Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” – Acts 19:21-27
Have you ever seen an irresistible force encounter an immovable object? The closest I have come to that would be a Mythbusters episode when they utterly destroyed a massive object with a rocket-propelled sled. It was a colossal collision resulting in the utter destruction of both things.
In the case of Paul’s plans to return to Jerusalem, and then ultimately travel to Rome, (all for the sake of preaching the Gospel) there were those who will seek to prevent him from succeeding. They didn’t like the truth he proclaimed, for he preached that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that all idols were no gods at all. His message threatened the financial wellbeing of the Ephesian silversmiths. They were not about to let this man upset their financial applecart. They would, marshal their colleagues and seek however they were able to discredit Paul and protect their lucrative business.
The only trouble is that God is the irresistible force. They are not immovable objects. Stubborn maybe. Resolute and recalcitrant perhaps. But not immovable. Paul will travel to Jerusalem and then go on to Rome. He will bring the Gospel message with him wherever he goes. However, there is no longer a silversmith guild in Ephesus. The trade in silver likenesses of Artemis is nothing today. The message of Jesus Christ, however, has endured through the centuries, and carries on today.
We might expect that God’s irresistible force would overwhelm people and lay all enemies low. Certainly one day that will be seen to be true. But until that time, we must contend with enemies of the truth of God. Most notable of those are the stubborn resistance to God’s grace, the arrogant denial of God’s true place and our accountability to him, the lack of willingness to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with one another and our God. The false belief that we are stronger than God, that we can resist his will and determine for ourselves that which is good and evil is the essence of all sin.
We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done.” In so doing we are aligning ourselves with God’s good and gracious will. We might expect that all will go well in that case. But Paul’s experience and example show us that as long as we are in this world there will be those who resist God’s will and ways. We will inevitably encounter them, and they will make life difficult for us even who are following God faithfully.
Faith calls us to follow God wherever he leads. We do so with the confidence of God’s love and salvation – won for us by the perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection of Jesus from death and the grave. Make no mistake: following God does not assure us of a smooth and easy path. Neither should others make the mistake, however, of believing that they can thwart God’s ways forever.