Acts 14:21-22 – When 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 that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
The phrase “they returned to Lystra,” may not strike you as being of much import in the two verses above, but if you looked at the verses which precede it, you would not overlook it again. Lystra was a city where Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel. But when certain Jews arrived in the city, they were able to stir up the crowds against Paul. The people of Lystra dragged Paul out of the city, and stoned him, leaving him for dead. Paul, however, was still alive. In fact, he got up, and returned to the city that evening before leaving for the next town.
In our verses above, Paul again returns to the city of Lystra to strengthen the church there. Let me be very honest, if I were nearly killed by the people of a city, I think I would find a reason not to return to that city for ministry. Paul, however, shows himself to be the bigger minister. He returns to a place where the people tried to kill him, and he continues to do the ministry.
In his teaching, Paul tells the Christians in Lystra that they must enter God’s kingdom through many tribulations. He knew what he was talking about.
In our lives, we shrink back from the slightest hint of suffering. We turn away from doing ministry so easily. Maybe we have a cold, so we call off a Bible study. Maybe we have worked long hours, so we neglect a prayer meeting. Maybe we are worn out on a plane, so we refuse to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to us. Maybe our favorite television show is on, so we rush a lost friend off the telephone in order to get back to it. Such things do not honor Christ. Such things are not marks of disciples. Such things are sin, and are not what God wants for us.
It is time that we, as the people of God, return to the willingness to suffer for God’s kingdom. This is not to say that we seek out suffering, but that we are willing to sacrifice for the greater glory of God. Yes, there are a thousand times when we have taken the easy road in the past. Now, however, it is time to take the road that follows Christ, regardless of how difficult it may seem. If Jesus is with you, you can return to the city that tried to stone you, because his will is more important than your comfort, your bad memories, or even your life.
Lord Jesus, I confess to you that I have, on numerous occasions, taken the easy road, even when it avoided ministry opportunities. This is sin, and I renounce it. I ask for your forgiveness here, and seek your strength in the future. Please strengthen my heart, making me willing to go through tribulations for the sake of your kingdom and the gospel.