Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Great Expectations (not about the book) (08/25/11)
TITLE: Grapes in the Desert
By Shanta Richard
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Paul had stayed in Thessalonica for about a month. He had preached in the synagogue for three consequent Sabbaths. Many of the gentiles and some of the Jews had eagerly accepted the Gospel and a small church had been established. However this success was short lived. The orthodox Jews and the pagan Greeks resented their popularity. They persecuted the new believers and created riots. Fearing for the safety of the new believers, Paul and Silas left for Berea, a nearby city, also on the Egnatian way.
As Paul travelled the major highway he could not help noticing his fellow travelers. Camel Caravans laden with spices and silks from Asia, carpets and pottery from Turkey and fruits and produce from the surrounding farms travelled side by side as they travelled to and fro. Oxen carts and women carrying heavy baskets weaved in between the heavy traffic. Roman soldiers on Egyptian horses and splendid chariots added color and glamour to the dust and noise. Every culture and nation seemed to be represented there.
Paul realized that Thessalonica had a mission field right at her door step. If the church he had established there would meet that challenge and proclaim the gospel to all these peoples what a great harvest they could reap! Paul did realize that it would not be easy. The environment was hostile. These peoples were pagans, heathens, idol worshippers and angry Jews. This was Satan’s stronghold. It was like expecting grapes to grow in the desert. Grapes need water to cool their roots and sunlight to warm their leaves. The desert would burn their roots and scorch their leaves. Can the grapes survive in the desert?
Paul smiled as he contemplated the paradox of Christianity. It thrives on overcoming challenges – finding strength in weakness, prosperity in poverty, health in sickness and joy in sorrow. It believes in a God who specializes in things others consider impossible. It would be a great expectation to even imagine that grapes can be found in the desert. But God could do it.
Paul’s stay in Berea was short as his opponents had followed him there to create trouble. He continued his journey to Athens. There he told Timothy to go back to Thessalonica to see how the new church was doing and to encourage the believers. Timothy stayed in Thessalonica while Paul went to Corinth.
When Timothy joined Paul in Corinth, he gave a good report of the Thessalonian church. He described how they were standing firm in the faith despite trials and persecutions. They were facing cultural disapproval and open hostility with courage in the Lord. Paul joyfully wrote to them commending then for their faith and exhorting them to continue in fellowship with each other and with God.
Paul’s great expectation to plant a vineyard in the desert – to establish a church in a heathen and hostile nation – had materialized to the glory of God.
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