As we have seen already, the Apostle Paul’s radical conversion only intensified His zeal by directing it toward Christ. This is clearly seen throughout the book of Acts, and the rest of the New Testament, but I m continually amazed by what happened in Acts 14. Paul and Barnabas have gone out together on their first missionary journey, and after several stops, they end up in Lystra. There they speak boldly and are used to bring many to faith, but they also experienced their most severe opposition yet:
But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.
So Paul is nearly stoned to death, but after being gracious spared by God, he gets up and continues on his way, preaching the gospel and making disciples. This is amazing enough, but the verses that follow are just insane:
When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them mto continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
After preaching in Derbe, Paul and Barnabas return to Lystra! This would not have been my first choice. They return because they still had work to do, and death simply was not going to stop them. But notice what Paul says. He speaks to the disciples in order to strengthen and encourage them, and he tells them that they will enter the Kingdom only through tribulations. It’s as though he was saying,
“hey, remember when the stoned me and almost killed me? Well, we should all expect that. Jesus said that world will hate us, so be encouraged, because if you are going through tribulations, it’s because you look like Jesus.”
I am always humbled by this passage because I have experienced very little tribulation. My life has been incredibly easy. This is a blessing, but it is a scary blessing, because it means that I need to be so careful of how I live. I have too much stuff, too much comfort, too much money, too much of many worldly good things. My tribulations have been minimal and my persecution has been almost completely non-existent.
I just think that we need to be doing more for the sake of the gospel. Scripture never tells us to “take it easy” with all the Jesus stuff. It says the opposite. It tells us that Jesus should be our all-consuming passion. I pray that this would be the case for me. Not because I desire tribulation, but because I desire to be with Jesus. I want to be part of His kingdom, and if tribulations are the way in, then I will gladly take them.
I just pray that when the time comes for me to live up to that last sentence, my faith will be proven true.