. We face a culture – mankind in rebellion against the Creator – that wants the benefits of the Kingdom of God, but does not want the commitment to Jesus as Lord. So, it is fickle and tries to take what it likes and purges what it doesn’t like.

Perhaps you have heard of “servant leadership.” In secular circles it has become popular and is used as a business model, having been defined as …

“both a leadership philosophy and set of leadership practices. Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.[1]

Servant leadership is seen as a very effective business model … a paradigm of smart leadership. At a seminar I attended on it, for example, the speaker spent a bit of time lauding the founder of Southwest Airlines, who practices servant leadership simply for how effective it is in business.

The speaker mentioned the concept’s foundations going back to the teachings of Jesus. However, it was plain to me that when it comes to the business model, its origins are irrelevant. It is what works that counts.

Well, we Christians know the concept of servant leadership goes back to Jesus. He modeled it, as it was an aspect of his character…, and I could preach a whole series of sermons on just that, but hear what he said in Mark 10:41-45:

41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus is clearly talking about being a servant leader and following his example. Yet, a concept with its roots in the Lord’s teaching and example has been taken and broken down to a pragmatic business model and praised for its effectiveness towards the bottom line. While, on the surface, this might sound good, when Christ is stripped from it, it loses its substance. Rather than an act of righteousness, servant leadership then becomes, an act of selfishness.

As for us, we Christians are to actually follow the Lord’s example and teaching of servant leadership. Yet, the reason is not success driven, at least, how the world understands success. The reason is to show love for one’s neighbor out of selflessness and obedience to Christ. Indeed, the Kingdom benefits of faithfulness, when it comes to self-denial, are profoundly greater than any pragmatic worldly success could ever be, for pragmatic worldly success is just a shadow.

The world wants the benefits of the Kingdom, but they don’t want Christ. As such, the world will always be unstable; its foundation is on shifting sands.

Today, where truth is considered relative this is especially true. Only when the truth that is Jesus Christ becomes one’s foundation can stability ever be found. Otherwise, along with the world we will just be blown this way and that, living for everything but the Truth—the very basis of creation and redemption.