The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said.
Thoughts for Today:Paul is like the "Eveready Bunny." He just keep going and going and going. One day Paul is stoned and left for dead in Lystra, and the next day he leaves with Barnabas for the neighboring city of Derbe to preach some more. Am I the only one, or do you find that amazing as well? It's not like Derbe wouldn't have heard about what happened in Lystra, so in some ways the risks had increased. I wonder how Paul and Barnabas really felt on the inside -- did they any have fear or doubt? I wonder what they talked about on the road to Derbe and over dinner that evening -- do you think what happened in Lystra came up? I wonder what they thought about and dreamed about that night -- did Paul flinch as he relived the stones hitting his body? As they got up the next morning and prepared to preach, I wonder how they imagined they would be received -- would it be with acceptance and belief or something worse?
Previously in Acts 14:15, as a result of mistaken identity Paul and Barnabas rushed into the crowd and tore their clothes shouting, "We too are only men, human like you." Yet we read their story with this kind of detached view, not really thinking that these two men were just like you and me -- they had the same fears, concerns, and pain that we have. But what made them different? What gave them the courage to go on despite their fears? What made them go back to the same cities (Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch) where they had been threatened, mistreated and thrown out? I think the answer lies in their statement from our passage today: "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."
Let's look at this statement in a little more detail: "We [together not necessarily alone] must [this is not something we think we should do but rather something we are fully committed to doing] go through [it is not enough to just approach a hardship -- we must also go through and complete it] many [accept the possibility that there might be more than one] hardships [serving God isn't always easy, sometimes we will have to endure our own form of a stoning] to enter the kingdom of God [the final reward]." I think it's interesting the way this is worded: when you go through a hardship, you enter the kingdom of God. This is not something that happens only in the future, but something that happens as you are doing it. So if you want to experience the kingdom of God, don't avoid hardships, and don't just approach them; go through them and you will see the Glory of God, just like Paul and Barnabas -- the Lord was their strength and courage.
Questions to Ponder:What ministry challenge have you avoided? What hardship have you approached but not gone through? How strong is your faith? Do you need a strengthening? Experiencing hardships strengthens faith -- are you ready to get started? Pray and ask the Lord to direct and encourage you, then get going! You will never fully experience the joy of a faith strengthened until you fully pass through the hardship. Stick with it, for there is a reward at the end.