In the fifth chapter of the Book of Acts, we find the apostles in Solomon’s portico, healing the sick and demon possessed. As more and more people gathered, the religious leaders took notice. The text tells us:
[T]he high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.’ And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.– Acts 5.17-21 ESV
Here we have a miraculous deliverance! God sends an angel to personally open the prison doors and lead the apostles out. But wait! The angel sends the apostles back to the temple. Wasn’t the point of this deliverance to take the apostles out of harm’s way? No. They were freed in order to continue preaching the Gospel. Did the apostles continue to preach unhindered? No. They were brought back and beaten before being released.
Which brings us to another case: the Gerasene demoniac (Luke 8.26-39). Inhabited by not one, but a legion of demons, and known to everyone in his hometown as the crazy naked man who could break through chains, he was freed from his demonic possession by Jesus. You know the story, the demons were released into a nearby herd of pigs, which immediately rushed into a lake and drowned. The people were so afraid, they begged Jesus to leave.
The man, now in his right mind, begged to go with Jesus but was told: “Go back home and tell everyone how much God has done for you.” Once an object of fear and now indirectly responsible for the loss of livelihood for some frightened herdsmen, the man was told to go back home and preach the Gospel. I wonder what kind of reception he got from his neighbors.
This brings us to a modern day case: Gyeong Ju Son is a young woman from North Korea. She has not heard from her father since 2006. Her father fled to China in 1998 to escape political persecution; he came to faith in Christ while in China. After starting a Bible study, her father was reported and arrested in 2001 by the Chinese police and sent back to North Korea, where he was imprisoned. Returning to China three years later with strengthened faith, he was reunited with Gyeong Ju.
But like the apostles, Gyeong Ju’s father was not done preaching the Gospel. He returned to North Korea to share the Gospel with the people of his homeland, and in 2006 was arrested and imprisoned by the North Korean government. He is presumed dead.
What is the point of these three illustrations? My point is this: God delivers us from sometimes horrific circumstances not so that we can put our story in a book and take it easy for the rest of our lives; he frees us so that we can serve him.
It means taking the Gospel wherever he tells us to – even if it places us in harm’s way.
Would you go back?