Are you familiar with the phrase going viral? I’m not talking about the swine flu or some other icky illness. Going viral is a techy-generation term referring to social network marketing on sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. But going viral can also include word-of-mouth publicity—describing any product or concept that is taking our society by storm.
Books often fall into the viral category. Purpose Driven Life went viral a few years ago, The Shack a few years later. Hunger Games is the current phenomenon, shattering age, race, and gender barriers. What makes a book, a game, a concept go viral? If you can answer that, every marketing agency on the planet will be knocking on your door. If you can answer that, let’s test the theory and spread the Gospel! Actually, that’s sort of what Paul did in Ephesus—when all of Asia heard the Gospel! So what was Paul’s technique…
Acts 19:11-12 – “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” (emphasis added)
God’s work through Paul was extraordinary, unusual, not the norm. God had never used “healing hankies” before. He’d healed folks in Jerusalem with Peter’s shadow, but never hankies! Paul didn’t seem to compare or worry about how to duplicate anyone else’s ministry or success. He was simply, whole-heartedly listening and following God’s leading. The hankies were totally God’s idea. J
Acts 19:13-16 – “Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’ Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” (emphasis added)
This may be the first recorded instance of copyright infringement (tee-hee). If we don’t know the Author, it’s dangerous to pretend we have His permission to use His Name. The seven sons of Sceva understood nothing of the powers they were dabbling with—like trying to drink from a fire hydrant—they neither regarded their enemy nor revered the Savior. The lessons seem clear: Know the Author before you open the fire hydrant! Unseen powers are beyond our comprehension, but God is the Ruler of all! We need not live in fear, but we DO need to realize the extent of spiritual power at war around us.
Acts 19:17-20 – “When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” (emphasis added)
Don’t miss this! One drachma is worth a day’s wages, which means these sorcerers burned just shy of 137 YEARS worth of scrolls! Why did they do it? Was it because Sceva’s sons were roughed-up by some demons? Nope. Was it because of Paul’s fiery preaching? Nuh-uh. It was because God’s power “became known” among those who had once worked in concert against it. Those who once served Satan realized the greater power of Jesus and named Him “Lord Jesus”! Recognizing the lordship of Christ in the heavenly realms necessarily forced their actions on earth to reflected the change.
Acts 19:21-22 – “After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. ‘After I have been there,’ he said, ‘I must visit Rome also.’ He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.” (emphasis added)
When the “spiritual sponge” of Ephesus was saturated, Paul felt in his spirit it was time to leave. When many of us would be tempted to rest and enjoy the “fruit of our labor,” Paul continued in his calling—to seek and save the lost, to build Christ’s Church. When God’s blessing brought success, Paul didn’t sit back and enjoy all that he had accomplished. He gave God the glory by his faithful and continued obedience.
- Lord, when I experience success—in whatever realm: spiritual, vocational, relational—remind me that You’re the Author of all good gifts. Keep my heart and mind focused on serving You, pleasing You, following You; allowing the results of those efforts to rest in Your powerful hands. And when You use that great power in extraordinary ways, Abba, teach me to faithfully continue the work to which I’ve been called, never resting on past victories, but constantly striving to fulfill Your future plan.