I have read through Acts 14 several times while preparing to write this devotion, and each time, one verse keeps jumping off the page at me. A bit of context, first, before I share which verse this is. Paul is in the middle of his first missionary journey. He has traveled already to Cyprus, Pisidian Antioch and Iconium, and will soon return to Antioch in Syria. At the point where we pick up the story, Paul is teaching in Lystra and in Derbe. Those listening to him want to offer sacrifices to Paul and to his co-worker, Barnabas, in response to Paul’s healing of a crippled man. Paul and Barnabas immediately correct the people, redirecting their worship back toward the God who created them. It is at this time that Paul reminds the people that God “has not left himself without testimony.” (Acts 14:17). This is the verse that keeps jumping off the page at me.
The Message version of verse 17 reads like this: “He didn’t leave them without a clue.” The NIV version uses the word, “witness” in place of “clue” or “testimony”. Clearly, Paul intends to remind us that God “made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.” (Acts 14:15). Knowing that we humans are prone to forget Him, prone to wander away, God left us evidence of Himself all around us.
Paul uses relatable examples from the natural world to teach about the evidence of God. He says, “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons…” (Acts 14: 17). In Romans 1:20, Paul writes about nature again: “But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.” (MSG)
When I need to feel God’s presence, His nearness, I always head outside. I go for a walk, roam around our yard, and I can’t help but notice Him in the budding trees and flowers, in the changing colors of the leaves later in the year, and in the the blanket of snow during the winter. My favorite place, though, to draw near to God is at the ocean. There is something about standing on a beach and looking over the vast expanse of the sea that always turns my heart toward my Creator.
Perhaps, like me, the testimony of God’s creation reminds you of Him. And perhaps something different serves as a reminder – a relationship restored from brokenness, coffee and conversation with a close friend, or an answered prayer. Paul’s words, though, are a reminder to those of us who are looking at unrestored relationships, strained friendships, and unanswered prayers. In these times, Paul reminds us to simply look outside, even if only for a moment. We cannot help but see Him there. His work began at creation and continues to this day. Thankfully, “He has not left himself without testimony.”