“19 Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. 20 But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.”
I’ve been hooked on these verses in Acts after hearing them preached this past Sunday. We see in the book of Acts already in chapter 1, verse 8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Verse 8 shows us Jesus giving the gift of the Holy Spirit to all those that believe in Him. Jesus shows us that we have been given this awesome power dwelling within us and the reason why we would need this power from God. To witness, spread the name of Christ across the world and continue in the ministry Jesus had began on earth. We have the power, we have the purpose, what’s next?
When you keep reading into Acts you see so many awesome examples from these early Christians going city to city preaching the Good News of Christ to all those around them. You also see that people are completely amazed at this Good News, but some didn’t take so kindly to hearing this Gospel message that challenged their beliefs. Chapter 14 of Acts we see Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey to spread the Good News to each city they went in. They preached all over the city and what’s pretty crazy is they know there is opposition awaiting them by doing this so when they would go into a city, “1 The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers (Acts 14:1).” These two men straight to the Jewish synagogue first to preach the Gospel of Christ. They could have went anywhere else in the city but they chose to go to the place where they would face the most opposition from Jews who believed another story from God. Why would they walk right in to the jaws of rejection and the pit of persecution???
That’s what I asked when I read this because I did what most of us do these days, look at the bad, the negative possibilities, the place out of my comfort zone closer to harm. I looked at that because it’s scary. But what gave these men the courage to walk right into the place where they were in the most danger and least wanted? They believed the truth about what Christ had done for them, they believed the truth that they have been given the power of the Holy Spirit within them to speak boldly and confidently about Christ even in the face of opposition. They also kept the PURPOSE Christ had given them to be a witness for His name to as many as possible. Their hearts and vision were aligned with God’s will, I’m sure they saw the possible opposition and danger but what they saw that was even bigger was a group of people who were in need of hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ. They knew that those people had the chance to have their lives changed completely and given LIFE for the first time by coming to faith in Christ so the GLORY of the MISSION and PURPOSE Jesus had set them on was bigger than their fear, bigger than any danger, rejection or opposition they could ever face, bigger than any physical harm they may endure. Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and the chance to see others come to know Jesus personally, for them to have the gift of eternity and experiencing the powerful and life-changing love of Christ was BIGGER than anything and everything!!
What an awesome example these guys set for us as believers. In these verses, their example was brought out even BIGGER for us. A crowd of some Jews that had already caused some trouble for Barnabas and Paul had heard of their preaching in this town, they schemed against the two men and got the crowds on their side. Then they stoned Paul. Dragged Paul out of the town. To the disciples Paul looked dead.
It’s cool to look at their example, see the positive influence Christ was having through them in people’s lives but how hard do you think it was for these men, during the awful, painful harm they faced, how could they remember the good in such a bad moment? Honestly, sitting in a seat personally and a culture around us that screams “comfortable Christianity.” How could we read that and say, “yeah, I would do the same thing if I was in that situation.” But the truth is we’re not, being in the Bible belt of the South, or anywhere really, we can’t talk much about being rejected or persecuted from sharing the Good News because we are facing opposition telling us to stay in our comfort zone. Lies such as, “you can be comfortable and be a Christian.” If we aren’t going out of our comfort zone, how will we ever truly see lives changed? How can we ever experience Christ in the fullest of ways, living a life that says, “the mission that Christ has given me to share Him with the world, it’s worth whatever I have to go through to accomplish it.” I heard someone say this the other day and it may hurt to hear but it’s the truth of where our churchy culture has gone, “we’d rather send money to missionaries and local ministries to do all the dirty work while we sit comfortably on our church pews.”
It’s convicted me greatly to realize how comfortable I am, how lazy and not really caring about living out the purpose God has given me through the power of the Holy Spirit to do it. As a follower of Jesus Christ, it isn’t the preacher’s job, the missionaries job or any other ministry calling, we’ve ALL been called to the same mission, to do the work of Christ sharing the love of Christ to all those who are around us, to do the work that gets nasty, dirty, filled with a lot of rejection, opposition and sometimes even blood in some cases. We have to ask ourselves honestly without giving and “oh yeah of course it is” response like I myself have done so many times. Is Christ worth it? Is sharing the GREATEST news about what the GREATEST name has done and watching people have the GREATEST relationship with such a loving Savior, IS IT NOT WORTH IT? IS IT NOT WORTH ANYTHING or IS IT WORTH ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING!!!!!!
You know what the right answer is but take an honest look at how you daily pursue Christ and daily pursue the mission to take Christ to others? We can be blinded by our comfort sometimes that we overlook the truth about who Christ has called us to be!
In these verses, the examples set by Paul and Barnabas come to a head. The struggle for them is realer than ever, they’ve went through it all. Rejection, persecution, opposition and physical harm. Paul literally gets beat to the pulp by stones. Think for a second how badly that hurt?!? But then at the lowest point where we would almost gurantee from our human comfort-seeking perspective. Paul is dead, or he is really hurt and should just stay down, and if he ever gets up from this beating then they need to run as far away as they possibly can, but…….
“he got up and went back into the town”
WHAT?!?!? NOOO WAY?!?! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?! How could one man go through all that, almost dying then get up and walk back into the same town with the same people that just tried to kill him for his faith?!?! In the midst of any struggle we face in life, there will be moments when we get beat down to the point of what feels like death, but the big thing to takeaway from this is, WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU FACE THE OPPOSITION THAT YOU’VE ALREADY BEEN TOLD IS COMING? I look back at so many times in my life and because of a few times of getting beat down, I fear failing so I stay away from it, stay comfortable. But this fight we’re in, this AWESOME mission Christ has given us, the power of the Holy Spirit that He has given us, that changes everything that happened yesterday and gives us the power, the purpose, and strength to attack the most harmful places first, go to the Synagogue, go right to the root of the problem! Then when it looks like all has failed because you are getting hit worse than ever, getting talked harshly about by people around you because of your faith, when things of this world makes you look dead, YOU DON’T HAVE TO FEEL DEAD AND MORE IMPORTANTLY YOU DON’T HAVE TO ACT DEAD!!!! Why? Because YOU are alive in Christ!!! Forever and always!!! He’s given us everything we need, He’s given us a mission, directions to go and what to say when we get there, He’s given us Himself. What are we waiting on?
Is Gospel of Jesus Christ that saved your life worth enough to you that you will go out of your way, suffer and endure through opposition, to share with someone else, to give them the message that Christ died for them to hear? When you get beat down, you wnat to give up, remember that lives are at stake, remember that you’ve got the Spirit of God inside of you, remember that Christ IS WORTH IT, in fact, He’s more than worth it. So walk into town today, do what you’ve been called to do, if they try to kick you out and beat you down, by the powerful name of Jesus Christ in the obedience to this Kingdom mission, STAND! WALK BACK INTO TOWN!