Journal Entry // May 30, 2022
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.Acts 17:16 ESV
There is a feeling of disappointment within myself when I read this passage about Paul travelling to Athens as he was fleeing persecution in Berea and Thessalonica. Here was a man who had been called by the Lord to preach the good news of the resurrection of Christ in all the world. A man that knew his calling and was passionate about being obedient. It would be easy to think that he could simply perform his calling and duty without really engaging his heart in the matter. I think of Jonah in this way, as he was forced to preach to the Ninevites even while he hoped for their destruction. That is not Paul’s way. I can’t remember all the adversity he’s encountered so far, but I know he has been stoned and left for dead. He has just fled back to back cities because they were seeking to kill him. I would think he would lay low and wait for his friends to arrive. Just rest and take it easy. But this was not Paul. Paul was always engaging his heart and mind for the glory of God.
As he was waiting for his companions to arrive in Athens, Paul was going about the city and encountering the culture. During these encounters his spirit was provoked because he saw that the city was full of idols. He didn’t just wander around the city shaking his head and muttering to himself about how stupid they were to follow idols. Or how depraved they were to not honor God. Paul had his spirit provoked. His heart was stirred. His mind was engaged. Paul didn’t just sit back and decry the sin and depravity that was around him, he let the waywardness and ignorance of these people affect him deeply. His compassion for the lost and his passion for the glory of Christ stirred him to action.
Where is my heart and soul in my Athens? Do I sit back and look at this city, state, and country full of disobedient blasphemers and judge them? Or does the culture around me break my heart? I need my spirit to be provoked. I need my heart to weep. I need my mind to be engaged. It is easy to just sit back and watch as everything seems to spiral downward into more lawlessness and godlessness. It is easy to sit back in judgement and pronounce curses upon the people who have set their life against Christ. But shouldn’t I be like Paul in Athens? Should the waywardness, the lostness, the blindness of the people in this community drive me to compassion? Should it remind me that without Christ changing my heart, I would be right there among them?
I want to be like Paul in Athens. I want my spirit provoked and my heart burning for the name of Christ to be exalted among the people. I want to be humbled by the saving work of Christ in my life. To quit falling into the trap that I am something special because God chose me. I am but a humble weak vessel that would leave my Lord without his continued steadfast hand holding onto my heart. He is the one who keeps me on the straight and narrow path. He is the one who is working in and through me for his glory alone. I am just his servant. A servant that seeks to love my master with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
O Lord. Give me a compassionate heart that sees the brokenness all around me and lets it bring me to tears. Give me a heart that weeps over the havoc and destruction that sin brings each and every day in the life of every person. Give me a heart filled with humility. A heart that wants to engage with the culture around me. With the people around me. With all people. There is not one person so far gone, that Jesus can’t save. Paul himself was a religious terrorist set fully against Jesus. And Jesus saved him. And Jesus called him to do mighty and amazing thinks for the kingdom. With man this impossible, but all things are possible with God. Give me eyes to see this and a faith that believes this and a heart filled with prayer and longing to see the name of Christ exalted and praised.