No one likes friction. At times it is impossible to avoid it. News bulletins are usually dominated by information about troubles of various kinds. God often uses human friction to test men and women as to whether they will follow what is good and true or not. It is of great concern when it occurs inside churches between church members, but it serves a purpose.

Our readings in Acts 14 & 15, include accounts of friction as the Gospel spread in the first century. Paul and Barnabas spent a long time in Iconium and a great number believed “but the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds” and “the people of the city were divided” (verses 2,4). A threat of stoning arose so they fled to other cities and preached and made more converts. Later they made a return journey “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (verse 22).

Few of us have faced troubles like this! Is that a blessing or not? Today we hear disturbing news about fellow-believers in other countries and offer prayers on their behalf. Many generations have faced difficulties, often because they would not join the army. Some of the relatively few believers in Germany were killed by the Nazis; also in Ukraine in the 1930s fellow believers were all killed. Today in some countries it is difficult, indeed dangerous, to come together for worship.

But friction results in greater conviction. Ask yourself whether you are really certain of what you believe. If you are not certain that what you are defending is vitally important, you will not defend it, or do so only half-heartedly. The only really convinced people you hear about these days, at least in this country, are those who are certain there is no God and they should be allowed to live whatever lifestyle suits them. What are we really certain about? We have to make sure now that we have a clear answer!