NASHVILLE (BP) — God protects Christians facing contemporary turmoil and troubles just as He protected the apostle Paul in the first century, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines said in his address to the SBC Executive Committee Feb. 19 in Nashville.
Just months ago in November 2017, a gunman slaughtered 26 people attending worship service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on the heels of an October massacre that killed 58 concertgoers and injured 500 more at an outdoor venue in Las Vegas. Most recently, a teenage student who had been expelled from a Florida high school returned, killed 17 students and teachers, and wounded 14 others, although Gaines didn’t mention any specific tragedies.
“In light of everything that has happened and is happening in our nation and our world, you have to ask yourself does God really protect people,” Gaines said. “Well He does, but how does that work?”
Gaines’ sermon during the first plenary session of the SBC EC meeting mainly stayed in Acts 23, where God encouraged Paul and protected him from certain death at the hands of a mob of more than 40 soldiers who objected to his ministry.
“I believe that in the Lord, we have protection,” said Gaines, noting that Christians will still experience troubles and tragedy. “In no way am I saying if you’re a Christian you’ll never experience persecution. But I want to give you a word of promise from the Scripture: If you’re living for Jesus Christ, if you love the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s not over on this earth until God says it’s over.”
God protects Christians from past sinful deeds, from psychological discouragement and from physical danger until an appointed time for the human body to perish, Gaines said in expounding on the text. He encouraged Southern Baptists to repent of their sins, use the power of the Holy Spirit and walk courageously in God’s presence.
God’s protection displayed in Acts 23 was so vital that Jesus Himself stood at Paul’s side, Gaines said, referencing Acts 23:11.
“It was so important Jesus came, and there are some times you need Jesus,” Gaines said. “How many of you would like the Lord to stand at your side?”
Be encouraged by God’s protection, Gaines said, and actively resist the devil.
“Now some people choke on those last three words, ‘resist the devil,'” said Gaines, noting that “resist” does not mean to ignore. “But it’s in the Bible, so would you please say it with me? ‘Resist the devil.'”
Pastors who are not being harassed by Satan can be assured that people in their congregations are suffering, Gaines said, because the devil bothers Christians.
“We’ve got an arsenal of weapons” to use in resisting Satan, Gaines said, “not to mention the whole armor of God.”
Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., has been preaching through the book of Acts, and plans to complete the series in April, he told the EC. Joining the EC at the meeting were various SBC entity leaders and spouses, state convention leaders, EC staff members and others.