Read: Acts 14
Acts 14 continues the missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas (see the map below). In this chapter, we see them first in Iconium. A few things standout from the their stop there:
1). Some people were believing, others were causing strife. God was sovereignly using these two men to see many disciples made, but God’s hand on them did not keep them from experiencing push back from those who don’t believe.
2). The greater the push back, the greater the boldness. As the city was being turned against them, the apostles focus on the gospel did not waiver.
3). It seems that there is a cycle of increasing gospel fruit and its relationship to increasing resistance to the gospel that keeps on going and escalating together.
To escape more persecution, they then travel to Lystra. There God allows them to perform healing miracles, and the people thought that they must have been Greek gods in the flesh (I can’t help but think of the Disney Hercules movie from when I was a kid). The ironic thing is that Paul and Barnabas were trying to tell them about the TRUE God who became a man that could save them from their sin. But the people there were blind to this and desired to offer sacrifice to them.
The unbelieving Jews again came to where these men were and stoned Paul, and what did he do? He got right back up and continued on in his ministry. They preached the gospel to an entire city, where many disciples were made, and they then returned back to previously visited cities to strengthen the disciples already made there.
I think what we can take away from today’s passage is that even when God is at work saving people, making disciples, etc. it does not mean that there will not be spiritual pushback. I believe that’s one of the reasons that Paul writes on the armor of God in Ephesians 6! We also should take note of the ferocious focus that Paul had on his mission; not even a stoning could keep him from continuing to make and strengthen disciples.
By: Graham Withers
I love the stories that describe Acts missionary life. It inspires me! I want to live an exciting, Christ following life like that. How exciting to live a Spirit-controlled and directed life!
Verse 19 really hit hard. Paul was stoned, dragged out of the city, left for dead. As the disciples gathered around him, he stood up stronger. Instead of completely forgetting that city, Paul ends up going back and making many more disciples! It made me realize how often we look at someone and think “they’ll never know the Lord so why even try sharing.” That goes against what the Lord has commanded us to do! The Lord can redeem anyone and it’s up to us to follow Paul’s example even if it means we get stoned (denied) a little.
Verse 22: where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God
This is a strong and needed reminder for us. It seems like the topic of suffering has been coming up a lot recently. We see that Christian and the church is grown most in these suffering conditions. To that end, let us invite whatever God has for us with joy as we focus on accomplishing His will.
Paul was known prior to receiving Christ as the one who would kill Christians, likely by stoning. Now, the tables have turned, and Paul is receiving the same treatment that he gave others. This is the work of Christ, in that Paul took the beating, and kept on going for the cause of Christ. It may seem ironic, but to me, it shows just how much God can change someone. God's power in Paul's life changed him from the persecutor to the persecuted, and to one of the most powerful influences for the gospel in the history of man. Thankful for God's unending power that we can still benefit from today! Praying that God will use us in mighty ways and empower us when we feel like the deck is stacked against us!
I love how Paul got back up and it did not keep him from teaching the good news!
Sharing the gospel is not always free of hardship!