Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe (Acts 14:19-20).
The story of Paul in Acts 14 is one of my favorite stories because it speaks of the grit, determination and resilience of humanity. There are factors that seek to break the human spirit; many of those factors living within the city walls. Stevie Wonder speaks of some of those factors and pressures of city living in his song entitled, “Living Just Enough for the City.”
Stevie sings, “A boy is born in hard time Mississippi Surrounded by four walls that ain’t so pretty His parents give him love and affection To keep him strong moving in the right direction Living just enough, just enough for the city.”
Another verse says,
“His father works some days for fourteen hours And you can bet he barely makes a dollar His mother goes to scrub the floors of many And you’d best believe she hardly gets a penny Living just enough, just enough for the city.”
These verses speak to those living pay check to pay check; who are often underpaid and underemployed but are doing what is necessary to continue to survive in the city.
Grand Master Flash echoes similar sentiments in the rap song “The Message.” The songs start out by equating the happenings of the city to that of the jungle:
“It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.” Broken glass everywhere; people pissin’ on the stairs, you know they just don’t care. I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise, Got no money to move, I guess I got no choice.”
The jungle is filled with wild animals and primitive behavior. Unfortunately, what we are witnessing in the city today is not only wild and crazy living, but actions without a conscious or a moral compass. Life inside the city ain't no joke! Poverty. Oppression. Addiction. Drugs. Abuse. Violence. Pressure.
City living can make you stronger, or it can also break your spirit. Just turn on the television or scroll through Social Media to see that the ills of the city are getting the best of many. In the city, you can find success stories of those who grew up in the hood and became famous athletes or business men and women. You can also find the drug addicted man or woman looking for his or her next fix who lives in a poverty infested environment.
Life inside the city can snuff out your light or be it can be the springboard needed to catapult you into greatness. One thing for certain is that there are times where we need to find strength outside of the city to continue.
Paul found strength outside of the city after beaten by a mob of men! The mob beat him and dragged him outside of the city, leaving him there for dead. As a matter of fact, they thought Paul was dead, but Paul found strength outside of the city! How can we find strength outside the city?
1. We can find strength in community
There were a group of men that gathered around Paul when life inside the city became too much for Paul to conquer on his own. Iron cannot sharpen iron outside of the context of community. We all need someone to lean on from time to time. We all need someone to encourage us when we cannot think of words to encourage ourselves. We all need someone we can look to as an example of someone who lived in the city and made it out alive! The men gathered around Paul at his breaking point, and in this community, Paul found the energy and strength needed to go back into the city.
2. We find strength in prayer
As the community of men gathered around Paul, it isn’t written what they said. However, because they believed in the power of prayer one can infer that they prayed for Paul.
It was prayer that made the difference when our ancestors were enslaved. It gave them hope that one day they would be free. Our parents and grandparents prayed when faced with racism and oppressive systems. Their prayers helped them to persevere and believe that things would change for the better amid Jim Crow laws. When riots broke out in the city due to unjust laws, and marches took place in the city to bring attention to inequality, what gave them strength to continue in the fight was the power of prayer.
Prayer is still powerful today! We need prayer more than ever in 2018 when the powers that be seeking to reverse laws that were put in place to protect the least of these. In the city, there is an increase in teen suicide. There is an increase in homicide. There is an increase in human trafficking. When the city becomes too overwhelming, we must press through and find our strength in prayer.
3. We find strength in the Word of God
Paul could withstand the attack of the city because he was girded with the Word of God. He knew if God before him, what could be against him? Paul knew that there was unfinished business in the city pertaining to the spread of the gospel, and he was determined to go back and complete his mission so that more people would know about Jesus Christ.
There is never a dull moment with city living. And sometimes the things that we witness living in the city can be overwhelming. But you can find peace and live in peace.
No matter where you live you can be a light. Let it shine brightly. Someone is need of your light. Someone has taken a beating inside the city. Maybe not a physical beating, but an emotional or mental beating. They are looking for strength. Be the community that they need. Encourage them with your prayers. Let them know that there is a way to make through these trying times in the city, and His Name is Jesus! Share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let it serve as a reminder that although we are seeking strength outside of the city, there is life beyond the city. In a place not made by man's hands.