“Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (Acts 19:18–20 ESV).
Over a million dollars worth chucked into the fire. New Ephesian converts took their magic books and paraphernalia, demonic stuff that it was, and destroyed it all. Someone took the time to count up the street value — 50K in pieces of silver, worth over a million in modern times.
What was truly impressive, however, was not the evaluation of all they disposed of in those ancient fires, but the victory Christ had won in their hearts. People who had previously been all wrapped up in witchcraft, set free by the blood of Jesus. His love had melted away their excuses and won their hearts. Individual by individual, people of Ephesus turned from the practices and views which bound them and came into the new life in Christ. In the telling of the story, Dr. Luke loved it so much he gave a progress report about it: "So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily" (Acts 19:20).
We know the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, just as Jesus said. We know he has a plan for his people here on earth today. Still, with strange winds blowing and the doctrines of demons ever-expanding, we might lose the perspective that Christ's light is designed to push into the darkness. As the cultural tides churn, and like a strong undertow sucks people in, we might begin to think the church has lost.
But Christ has work to do through his people. If not, he'd return already, but he hasn't, so we know there is still a job to do. And in that job, he will be faithful.
I am convinced the battle will not be won through mass campaigns and strategic organization but through the humble gatherings and prayers of God's people. As we cry out to him for grace, as we devotedly love one another, and as we talk openly with those he's put in our lives, the church will show another way, a different path.
Recently, I gathered with a small group of thirty or forty people committed to the counter-cultural life of obedience to Jesus. With Christ as King, we prayed. It was a serious, somber, humble, and beautiful time. At the conclusion, I sensed the Lord say, "this is how the victory is won." Somehow, by the hand of God, men and women will throw millions into the fire because Christ has claimed their hearts. Our little prayer meeting, in the economy of God, will have had something to do with it.