When I read Acts 14, verses 21and 22 stand out to me. " After 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 to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." vs.21-22
“But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers” v.2
“When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled…” v.5
“They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead…” v.19
Paul and Barnabas went to the cities to the strengthened and encouraged the young churches so recently planted there. The members of those churches needed to be encouraged: they had seen Paul and Barnabas violently assaulted and driven out. They had seen him stoned. And he was their leader who was asking them to follow in his same path. They themselves had certainly had to endure some measure of persecution. It is almost taken for granted throughout the New Testament that tribulation is the normal experience of Christians in this age, the normal experience of the church: it is those who suffer for and with Christ now who will share in his glory. "No cross, no crown" (Rom 8:17, 2Tim. 2:12).
In Acts 14, Luke indeed records the irresistible progress of the gospel, but he does not do so in triumphant spirit. In K.C. Barrett's words, he "Luke make it clear that the road his heroes were traveling was the way of the cross."
My brothers and sisters, understand this, that we are called to walk this same road, that leads in ONE DIRECTION, the cross. We must remember who we are, we are cross bearers of Christ. At ODC we are pressing into becoming true disciples of Jesus. However Jesus tells us, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matt10:38. Cross bearing and discipleship are in-separatable.
The NT, reveals for Christians and the church understood that tribulation is the normal experience for them, and they completely realized, and accepted with joy, where the road they were walking down would lead them. Pray that we can come to understand this as well. Pray for us a realization, acceptance, and joy in our calling to suffer for and with Christ. To be cross bearers.
Pray thanksgiving to God for those, who's willingness to bear Christ's cross in the past and in the present, have witnessed to you and strengthened you like a Paul and Barnabas to the early church, and brought you to this place where you now find yourself walking the same road with them.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to bring to mind those you know that are going through suffering and tribulation nowand pray for them. Give them a phone call, text or email of encouragement. Be a source of strength and encouragement in your family, workplace, circle of friends and those around you will witness to today.
Pray that The Holy Spirit will raise up out of the lost cross bearers to walk the road with us.
Please share your reflections on Acts 14 with me and others in the comment box below.