On Sunday morning, we looked at Acts 6:8 – 8:3 and how Stephen faced the “ultimate opposition”. In preparation for home group this week, I found an interesting story regarding opposition. Chuck Swindoll shared this story in one of his messages:
In the northeastern United States, codfish are a big commercial business. There is a market for eastern cod all over, especially in the sections farthest removed from the northeastern coastline. But the public demand poses a problem for the shippers. At first, they froze the cod, then shipped them elsewhere, but freezing them takes away much of the flavor. So they experimented with shipping them alive in tanks of seawater. But that proved even worse. Not only did the cod still lose their flavor, but they became soft and mushy. The texture was seriously affected.
Finally, some creative person solved the problem in a most innovative manner. The codfish were placed in the tank of water along with their natural enemy – the catfish. From the time the cod left the East coast until it arrived at its western-most destination, those ornery catfish chased the cod all over the tank. And, you guessed it, when the cod arrived at the market, they were as fresh as when they were first caught. There was no loss of flavor nor was the texture affected. If anything, they were better than before.
What is true about the codfish is also true about the group of people who call themselves disciples of Christ. The group is known as “the church.” (source)
Ahhh opposition. Ain’t it grand? We all face it. I am sure each one of us can tell a story about how we face opposition at work, at school, at home and (as much as I hate to say it) within churches. When it comes to opposition, we have much to learn from the life (and death) of Stephen. As our Pastor pointed out on Sunday:
- He excelled at his calling
- He experienced ongoing opposition
- He found peace when others around him were in turmoil
- He saw things differently
Stephen looked to Heaven where he saw Jesus sitting at the right hand of God and was fearless in the face of his opposition. What they thought would stop the gospel only made it stronger. Opposition does that. Example?
In sports, teams often bring in a “backup” player that has equal talent to the “starter”. They are not attempting to create a controversy, they are looking to push that “starter” to his best. They are challenging that player to work hard to maintain his spot as the best. Without the opposition behind him, just waiting for his chance, the “starter” can get lazy and not reach his potential.
When we are following our God given and Spirit led calling, there will be opposition. Opposition can come from the most unlikely of sources at times. I often find it strange that, within the church, we can celebrate a family leaving a church to come to “ours” yet make it personal when one leaves “our church” to join another. When a family is spirit led to move to a place where they can use their God given gifts and talents to advance His kingdom (no matter where that is), shouldn’t we celebrate it? Yet, opposition is often the response. The enemy would like nothing more than to create opposition, dissension and conflict within the very walls of the churches.
Have you ever noticed how out of control the family seems on Sunday morning before church? The kids are arguing and it seems like everyone got up on the wrong side of the bed. It’s no coincidence that this happens to most families as they head off to church. It’s opposition.
When “fall ball” season came around this year, “the boy” was invited to play with the 10 year old kid pitch team. He was 8 at the time and would be “playing up” to a level of competition nearly 2 years ahead of where he had been. He would face kids bigger, faster and more talented. We made the decision that this would be best for him when the summer rolls around and he begins “U9” (9 year old travel league) play.
He is now playing travel basketball with the 4th grade team. Again, he is only in 3rd grade, so he is “playing up” one level. Through the first few weeks of practice, you can see that he is a step behind others that played last year. He’s learning on the fly and doing his best to keep up.
While we could have just plugged him in for another year of Upwards Basketball, we believe it was not the best for him in the long run. His passion is basketball. He loves the sport and is gifted at it. While he is facing opposition today that he didn’t face in Upwards, he is learning and growing as a player. We know that he will be a better player for having faced the toughest opposition he could face. It is sharpening him.
As we move through this journey, we are going to face opposition. It might come from friends that don’t see the bigger picture in play. It might come in the form of physical battles and struggles that are taking our efforts away from advancing His Kingdom. You can bank on opposition. Our response is to know that it makes us stronger. I love the version of text (NLT) that states the following:
“As Goliath moved closer to attack, David QUICKLY RAN OUT to meet him” – 1 Samuel 17:48
May we all face our opposition by quickly running out to meet it!