When the crowds saw what Paul had done,
they cried out in Lycaonian,
“The gods have come down to us in human form.”
They called Barnabas “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes,”
because he was the chief speaker.
And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city,
brought oxen and garlands to the gates,
for he together with the people intended to offer sacrifice.
The Apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments
when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting,
“Men, why are you doing this?
We are of the same nature as you, human beings.
We proclaim to you good news
that you should turn from these idols to the living God,
who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them….”
Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds
from offering sacrifice to them.
Whom are you worshiping?
When your prayers are answered, do you give thanks to God, or do you see only the people and things that were His instruments in delivering His mercy? Do you return to those people and things and expect them to meet your every need? Or do you recognize them as channels of His grace? Do you look beyond to the well from which that grace flowed, the infinite spring of mercy and light?
Sometimes, when I read a consoling word somewhere online, I’ll find myself returning to the same page, checking it mindlessly day after day, subconsciously seeking fulfillment from the same place I found it earlier—instead of realizing that it was really the work of the Holy Spirit that led me to read those words and that inspired them to be written in the first place. The next time He wants me to read something that will lift my heart, I might find it there, or it might be somewhere else. Similarly, if someone gave me a good piece of advice in the past, I might return to them and expect them to direct all my life decisions from now on, forgetting that they are not, in fact, the source of all wisdom. Or, perhaps, I might become obsessed with the work of a favorite artist or musician but never pause to reflect on how God is expressing Himself through their work.
Ultimately, the source of all joy is God alone. He uses different people and things to communicate His love for us, but we can’t look at any of them as an ultimate source of fulfillment. We should, of course, be grateful for those who open themselves up to be instruments of His grace. But if we make idols out of them, we are missing the point. We are like the Lycaonians kneeling before Paul and Barnabas.
It’s easy sometimes to be distracted by the gifts in front of us and not look up to see the Giver. But if we look closely at the gifts themselves, we will see His signature upon them. May we, like Paul, offer ourselves as instruments of God and allow the Holy Spirit to flow through us, bringing grace and healing to others. And may we always rely on God alone as the source of all goodness.