Acts 14:19-28 (ESV)
Paul Stoned at Lystra
19 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.20 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. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 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.
Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch in Syria
24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, 26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.
Talk about perseverance! In today’s reading from Acts, Paul is stoned nearly to death by his opponents who want him to stop preaching the good news of Jesus. And yet, Paul doesn’t stop! He just keeps right on going—first into the city, then the next day to Derbe, then to Lystra and Iconium and Antioch, from there through Pisidia to Pamphylia, to Perga and Attalia, and finally back to Antioch! One gets exhausted just reading about Paul’s work! In each place Paul goes, he proclaims the good news of Jesus, he prays for God’s people, and he equips leaders to care for the church in that place.
It’s tempting for us to give up in our faith and discipleship to Jesus, especially when the rest of the world seems to be against us, or when conflict arises in the community, or when the demands of work or school or our extracurricular activities start making claims on our already busy schedules. It’s tempting for us to wash our hands of it all, giving up on the church, giving up on our faith, even giving up on God. Surely of all people, Paul at least had the right to give up, having been stoned because of his faith. And yet, he doesn’t! He keeps right on going and believing and proclaiming and following! In Paul’s own words, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Now more than ever, the world needs our witness. Now more than ever, the world needs our faithfulness. Now more than ever, the world needs our bold and courageous discipleship to Jesus. It most certainly won’t be easy. It most certainly may cause us to make sacrifices for the sake of God’s kingdom. It most certainly will cause us to stand up against all that is evil and hateful in our world and, instead, to fight for what is right and for what is good and for what is loving and for what is Christ-like. The stones will most likely be hurled in our direction, but we are called to follow anyway. We are called to be faithful anyway. We are called, like Paul, to keep on going anyway.
Lord Jesus, inspire me by Paul’s example to keep going. Amen.
Written by Pastor Greg Busboom—Lead Pastor firstname.lastname@example.org